Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. I read that you enjoyed the classy, classical elements
of your character, such as wearing the tuxedo?
A: Absolutely. When I was determining whether or not
I was going to do National Treasure, at the time the script came
to me there was another project I was considering. In one, the
character was working in a gas station wearing overalls, and the
other character was wearing a tuxedo. So I thought I’d rather
wear the tuxedo and steal the declaration of independence.
It kind of helped me understand the tone of the movie, because
I did think of pictures like To Catch A Thief and Charade, and
the stars back then who had this lighter touch with these incredible
caper movies. They’d be dressed very elegantly, and they’d
be very playful and comedic.
That’s when everything came into focus for me, because I
met with Jon in Jerry’s office and I said I was a little
apprehensive it, I wasn’t sure if it was too far fetched.
But they said the very thing I was worried about was what would
make it exciting, because he’s audacious, he’s bold
and he gets to wear a tuxedo.
It all came into focus, you give yourself over to the ride, to
the fun of the movie and try not to take it too literally. Just
get caught up in the adventure of it.
Q. Given the success of this in the States and books
such as The Da Vinci Code,
which tackle similar themes, what do you think is the appeal of
these kind of stories at the moment?
A: I think this is just something that’s happening
in the culture round the world. But the genesis of this was seven
years ago, so it’s even before things like The Da Vinci
Code, so there must be something in the cultural zeitgeist that
people are interested in codes and possible conspiracies, more
interested in the mystery perhaps.
Q. How similar is your character to yourself in terms
of his ability to problem solve? Do you possess the same skills,
especially when it comes to determining what roles to take?
A: I’m not a very good problem solver, so I don’t
think I shared much of an ability there with Ben Gates. I do know
how to turn a negative into a positive. I’ve been doing
that all my life, but the way I approach characters is –
first and foremost – I try to stay stimulated. I never want
to get too comfortable in anything I’m doing.
I see myself as very much a student of acting, and I always see
the chance to grow in some way. I’ve taken chances that
have been uncomfortable for me, and I think at times for audiences,
and I think that’s a good thing.
Even my idea to go into action adventure was uncomfortable in
the beginning, but it’s something that’s kept me on
my toes. As long as I stay fresh with it. If I can stay interested
– and I have – then I think I can keep audiences interested
Q. Is the action stuff getting easier, despite getting
older, because you're such an old master of it?
A: Yeah, I think so. I guess even though I am a student
like I said I feel a bit more seasoned. I feel like I can get
from A to B without having to torture myself as much as I did
when I was 17-years-old.
Q. And was part of the appeal of this film getting to
work with these co-stars?
A: I think Sean Bean is a great actor, and I can also
say that he’s a gentleman, a decent man. He can kick my
ass at billiards any day of the week. He’s been to my house
and done it.
What I like about our relationship in the movie is that you can
see that these are two people who have a shared interest in history.
They are intelligent characters and they can talk, they can communicate
with one another. It’s sort of a bittersweet friendship
when it turns awry.
You can see in Ian’s eyes that he doesn’t want to
have to kill Ben Gates, and vice versa when we’re on the
opposite sides of the fence I tried to play it like there was
still an interest in the map and retain that enthusiasm.
The same goes for Diane, her character is one who shares a mutual
fascination with history. That’s so unusual for an adventure
film, the idea that you’re playing characters who are enthusiastic
for something that’s not normally in them.
It becomes infectious, hopefully. And that’s why I think
this movie is great for the whole family.
She’s a great actress, she’s a lot of fun to work
with, beautiful obviously but more than that she’s charismatic.
She has a playfulness about her which is nutty, like I am, so
we had a lot of off the wall jokes off the set as well as on it.
That kind of energy translates to the film, and hopefully to the
audience. We kept it playful. We went to New Orleans with Justin
Bartha, and we’d go down to Koreatown in Los Angeles and
karaoke, and do things like that just to keep it loose. That fit
into Jon’s vision, to keep it like a confection, with a
lighter touch the way the great old stars used to do.
Q. Your career choices are
very eclectic and you seem to be able to jump from blockbusters
such as this to indie movies such as Adaptation? Is that something
you've always sought to do, and what helps you to decide?
A: I have very eclectic tastes, and I have to say that
both types of films are organic in me, they’re part of my
chemistry. I grew up watching adventure movies. Charles Bronson
was a hero, Bruce Lee, Clint Eastwood, and I would fantasise that
I was in those movies when I was a boy.
Then as I got older I discovered James Dean and De Niro and I
wanted to be that kind of an actor, so I tried to find my way.
But the truth is I have very eclectic tastes, I don’t have
an identity, I think my identity is that I don’t have an
identity. I don’t want to be put in a box – I need
to stay uncomfortable, I need to stay challenged to keep interested.
And that means that I like to go from an adventure film and there’s
no-one who makes them better than Jerry, which isn’t to
say that’s all he makes. The four times I’ve worked
with Jerry I’ve been very comfortable, because he gets the
best people in the business to write and sculpt the material.
He has very independently-spirited taste with actors, and he encourages
actors to explore their characters and allows you as a partner
to bring ideas to the table. So when you take someone who has
an organic and honest vision, which happens to also appeal to
many people, and you combine that with actors who have unpredictable
and unusual tastes you get a pretty unique spark.
So to answer the question, I feel like I’m allowed to explore
and challenge all the characters, whether it’s in an adventure
film or in a smaller, independently driven movie where the characters
are perhaps more uncomfortable, dealing with more difficult subject
matter. It just keeps me fresh, keeps me interested. And both
Q. Which of those action movies have you enjoyed working
on the most?
A: I’m not one who likes to compare movies, I had
good experiences on all three. I had a lovely relationship with
Sean Connery, we got along great. But on this one specifically,
I had a terrific time working with Diane and Justin [Bartha].
And I also had a chance to work with Jon Voight and Harvey Keitel,
two actors who have inspired me and contributed to my ultimate
decision about becoming a film actor. So each and every one of
these experiences I’ve learned from, and had a good time
Q. Is this is a film that speaks to the times we live
in now? And is it likely to stimulate an interest at home in American
A: I can’t pretend to know what other people are
going to be stimulated in or not, but I think one of the things
that comes to mind immediately is that this is a world treasure.
My character says it belongs in the Cairo Museum, the Louvre,
it belongs to the world. So it is an international treasure, and
that’s something people have picked up on when I’ve
done interviews in Spain and Rome and now in London.
There are clues in the movie which are based on American history,
which are fascinating in themselves. I like to think that people
around the world will be interested in that. Like what is the
all seeing eye doing on the dollar bill? And what are these mysterious
I certainly think that people have responded to it in such a way
that it certainly does work in these times we live in.
Turteltaub: Also, what made this film different
from other treasure map films is that it takes place in our times.
Most adventure films take place in the past, looking for treasure
from the past. The Da Vinci
Code is present day I think, so maybe it’s more about
the fact that we are looking to history and finding answers from
history to the problems we’re facing today.
Q. On the subject of National Treasure, you seem to be
wearing some of your own on your fingers. Can you tell us about
A: [Laughs] I just like them. This is a Carnellian stone,
they’re not expensive but they’re supposed to do incredible
things for your sex drive.
So all the men, forget about the Viagra, get into the Carnellian.
You can get them anywhere. It’s a nice looking stone. I’m
interested in that, in my sex drive and in stones.
Q. Of the upcoming projects you are most associated with,
can you let us know about the status of Ghost Rider and Wicker
A: I had a very successful conversation last night with
Neil LaBute, who is the writer and director of The Wicker Man.
It’s something that I think may happen very quickly.
Ghost Rider is a project that I’ve been linked to for about
four years now it seems. I love the character, I think he’s
a fascinating character, complex.
As far as superhero films go, cinematically he’s going to
be the most interesting character ever in a movie. He’s
cinematically the most natural fit. But it’s still something
we’re talking about.