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Mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer is digging up bits of American history - with an A Class team - for National Treasure, a movie that might have been pitched as “Indiana Jones meets Pirates of the Declaration of Independence”, starring Nicolas Cage as Ben Franklin, the archaeologist adventurer. National Treasure will be the big event film of the US Thanksgiving weekend in November 2004. Here’s a preview.

Archaeologist, Ben Franklin Gates (Cage) is the eighth in a line of treasure hunters searching for a giant treasure chest believed to have been hidden by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. The treasure was intended to be used as funds for the Revolutionary War. 

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Jon Turteltaub and the screenwriters spent months researching the film to infuse it with real-life characters and historical events. "There's a lot in here about the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence to give it authenticity," Bruckheimer told USA Today, before catching himself with a grin. "But it's still a lot of fun." 

The plot involves a secret code found in the US Constitution and a map that might have been drawn on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Diane Kruger plays Dr Abigail Chase, a museum curator at the Smithsonian and Sean Bean plays a rich British adventurer who also wants the treasure. 

Christopher Plummer plays John Adams Gates, and by now readers will have cottoned on to the fact that this Jon Turtletaub story (but with a team of writers credited with the screenplay, including one Babaloo Mandel) has a tongue in cheek approach (Ben Franklin Gates!) to its characters’ names. That’s a good sign, as is the presence of Harvey Keitel in the cast, playing a character called Sadusky. 

And it’s not just the cast that has a good CV. All the heads of department are class acts: celebrated cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (The Passion of The Christ, The Patriot, The Right Stuff) is in charge of the images, Norris Spencer (Black Rain, Thelma & Louise, Hannibal) is handling production design, with the talented Judianna Makovsky (Pleasantville, Legend of Bagger Vance, Seabuscuit, Harry Potter & The Sorcererer’s Stone) in charge of costumes; the music is from veteran composer Billy Goldenberg, who has been plucked out of his extraordinary, award-laden worklog for network TV to score his first feature film since Silent Cries (1993).

And of course the all important casting work was in the hands of Hollywood’s grande dame of casting, Avy Kaufman, whose first casting job was on the film Matewan in 1987. There are currently 12 films in production or post production on which she was casting director, and last year she worked on The Human Stain, Hulk and Dogville among others.

Published September 23, 2004

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* We thank Skye Minton for assistance in obtaining the pictures. Skye runs the Cage by Page fansite: http://www.cagebypage.com

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