Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. All rights reserved.
December 21, 2007
Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Greenwood
Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure, Phenomenon)
Jerry Bruckheimer, Jon Turteltaub
Gregory Poirier and the Wibberleys & Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio
Walt Disney Pictures in association with Jerry Bruckheimer Films
National Treasure 2: A Franchise in the Making?
By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
- “I tell you what, the next time we find treasure that redefines history for all mankind, you make the call on the finder’s fee.”
—Ben Gates to Riley Poole, National Treasure
Well, it looks like that next time has come with National Treasure: Book of Secrets.
A look at the above quote from the original film would make you think that a sequel was planned from the beginning, but a talk with the film’s heavyweight producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, who has been responsible for such blockbusters as Top Gun, The Rock, Pearl Harbor, and the Pirates of the Caribbean series, reveals the total opposite. When asked in a press conference in Beverly Hills if he thought he was going to do a sequel, Bruckheimer responded emphatically, “No. I had no idea.”
Could it be that the first to notice the potential bankability of the Ben Gates storyline was the writing team of Jim Kouf, Cormac Wibberley, and Marianne Wibberley, who wrote the screenplay for the first film? Perhaps. Then again, maybe they were simply being prophetic without realizing it.
In the end, though, it takes more than a possible hint in the storyline to create a sequel. As Bruckheimer explained, “We look at where you can take the character. . . . Some movies lend themselves to be sequelized and others don’t.”
To be fair, it didn’t hurt that the 2004 action/adventure film grossed a worldwide box office total of $347,451,894, making the original a blockbuster success and putting it in the realm of a potential franchise.
Casting the Vision
But even with the financial success of the first, there are key elements to making a sequel. As Bruckheimer noted, “The way I like to do sequels is to get everyone who is involved to do the second one. We did that with Pirates with all three, and we did it with Bad Boys.”
Fortunately, for Bruckheimer, he has a great track record with both cast and crew, so getting the original team back wasn’t an issue. As Nicolas Cage said about working with Bruckheimer, “I think if you look at his logo, he is always trying to freeze lightning. He gets actors together whom he trusts and he keeps you in a high-wire state where you never really know what the dialogue is going to be until the last minute. That’s enormously frustrating; at the same time, it gives you a spontaneity and a buzz where everyone’s electric together. And he just captures it.”
Kudos for the Bruckheimer/Turteltaub dynamic. Together, they got the original cast, including Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Justin Bartha, and Diane Kruger, and the additional talents of Oscar winner Helen Mirren (The Queen, 2006) and Oscar nom Ed Harris (The Hours, 2002).
As director Jon Turteltaub explained at the film junket, “The actor, in my opinion, is the single most important factor to whether the movie is any good.” If that’s the case, one must consider the actors’ opinions about doing a sequel. The first to comment was Nic Cage.
“You may be aware that I have not done a sequel before, the reason being that generally speaking I never like to repeat myself,” Cage told the press. “I do believe that if you are going to do a sequel, it has to promise to be better than the original or at least as good. . . I wanted to make sure we could go in a direction that would raise the stakes and also hopefully be more interesting.”
Part of Cage’s concern in doing a follow-up film was that since becoming a newlywed and a father, he had changed so much personally, he wasn’t sure how that might fit in with the Ben Gates character. “That was my first question to Jerry Bruckheimer,” he told the room full of journalists. “It’s been three years. I’m not the same guy. How am I going to go back and do Ben Gates? And he said, ‘That’s it. The character has changed.’”
In describing his character, Cage waxed a bit literary. “Having been a fan of Basil Rathbone and Sherlock Holmes, I thought, Why not bring Ben Gates back as an archeological version of a detective unlocking the mysteries of these treasures?”
Cage was intrigued by the plot of the second film. “When they first presented the idea of a Civil War, Confederate gold, John Wilkes Booth, and the Lincoln assassination, I thought right off the bat that’s more interesting historically and personally.” With that, Cage was on board to revamp his role.
Then there is his comic relief sidekick, Riley Poole, played by Justin Bartha (Failure to Launch). Would Bartha be willing to don the techno-geek role again?
“When we first started this process of figuring out what the sequel was,” noted Bartha, “I didn’t want to be the same exact thing as the first movie. How does this guy evolve from the first movie to the second movie, and how do I keep it interesting so that isn’t the same schtick?”
With that said, there are some changes in the funnyman’s role this time. Now, Riley has more hilarious lines and dresses better.
Overall, though, Bartha is just pleased to be around the greats. “What more can you ask for working with all these Oscar winners, these unbelievably talented filmmakers, the best producer probably in Hollywood history, and traveling to all these amazing locations?” he said.
The character of Abigail Chase gets a bit of a makeover, too, which was a welcome relief for German-born actress Diane Kruger, who, like Cage, also marks Book of Secrets as her first sequel.
Initially reticent to play Dr. Chase again, Kruger found that she was able to stretch her role more the second time around. “I preferred this version [the sequel] because I am tired of being put on this pedestal of this elegant, pretty, aristocratic kind of person,” she said. “I would love to explore the more comedic side, the more modern woman that is smart, sassy, funny super intelligent yet adventurous, and wants to be part of everyday life. I feel like I got to do this in this movie.”
Voight returns as Patrick Gates, and relished the chance to play opposite Helen Mirren. “I am crazy about her and she is a great actor,” he told the press. “We have become pals.”
Third Time the Charm?
The second film is barely out of the gate, and there is buzz about a third film already. Could it be that National Treasure will become an ongoing series, some kind of marvelous franchise?
Cage had his own comments about a possible third installment. “On National Treasure, I believe that it should become more and more international treasure,” he said. “I was very happy to see that we went to London, England, and Paris, France, but I would like to see the movie go wider still into Africa, Egypt, Asia, and keep going. My hope is that Ben is recruited and gets a dossier from these other countries about their history and he has to go on these hunts on their behalf.”
OK, movie execs, are you listening?
Naturally, the movie-going public will largely be the judge of that. But, given the odds, it’s a distinct possibility. And speaking of movie moguls, even Bruckheimer seemed game. “Hopefully, if this one is successful,” he said, “we can take him [Ben Gates] on another adventure.” Bruckheimer quickly added, however, “But we don’t have anything planned at this point.”
Yeah, maybe not, but you got a couple of years, a great cast, an excellent producer/director team, and writers who know how to pen something golden.
But, then… only time—and the box office—will tell.
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For more about National Treasure: Book of Secrets , visit the official Movie Site.
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More articles by Laura Bagby on CBN.com
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