All this week, Uproxx will be paying tribute to the many facets of Nicolas Cage, from his big-screen triumphs to the legends that have come to surround him and the cult following both have helped create. Next: a plea for Cage to return to one of his most famous roles.
I’m going to ask you a question and you have to promise you won’t lie to me. Ready? Are you sure? Because I’m serious. Do not lie. I mean, I won’t know if you do, unless you lie to me and then immediately admit to it, which would be weird. But this isn’t about me. This is about you. You need to be honest with yourself about this. It’s very important. Okay, here goes: You kind of love the National Treasure movies, right?
Of course you do. Everyone does. Disregard the Rotten Tomatoes scores (44 percent, 35 percent) and IMDb ratings (6.9/10, 6.5/10). That’s a different kind of love. That’s fancy dinners and rose petals on the floor love, which is great, sure. But that’s for newlyweds and rom-coms. I’m talking about real love. Lasting love. Eating leftovers out of Tupperware because you both agree that it’s madness to dirty another dish love. Lounging in sweats on a Saturday and flicking through basic cable together love. Landing on a movie about Nicolas Cage stealing the Declaration of Independence and deciding to stick with it even though it’s 45 minutes in and you’ve both seen it 15 times but, whatever, it’s not like either of you want to watch Manchester by the Sea right now love, fittingly enough.
And how could you not? They are wonderful. Especially the first one, in which Cage and Sean Bean race each other to find hidden treasure and… actually, no. I’m gonna let the plot summary of the movie’s Wikipedia entry take this one. Buckle in.
[Nicolas] Cage plays Benjamin Franklin Gates, a historian and amateur cryptologist searching for a lost treasure of precious metals, jewelry, artwork and other artifacts that was accumulated into a single massive stockpile by looters and warriors over many millennia starting in Ancient Egypt, later rediscovered by warriors who form themselves into the Knights Templar to protect the treasure, eventually hidden by American Freemasons during the American Revolutionary War. A coded map on the back of the Declaration of Independence points to the location of the “national treasure”, but Gates is not alone in his quest. Whoever can steal the Declaration and decode it first will find the greatest treasure in history.
What a ride that paragraph is. It almost sounds too good to be true. Literally. It almost sounds like the plot of a movie some rascal made up to trick his friends. Imagine trying to explain it to someone who has never heard of it. “So Nic Cage plays a world famous historian who has to find a treasure that was protected by the Knights Templar and hidden by our Freemason Founding Fathers, and to do it he has to steal the Declaration of Indepe-… stop laughing. I’m serious.” If that’s not the sign of a good movie, buddy, I do not know what is.
And even the second movie, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, is pretty fun. Nicolas Cage kidnaps the president! There are tunnels! The movies are like one part Da Vinci Code, one part Ocean’s Eleven, and one part every Nicolas Cage movie since about 1999. I really can’t stress this enough: Nicolas Cage plays a character who says “I’m going to steal the Declaration of Independence,” and then, sure enough, he steals the dang Declaration of Independence. Did anyone do that in Lawrence of Arabia? No, they did not. Point: National Treasure.
(Also worth noting: While “I’m going to steal the Declaration of Independence” gets most of the attention because it’s a masterful collection of words that Nicolas Cage sells with his whole entire face, it’s not even my favorite line in the first movie. My favorite line comes later, when Diane Kruger’s character says the following: “You can’t seriously intend to run chemical tests on the Declaration of Independence… in the back of a moving van!” Just once in my life I want someone to say that to me and mean it.)
But here’s where all this goes south. Book of Secrets came out in 2007. Ten years ago. And right before it ends, the President and Nicolas Cage meet in an airplane hangar and talk about something “life altering” that was on page 47 of the titular “book of secrets,” which was pretty clearly intended to set up a third film in the franchise. Which has not been made.
Where is National Treasure 3?
WHY HAS NO ONE MADE NATIONAL TREASURE 3?
If you poke around a bit online, you’ll discover that there was some hot and heavy discussion about a third National Treasure movie for a few years after the second, but it kind of trickled to a halt at some point. Until. Until! Entertainment Weekly wrangled Cage in 2016 and asked him point blank about the status. And he said this.
“I do know that those scripts are very difficult to write, because there has to be some credibility in terms of the facts and fact-checking, because it was relying on historical events. And then you have to make it entertaining. I know that it’s been a challenge to get the script where it needs to be. That’s as much as I’ve heard. But they’re still working on it.”
I love this quote for many reasons, but most of all because it implies that people were working on a script for National Treasure 3 for the entirety of Barack Obama’s presidency and couldn’t crack it. I’m picturing one guy in a room, every day, pounding away at a typewriter, ripping pages out and throwing them in a trash can, surrounded by jugs of urine because the whole thing has driven him insane. I want to see the drafts. I want to see the notes. I want to see National Treasure 3, most of all, but I’ll take what I can get.
And hey, if they’re looking for inspiration, they don’t have to look far. They can just rip a page out of their star’s real life. Like, for example, the time he bought a stolen Mongolian tyrannosaurus skull at an auction and had to return it. Because that happened. Here, look. From the New York Times:
Eight years ago, the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar was the star artifact in a natural history-themed luxury auction in Manhattan. It sold for $276,000 to an anonymous buyer.
As it turns out, the skull had been stolen from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, and the buyer was Nicolas Cage, an actor who among his dozens of films has starred in a movie franchise about the hunt for rare treasures.
A publicist for Mr. Cage confirmed that he bought the skull from the Beverly Hills gallery I.M. Chait in 2007, according to Reuters. The Department of Homeland Security contacted Mr. Cage about the skull last year, and the actor agreed to turn it over
National Treasure: Mongolian Dinosaur. Make that movie, Hollywood. Maybe the bones have hidden messages on them. Maybe one of the teeth is actually a key to finding Atlantis. Maybe the whole skull is synthetic and was put in the ground in 1945 by the Illuminati. It honestly doesn’t matter to me. Hell, roll it into another franchise, if you want. Someone just put Iron Man in a Spider-man movie. Jason Statham became a good guy in the eighth Fast & Furious movie after killing Han in the seventh. There are no rules anymore.
Just do it. Make National Treasure 3.