Jon Turteltaub Interview – NATIONAL TREASURE Book of Secrets
Posted by Frosty
Opening this Friday is “National Treasure Book of Secrets,” the sequel to the huge hit “National Treasure.” So to help promote the film, I recently attended a press day where I got to interview most of the cast and the filmmakers who made it.
But before getting to the interview…a few words. While I’ve seen a ton of movies these past few weeks, films that are sure to be nominated for Oscars and movies that will be remembered for years… the one film everyone asks me about is “National Treasure.” Seriously. If my friends and family are any barometer for the success of a movie…Disney is about to have a HUGE hit on their hands. Even my dad, who rarely goes to the movies, wants to see this film.
And for those wondering…here are my two cents on the sequel. Did you like the first film? Then you’ll like the sequel, as it’s more of the same. But I do want to emphasize not thinking too hard about the plausibility of what you’re watching, because if you try and think about it… you’ll just ruin the ride and not have any fun. Simply put, ”National Treasure Book of Secrets” is a great popcorn movie and audiences are going to eat it up. Now about this interview...
Posted below is the mini press conference with Jon Turteltaub – the director of “National Treasure.”
During our time Jon talked about how a lot of what we see in these movies is actually based on real things, and he was quite honest about what he expects the critics to do to the movie. But what I really took away from the interview was just how funny he is. Seriously, if you’re going to listen to any of the “National Treasure” interviews listen to this one. He constantly says funny stuff and it’s all worth listening to. And for all you "Jericho" fans… he does drop some info on the series.
As usual, you can either read the transcript below or download the audio as an MP3 by clicking here. And if you want to watch some clips from the movie, you can do so here.
“National Treasure Book of Secrets” opens this Friday at theaters everywhere.
Jon Turteltaub: Let me tell you something, no matter what I do the reviewers are not going to like this movie. That’s the way it goes. Some of you are reviewers, right? There you go.
Question: Why do you say that?
Jon: They didn’t like the first one, and so if they didn’t like the first one they have to pretend they did to like this one, because this one really isn’t that different than the first one.
Q: Actually, I think I can prove you wrong because I probably wrote some not nice things about the first one, and I liked this one a lot more.
Jon: Why is that?
Q: I guess we can talk about it later. I think it’s more fun, I think it’s sharper.
Jon: But maybe it’s more fun and sharper because now you get the joke, but you were a little slow to get it the first time. [laughter]
Q: I wrote last night, ‘maybe I’m smarter than I was three years ago.’
Jon: I love that, I love that. What was odd too was that a lot of the reviews the first time said this movie is really stupid, and I thought, ‘Really?’ That was the one thing I didn’t think people would say about the first one, because –
Q: What would they say about this one?
Jon: Oh, this one’s very stupid. I think people think we made up most of it, but we didn’t and we got attacked for history not making sense. We didn’t make this stuff up, those are the glasses Ben Franklin designed, those are the buildings where the stuff happened, we didn’t make up the letters, this is all real stuff. And none of us had even heard of The Da Vinci Code when we wrote the script, none of us had read it, because we’d been told it’s similar, so none of us read it when we made the movie and then we got accused of stealing from it. And then when that movie came out all those critics had to like that movie more, because they’d already told us ours wasn’t as good as that. It got confusing.
Q: I think the thing that may have hurt the first one more than the Da Vinci Code parallels was that about the same time you came out, PBS’ Nova did a story about the ultra protection of the Declaration of Independence, and how it was locked up.
Jon: But what was interesting is that that story wasn’t really right, because I saw that Nova when it came out. I’d been to the archives, and I got a tour of how the Declaration was kept, and what was amazing is honestly it was kept like in a safe that you’d have in your house, and they had a halon gas thing so that if there was a fire, the fire would go out, but basically Ernie the janitor could have gone in and shown it to you. After 9/11 they went, ‘Ah, it’s safe,’ and spirited it away and redid the security system. But they had already given us all the plans of the new security system, which we had, so we just did what they told us, it goes down that tube and down the thing into the room and it goes across the hall when they’re working on it, into that other room. It was art and then we got told oh we made up a fake system, that’s what happens, just like that. Don’t blame me, blame –
Q: Given all the bad reviews the first one got, were you apprehensive to come back to make the second one?
Jon: No, because [to the first row] don’t listen, don’t listen, don’t listen, the people we know who have families in Texas and aunt and uncles in Minnesota matter a lot more to us than the critics. One of the problems all of us have is we all see too many movies and so we just don’t watch movies right, we can’t help it, we know what’s coming, we can’t help but know where this is going, we’ve seen that actor in too many movies that year, and at too many lunches that year, so if you listen and you really talk to people and you go into someone’s house and you see the movie on the shelf, and you see it’s been watched, they’re watching that movie and you know that there’s something that crept into the, sorry, but the zeitgeist on it. I read references – you know on line, on the YouTube thing it says, there was something about a fire and someone said, ‘It looked really like National Treasure,’ that’s a sign to me that it’s out there. And then we said, you know what, it made money but not all in its opening weekend, it built, so there was word of mouth that made the success of the first movie. And the DVD life was so strong. That’s all about just people telling each other to watch the movie. And you look and you go, okay, we did better [in the] red States than blue States, and there’s probably more of you working in blue States than red States, so what does that mean to a movie, and by better, not world’s better, but there’s things. And we said, well, let’s do a sequel, but let’s start by coming up with ideas and a script. We don’t green light a movie until we know we’ve got a movie to make. And if there’s a sequel to this one it’ll be because not it opens well, but because it has some shelf life, you can smell whether audiences liked it or liked it. And if the new story we come up with works, and we feel confident, then we’ll do our best to get all the exact same people together again and do it again.
Q: Have you written yourself into a corner with this page 47?
Jon: You know what? We can always tell people that’s the fourth movie. That doesn’t work. I’ve actually seen movies that seem like they’re setting up for the sequel and that wasn’t the sequel.
Q: Bruce was telling people in the lobby of the theatre last night, they were asking him what was on page 47, and he was saying, ‘That’s the next movie.’
Jon: I’ll tell you, what is on page 47 is I think the single greatest secret in America today which is the plot of Star Trek. [everyone laughs]
Q: What happened with the Lincoln Memorial scene, why was it cut –
Jon: [his phone goes off] I think my ass is ringing, hang on one second. Here’s what happened, it’s funny you’re the first person to ask, because I’ve been asked a ton about the Lincoln Memorial and you’re the first person to mention, wait a minute, it’s not in the movie. In fact, what is so great is, I’ve been watching all these TV commercials and most of the commercials – the problem is, commercials always give the movie away, well in this case it didn’t because nothing in the commercials made it into the final movie. [everyone laughs] And we keep looking at the commercials going, ‘That’s good, why did we cut that?’ But they make the commercials based on dailies and your first four hour cut; they don’t know what’s going on.
Q: What was the scene?
Jon: Here’s what happened in that scene. That was going to go somewhere between when Nic goes and talks to Harvey Keitel and finds out this book is real and there’s no way to get it, and telling everyone he’s going to kidnap the President to get it, not that he does that in the movie, he had to deal with whether it was worthy – is this worth it and what is the risk he’s personally taking? It was part of a little sequence, and he goes at sunrise basically to the Lincoln Memorial and he’s standing there in front of Lincoln, and it’s sort of a dialogue between their expressions and faces, and he notices the Gettysburg Address and reads the Gettysburg Address which includes the line which does come up later, ‘the last full measure of devotion’ is mentioned in the Gettysburg Address. And in understanding what people give, because there are issues greater in life than your own safety, he realizes this is something he needs to do, whether for his great grandfather, his current father, or even his friend Riley who said, ‘Trust me on this book thing,’ But it became a little too mushy, sappy and meaningful maybe to some Americans, but you make movies now for the population of the whole planet, and it just sat there as –
Q: Too rah rah?
Jon: Too rah rah, and too yucky.
Q: Will you put that on the DVD?
Jon: Yeah, probably. The photography’s too nice, so you’ve got to show it somewhere.
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