Treasure Two's Trail Tales

Submitted by John Millar on Sun, 05/15/2005 - 16:00

John Millar: What do you recall of your school days with the director of National Treasure, Jon Turteltaub?
Nicolas Cage: He was more popular. He was the one who had all the girls surrounding him as he talked about drama - we were in the drama department together. I was in the corner somewhere trying to figure out how to talk.
Millar: Did you enjoy the classical elements of the role like wearing the tuxedo during the robbery sequence?
Cage: 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. They'd be dressed very elegantly and they'd be very playful and comedic.
Millar: What's the appeal of these kinds of stories?
Cage: 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 makes people interested in codes and possible conspiracies.
Millar: Do you have any talents like Ben's problem solving skills?
Cage: I'm not a very good problem solver, so I don't think I share much of his talent there. 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 always see the chance to grow in some way. 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 can stay fresh with it. If I can stay interested - and I have - then I think I can keep audiences interested as well.
Millar: Do you find that the action stuff is getting easier, despite getting older?
Cage: Yeah, I think so. 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.
Millar: What was it like working with these co-stars?
Cage: 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. The same goes for Diane (Kruger). Her character is one who also shares a mutual fascination with history. Diane'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. That kind of energy translates to the film, and hopefully to the audience.
Millar: Did Diane really intimidate you in the screen test as has been suggested?
Cage: I've been asked this question a million times. I really wanted her to be in the movie, when we all did the screen test she was clearly the one who challenged - not intimidated - me. However, Diane was doing Peter O'Toole impressions while relaxing between scenes, so I thought that this was finally somebody I could relate to. I wouldn't say I was intimidated; I was more enthralled at the prospect of working with her.
Millar: You've made interesting career choices, from blockbusters to indie movies?
Cage: 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.
Millar: Which of those action movies have you enjoyed working on the most?
Cage: 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). 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 with.
Millar: What's new on the upcoming projects for you, like Ghost Rider and The Wicker Man?
Cage: 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. I love the character. I think he's fascinating - very complex. As far as superhero films go, cinematically, he's going to be the most interesting character ever in a movie. But it's still something we're talking about.
In a separate interview John Millar talks to Nicolas Cage's South African co-star.
John Millar: This was you biggest action role so far, were you prepared for it?
I thought I was pretty fit coming into this, but I realised I should have gone to the gym more often. It was fun. I've never done anything this action packed before. It was interesting to hang off a truck for a week. It's really challenging. I have a whole new level of respect for stuntmen because it is really hard work.
Millar: It has been said that you intimidated Nic in the screen test?
Kruger: I really don't know where that's come from. When I first met Nic I was incredibly star struck, and I was terrified of not getting the job, and that he would think I was a terrible actor. I pretty much avoided all eye contact with him. I think he maybe thought I was a little odd. But otherwise I don't know where that has come from.
Millar: What was the appeal of this film for you?
Kruger: It was lovely. I was sent the script when I was in Mexico making Troy, where I spent six months being really depressed and emotional in every single scene. This was the perfect movie to come along, something light and contemporary. And I loved that my character was so strong, witty, charming and smart all at the same time. I'd never played that before. Nic was a huge lure, the idea of being in a Jerry Bruckheimer film was too and Jon (Turtletaub) was just so funny when I met him on my audition, so enthusiastic, I felt this couldn't have been more perfect really.
Millar: This must have been a head spinning two years for you?
Kruger: I've only been acting for three years now, and it's been an incredible last couple of years. It all happened very naturally. I didn't go out to America to try to get work. It just sort of happened. I feel incredibly blessed and lucky, but I'm very aware of being the flavour of the month right now. My ambition is to be recognised as a good actor. I will hopefully get the opportunity to show more range. I'm hoping to do more European films, more challenging parts in future. I want to do it all and I really admire what Nic was saying about his eclectic choice in movies. I share that and I really admire his body of work over the years. I hope I get the opportunity to do the same, so I have been making conscious choices about doing those smaller independent films. I cannot thank people enough for giving me the opportunities I've had.
National Treasure is out now on DVD.