Ed Harris Said Yes To National Treasure Thanks To Helen Mirren (And A Whole Lot Of Money)

"National Treasure: Book of Secrets" is likely not anybody's favorite film. It's the sequel to one of the most okay movies I can think of, the 2004 original, which wasn't exactly a genius masterpiece of a movie, but it's fun enough to justify its own existence. The sequel is that, but just slightly worse, which isn't that bad of a degradation as far as sequels go.

The movies feature Nicolas Cage, in one of his least unhinged roles (that's a negative, for him), racing around the country to find various hidden treasures among various American historical landmarks and items. To the film series' credit, one of the more baffling achievements pulled off by these movies was their ability to attract disproportionately talented casts. The first film featured Sean Bean (who shockingly does not die), Harvey Keitel, and Christopher Plummer. The second features such mega-talents as Helen Mirren and Ed Harris. It has always struck me as odd: how do these wildly talented actors end up in such down-the-middle films? Is it all just money?

According to Harris ... yep. But also Helen Mirren.

It's a living

According to a 2011 interview with Ed Harris on the Reel Life, Reel Stories Youtube Series, the Academy Award-nominated actor joined "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" because, hey, it's a living. 

"And then you take on a 'National Treasure,' which was, you know, it's a payday," said Harris, known for his roles in "Truman Show" and "Apollo 13." He continued: "And it's not some kind of character [that's] gonna take you tons of research, or that is that complex, or that interesting a human being. He's, you know, it's a bad guy in a movie, you know."

Along with his almost insultingly dismissive attitude towards the character he played, he also credited Helen Mirren as part of why he dove into the part: 

"And you're working with Helen Mirren and a bunch of other people who're doing it probably for the same reason, and you're trying to make an entertaining film."

Easy money

Sometimes, an actor just wants to shoot a "casual" movie, and for Ed Harris, a one-dimensional villain in a mediocre adventure series was his way of relaxing and cashing some checks.

And look, I've been pretty harsh on the "National Treasure" franchise up to this point, but they're really perfectly fun and serviceable movies. I won't be mad if they're on at the dentist's office or something. And that's partially because of the performances of actors like Harris, who know they're doing something a bit below their pay grade.

Then again, we must all remember that "National Treasure" was successful enough to spawn a sequel, and that sequel was successful enough to inspire an upcoming Disney+ series. So, who am I to trash-talk these films? Until I get the opportunity to work with Helen Mirren or Sean Bean, I'll just keep typing my little articles while these people have a ton of fun and earn a bunch of money making their huge-budget movies.