Nicolas Cage Gets Candid About Why National Treasure 3 Never Happened

Nicolas Cage in National Treasure
(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures)

If you’re in any way a film fan, chances are you have a favorite Nicolas Cage performance, if not several. For some folks of a certain age, they might still look fondly back on the actor’s time as treasure hunter Ben Gates in the National Treasure movies, with the first coming out in 2004 and the sequel, Book of Secrets, following three years later. Although there were plans to make National Treasure 3 too, it was hit with many delays over the last decade and a half, and Cage recently got candid about why the threequel never happened.

In March 2008, a few months after National Treasure: Book of Secrets came out, Jon Turteltaub, the director/producer behind both National Treasure movies, said that the creative minds working on the third installment would take their time developing it. Six months later, producer Jerry Bruckheimer confirmed that National Treasure 3 was in development, but according to Nicolas Cage, the underwhelming performance of a few of his movies in the following years resulted in Disney scrapping the project. While speaking to GQ about how he went from healing blockbusters to starring in straight-to-VOD flicks, the actor said this:

The phone stopped ringing. It was like, ‘What do you mean we're not doing National Treasure 3? It's been 14 years. Why not?’... Well, Sorcerer's Apprentice didn't work, and Ghost Rider didn't really sell tickets. And Drive Angry, that just came and went.

Looking at those three movies he mentioned, 2010’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was met with mixed reviews and only made a little over $215 million worldwide off a $150 million budget; 2007’s Ghost Rider received primarily negative critical reception and made nearly $229 million off a $110 million budget; and 2011’s Drive Angry also fell on the mixed end of the critical spectrum, but only made $41 million, not even hitting outgrossing its production costs. So as Cage sees it, these movies failing to impress, and perhaps others, were enough for Disney to quietly push National Treasure 3 to the side. 

It is worth noting that there was a brief bit of renewed hope back in early 2020 for those who’ve been waiting for National Treasure 3. At that time, it was reported that the threequel was back in development, with Chris Bremner writing the new script and the plan being for the original cast members from the first two movies to return. Cut to the present day, though, and Nicolas Cage said in this GQ interview that he’d rather keep his run on indie movies going rather than revert his focus to tentpole pictures. When the interviewer brought up Jerry Bruckheimer having said National Treasure 3 was in the works, Cage replied:

When I talk about fair-weather friends in Hollywood, I'm not talking about Jerry. I'm talking about Disney. They're like an ocean liner. Once they go in a certain direction, you've got to get a million tugboats to try to swivel it back around.

So not only is Nicolas Cage fairly certain National Treasure 3 isn’t far along back in the development process (co-star Diane Kruger also hasn’t seen a script), but even if it has been making progress, he doesn’t sound that keen on reprising Ben Gates. Also, given how Disney prioritizes theatrical releases these days, it’s a good bet that National Treasure 3 would be sent to Disney+ rather than play in theaters, and the franchise is already covered on that front. People with a Disney+ subscription can look forward to a National Treasure TV series starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lisette Alexis in the near future that’s set in the same continuity as the movies. So unless Disney says otherwise, it may be best to table hopes for National Treasure 3 again.

Fortunately, Nicolas Cage isn’t having trouble keeping busy. He’ll next be seen playing a fictional version of himself in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, and among his other upcoming movies is Universal Pictures’ Renfield, where he’ll play Dracula. Still, if Disney makes a major announcement about National Treasure 3, we’ll pass it along. 

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.