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National Treasure: Book of Secrets - Nicolas Cage interview

Nicolas Cage in National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Interview by Rob Carnevale

NICOLAS Cage talks about returning to the character of treasure hunter Benjamin Gates for National Treasure: Book of Secrets and his ongoing collaborations with producer Jerry Bruckheimer…

Q: This is your fifth collaboration with Jerry Bruckheimer and you’re about to be seen in G-Force, your sixth. This has been a very fruitful partnership hasn’t it?
Nicolas Cage: Jerry is someone that I think really cares about his movies and he always gets the best talent to work on them. In this case here we have Ed Harris and Helen Mirren added to the mix. He always has people going through the script and being very thorough about it – making sure that the stories make sense and they’ll make people happy. From the beginning, on The Rock, he also made it clear that he wants the actors to contribute and to collaborate ideas and he leaves a lot of room for that.

Working with Jerry is not unlike his company logo, which has a bolt of lightning. It is really like capturing lightning in a bottle. You often feel like you are on a high wire with no net productions because you have to rely on spontaneity and come up with ideas on the spur of the moment – and then what happens is that there is electricity to it that gets caught. And I think that is why the work that we have done together has appealed to people. Because there is this buzz to it, there is an energy to it and I think we’re comfortable with each other, which is why we keep coming back to each other.

Q. Was this second National Treasure movie easier this time around?
Nicolas Cage: It’s enormously collaborative and Jon [Turteltaub] has done a great deal to define the tone of the movie. In the first movie, it was a lot more difficult to ascertain in which direction we wanted to go. We were working on it together and sort of sculpting it. By the time we came round to Book Of Secrets we understood that this was an adventure film with a light touch and a comedic touch and that has some very real moments. But there is always a lightness to the dance in the movie. John was really instrumental in finding that tone. It was a difficult tone to achieve but he did it perfectly.

Q: Were you surprised by any responses from filmgoers to the character of Benjamin Gates after they saw you in the first National Treasure? And what did you attempt to bring to the character this time?
Nicolas Cage: No, there was nothing that comes to mind particularly. The main thing was that three years had gone by and I had gone through changes in those three years and I was uncertain how those changes may or may not affect Ben Gates and the performance. I remember saying to Jerry Bruckheimer that I was not the same person and he said that was good, so do that because people change and characters change. So, that was exactly what I did and I think the result has been, from what I understand people feel, that the character is lighter and that I’m smiling more and as a rule the entire film is a whole lot funnier as well. I think that in the first movie Ben Gates was under a lot of pressure because he was considered – along with his entire family – to be a wacko. When he got that cleared he is more accepted by the academic community and he feels better about himself.

Q. At the end of the film you discover that the greatest riddle in the world is woman. Would you say that it’s also been your personal experience?
Nicolas Cage: [Laughs and looks visibly taken aback] Yeah, there’s an enigmatic quality to women that I’ve always been fascinated by – and that’s all I’m going to say about it [laughs again].

Q: What would you like to discover from the conspiracy theory secrets that are contained within the president’s book seen in the film?
Nicolas Cage: There are only two that I am aware of: Roswell and the Kennedy assassination.

Q: You have such an eclectic body of work but lately it seems you’re attracted to films that are for all the family, like National Treasure? Is that fair to say?
Nicolas Cage: I think that’s positive. I like the idea of being involved in pictures that can entertain the entire family and can stimulate youngsters into looking at picture books. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Q: When you are out and about does it depend on the age of the person as to what they most easily recognise you from?
Nicolas Cage: Yes, I would say it is age dependent. I still get a lot of response from a picture I made called Lord Of War, which is interesting. I hadn’t anticipated that movie would do that. But I hear a lot about that one.

Read our review of Book of Secrets