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Hollywood’s odd couple: Cage and Bruckheimer

‘National Treasure’ marks fourth time the two have collaborated.
/ Source: Reuters

In a town where friendship is fleeting, a star who once feared being labeled wacky and an action movie producer with a Midas touch have become a solid-gold team that this week again tests its box office power with their fourth collaboration, “National Treasure.”

Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage, who had been specializing in quirky roles, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer first teamed for 1996’s “The Rock” and hope to work the same magic in action-adventure film “National Treasure.” Their previous movies — “Rock,” “Con Air” and “Gone in Sixty Seconds” — have reaped $750 million in global ticket sales.

A fresh hit would be welcome news for The Walt Disney Co.’s film studio which only recently rebounded from early year flops to release “The Village” and Pixar’s “The Incredibles.”

In the movie, Cage plays Benjamin Franklin Gates, who has been ostracized from the academic community because of an old family legend that tells of a map detailing a vast fortune that is hidden on the back of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

When a band of thieves decides to steal the document to uncover the map, treasure hunter Gates beats them to it and ensures the map stays in the hands of people who will care for it as a piece of U.S. history.

Advance word on “National Treasure” has been positive but it awaits reviews and a test of audience appeal at the box office.

Odd couple clicksIn 1996, the pairing of Cage and Bruckheimer seemed odd, but clicked from the start, they said in a joint interview in which both dressed in black suits, Cage adding a pair of pink sunglasses.

Cage earned the 1995 best-actor Oscar for playing a suicidal alcoholic in “Leaving Las Vegas,” which furthered his being typecast for oddball parts.

“I had been doing pictures in Hollywood where I was wearing a snakeskin jacket and had a wooden hand...and nobody would give me an opportunity to act in the (action) world until Jerry,” Cage said, referring to his one-handed lover role in “Moonstruck” and Elvis-admiring sailor in “Wild at Heart.”

Bruckheimer, by contrast, was known as half of a producing team that was responsible for “Top Gun,” “Days of Thunder” and “Crimson Tide.” His partner was Don Simpson, who died in 1996.

Cage said he “always had a passion for movies that had a certain adventure element,” but no one would cast him. For his part, Bruckheimer said Cage was exactly what he was seeking because he looks for actors to play against type.

“He can win an Academy Award then walk into ‘The Rock’ and become a big audience pleaser,” Bruckheimer said.

Similarly, no one thought another offbeat actor, Johnny Depp, could handle the pirate captain in Bruckheimer’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

Bruckheimer said Disney studio executives were, at first, “horrified” at the way Depp portrayed pirate Jack Sparrow “like he was drunk and gay...But I thought it was great.”

Fortunately, Disney listened and, due in large part to Depp’s pirate, the film earned more than $650 million worldwide. Depp was nominated for an Oscar.

“Hollywood is a very narrow-minded place,” said Cage.

Colleagues and friendsBruckheimer said the characters Cage has played for his movies were “kind of bland” in the screenplay, but that Cage spiced them up.

“Nic always brings something unique and different to whatever we give him,” Bruckheimer said. “But it’s not only about showing up on the set and reading lines. We look for actors who take that extra step” to learn their characters.

For “The Rock,” in which Cage played a chemist who foils a plot to unleash nerve gas on San Francisco, Bruckheimer said the actor attended countless seminars on global destruction.

The two call themselves friends who share similar interests such as cars and photography.

“He’s fun to talk to,” said Cage.

“I like his wife,” countered Bruckheimer.

Cage admits that “National Treasure” and the Indiana Jones movies share some similarities in their sense of adventure. That could be a good thing for ticket sales because those films, including “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” were huge hits.

“Audiences expect a certain thing; we deliver it,” Bruckheimer said.