Nicolas Cage as a parent? Variety says that Cage has signed up to play "a father who goes in search of his college-aged American-born Muslim son, who's missing overseas" in The Vanished. Cage is 43, so he's certainly old enough chronologically to play the parent of of a college kid. But maybe I'm just fixating on the buck-toothed role he played in his uncle's Peggy Sue Got Married, wherein Kathleen Turner desperately wanted to avoid having him father her child. Or maybe it's Raising Arizona, where he stole another family's quintuplets. Or Leaving Las Vegas, in which he drank himself to death, or Face/Off, where he made John Travolta's daughter think her dad was coming on to her, or the kind of fathers he played in Matchstick Men , The Family Man and The Weather Man.

In real life, Cage is probably a wonderful father to his children, but his performances tend to be all over the map, so we'll wait to see how his collaboration with director Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now) turns out. Does Cage's character in The Vanished disapprove of his son's decision to become a Muslim? I would count on it. Does he love him anyway? Of course. Will he come into conflict with racial and religious prejudice? No doubt.

The Vanished is described as a thriller, but it's being made for Focus Features. That, along with the subject matter, clearly signals the film as possible Oscar bait. (For comparison's sake, Focus's releases this fall are Eastern Promises and Lust, Caution, Reservation Road and Atonement.) Cage will next be seen in the sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which hits theaters on December 21. He starts filming Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler in January and moves on to The Vanished in April. I wouldn't be surprised if they're aiming to complete it in time for the Toronto and/or Venice film festivals next September.