The Pitch For National Treasure Was Almost Too Out-There For Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage has stepped into the shoes of some pretty bizarre characters over the course of his career. Starting with "Vampire's Kiss" in 1988 as douchey literary agent who starts to believe he's a vampire, the actor has gone on to portray twin Andy Kaufmans, a sociopath who steals the face of his rival, a treasure hunter who steals the Declaration of Independence, and a misogynistic police-man who takes on a pagan matriarchy. And that's just through 2006!

Cage's prolific nature and knack for playing parts other actors might steer clear of is a testament to his range. Plenty of movies — including recents ones like "Mandy" and "Pig" — very well could only have been made with him in those roles. Cage makes the unbelievable somehow believable. Which is why it's surprising to discover that he was hesitant to take on at least one of his roles because it appeared a little too far-fetched. For Cage, it's always seemed that there was no line he was willing to draw in terms of what's possible or impossible when it comes to his characters. This revelation implies there's a method to his madness and given the number of unforgettable films he's been in, there must be.

Believable as relative to Cage

You'd think given Cage's previous outlandish characters that when Jerry Bruckheimer came to him with the role of Benjamin Franklin Gates he'd have thought it pretty tame. But in an interview with MovieWeb in 2004, the actor revealed he was at first unsure about "National Treasure" being realistic. Though in true Cage fashion, that's also what enticed him.

"I think that the very thing that made me trepidatious was the same thing that intrigued me, which is the idea of a man going in and stealing the Declaration of Independence. I thought, 'This doesn't seem very plausible, and how can this actually be pulled off?' I met with Jon Turteltaub and he said, 'But that's what's interesting. He's audacious. He's bold.' And Jerry Bruckheimer always brings in a great group of technical advisers who do the research and try to figure out exactly how to make it within the context of the film seem as believable as possible. And I got to do it in a tuxedo, so that was interesting to me as well."

Thanks to that chat with Turteltaub and Bruckheimer's commitment to grounding the film in as much reality as possible, Cage obviously joined the film's cast. Like any heist movie, and especially any treasure hunting one that deals with history, facts are pretty important — especially to Cage.

Fact or fiction

Endless articles and even an entire podcast have sprung up since the release of "National Treasure" and its sequel "National Treasure 2: The Book of Secrets," combing through the films to sift out what's true and what's made-up. Surprisingly though, the first film pretty impressively balances out its fictions with plenty of historical truths. Even when the film gets a little silly, like during the much hyped heist of the Declaration of Independence and subsequent car chase, Cage is able to balance out the wilder stuff with his character's enlightening revelations about history.

Cage's "National Treasure" character might rarely go into the over-the-top territory that he does for other roles — in fact, Ben might be the most accessible character Cage has played. But that doesn't mean that Ben is without a doubt a character Cage was meant to play. And there's even some solace to be had in knowing there was a time the actor considered roles believable or not. Sadly though this story is bookended by bad news: Cage recently revealed that the much hoped for "National Treasure 3" will most likely not be happening.