Justin Bartha Interview – NATIONAL TREASURE: Book of Secrets

     December 19, 2007

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 Justin Bartha. In the film he plays Riley Poole – the friend and computer genius who accompanies Nicolas’ Cage character on his wild adventures.

During the time we had to speak with Justin we covered all the usual questions and we got him to ponder what’s on page 47 (it has to do with the Book of Secrets) as well as talk about his future projects.

And if you don’t know what the story is in the sequel…

In this follow up to “National Treasure,” treasure hunter Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) once again sets out on an exhilarating, action-packed new global quest to unearth hidden history and treasures. When a missing page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth surfaces, Ben’s great-great grandfather is suddenly implicated as a key conspirator in Abraham Lincoln’s death. Determined to prove his ancestor’s innocence, Ben follows an international chain of clues that takes him on a chase from Paris to London and ultimately back to America. This journeyleads Ben and his crewnot only to surprising revelations – but to the trail of the world’s most treasured secrets.

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.

Q: What is the idea with a relatively handsome young man running around saying he can’t get a date?

Justin: Are you talking about me? I’m single. I can not get a date and the girls I meet turn out to be awful. My girlfriends turn out to be just bad seeds so obviously, it’s realistic in some sense. This is a frank interview. That’s a hard-hitting question.

So you don’t have high hopes for the girl with the freckles and the book at the end of the movie?

Justin: I have very high hopes for her. She’s adorable.

When we spoke with you after the last movie you were saying you had no tech savvy in real life. Are you any more techy after this one?

Justin: Even worse. I keep watching this movie over and over again and I just get less interested in technology. I use a telegraph now.

We hear, on a Bruckheimer film that the script is always in flux and you arrive not really knowing what you’re going to be saying that day. How much of what we see in this film was improvised?

Justin: Well, that’s the benefit of doing a sequel that I’ve found. Most of the characters were in the first one besides, obviously Helen and Ed and the President but most of the main characters were in the first one and we know our characters very well so I know how Riley would react to pretty much every situation. It’s also a testament to Jerry and Jon in that, even with a script that’s always in flux, they are not going to release a movie until they feel comfortable that it’s a good movie. So, if it doesn’t work, we’re not gonna put it in the movie. When we first got the script in the beginning of the process, all the actors sat around with the filmmakers and they asked us, ‘is there anything that you think should be in the script that’s not in there? Is there anything that’s in the script that you think doesn’t fit?’ And they sat down with each one of us individually and we told them and they incorporated most of the things that we came up with.

What did you think didn’t fit for Riley?

Justin: Specifically, my thing was I didn’t want it to be boring. A lot of times, the sequels they make, obviously they’re making a sequel to make money. Everyone know that. The first one made a lot of money. People really loved the first one. It’s not like people come up to me and say ‘yeah, that movie was good’. They say it’s their favorite movie or it’s their kids’ favorite movie so there’s a responsibility to make it more interesting and to keep the spirit of the original movie. And, when I first got the script for the second one, Riley was pretty much the same thing as the first one. They played on the stereotype of the sidekick of just throwing out zingers and I thought it was kind of boring. There was nothing interesting in there for me to do so I wanted to see what happened to Riley between the first movie and the second movie, How did the money effect him? What has he been doing? And, with a book that he wrote, how can that book effect the storyline? So, we came up with the idea of him writing this book and no one takes him seriously because no one takes this guy seriously because he is that sidekick guy that you’ve seen in movies and no one ever takes these characters seriously. They’re there to serve a purpose. But, what if they just stop for a second to read his book, it would actually help them solve the mystery? So, that was the big thing that I pushed for to get into the movie.

Are you on strike with all the other writers right now?

Justin: Unfortunately. I do support the writers in any way that I can. I’m more the actor so…

Riley’s friends just don’t read his book. Have you ever been in a play and your friends just don’t show up? If so, what do you do?

Justin: [laughs] They’re no longer my friends. If they don’t come and support me, I don’t like them anymore. You’ve got to support your friends.

Did you do a lot of your own stunts?

Justin: I did Nic’s stunts also [laughter]. I did Helen Mirren’s stunts sometimes too with fake giant breasts… beautiful. I didn’t look as good as her but I pulled it off.

Are you in Paris again with your next movie?

Justin: Yes. I only shoot movies in Paris now. I’m huge in Paris. I’m like Woody Allen. No one takes me seriously in America. Nobody goes to see my films but, in Paris, I get mobbed.

Can you tell us about Shoe At Your Foot?

Justin: I can. It’s about a young American guy who wins a trip to Paris for two just as his girlfriend dumps him and he decides to go alone or his friends push him to go to Paris alone and the airline loses his luggage and it’s sent to a beautiful French girl who falls in love with him through the contents of his suitcase. I pretty much spend the whole movie by myself in a hotel room in a robe waiting for a suitcase. It’s a really wonderful film. It’s a whimsical romance in the spirit of Amelie and Punch-Drunk Love.

Billy Boyd is in it with you?

Justin: Billy Boyd plays my best buddy in the movie and he’s brilliant. He’s such a great guy.

Are you a Lord of the Rings fan?

Justin: Uh, yes? I’m not a big fantasy guy. Those aren’t my favorite types of movies but I think that they are amazing films. I haven’t seen all of them actually but I’m a fan of his. I think he’s a really great actor.

What is in the suitcase that makes the girl fall in love with you?

Justin: Well, a lot of it is contents given to me by my friends before I go on the trip so it’s not really my stuff. There’s a Gabriel Garcia-Marquez novel and there’s some music and it ends up, she falls in love with me under false pretenses. That’s what it’s come to.

continued on page 2 ———->


What’s it like to do your own stunt work?

Justin: That’s boring. Come on. I’m just kidding. It’s great. There was one time when I really felt like my life was in danger when my stunt guy just wasn’t there and I like to do my own stunts. I’m just like Tom Cruise. I get mistaken for him all the time. I’m just taller [laughter]. So Nic’s stunt driver was driving and he’s this brilliant driver and we’re in London going through the streets and he’s doing all these very dangerous turns through all these tiny, little narrow alleyways. And, at the end of this alleyway, I don’t know if you realize it, but there’s a giant tree that was right there and he had to slam on the brakes and he turned the car so that the passenger, me, was going to hit the tree. We literally ended an inch away from the tree and I wet myself.

I wanted to follow up on Billy Boyd. Did you give him any advice on being a funny side-kick?

Justin: He didn’t need any advice from me. He did his own thing but he’s quite funny though really.

Can you talk about Nic?

Justin: I can talk about Nic for hours. How much time have you got? What would you like to know?

I don’t want to hear that he’s a great guy and easy to work with.

Justin: Okay, then he’s a ass and he’s not good to work with and he’s not that great of an actor.

Does he eat crackers in bed?

Justin: Does he eat crackers in bed? I’ve never been in bed with Nic Cage. Actually there was this one night with some Johnny Walker… no, unfortunately, people come up to me all the time and they don’t ask my about myself. They ask me about Nic Cage and they want to know what he’s really like and is he really weird and intense. And, he’s not. He’s eccentric but he is hilarious. He’s one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met and I love the man. He’s one of my favorite actors. Sorry, it’s a boring answer and I wish I could give you dish but you write and read about the dish about people breaking into his house.

What makes him funny?

Justin: His sense of humor. What makes anyone hilarious? He’s got an original view of life and that is what, I think, anyone looks for in an artist. I think that’s what a great artist is, is they have a singular vision of what life is all about and the way that he looks and survives in this world is funny and it’s interesting but I love the way that he treats other people and the way that he lives out his life.

Sounds like your movie relationship is similar to your real life relationship.

Justin: Except for he’s my side-kick in real life.

Are you working on a movie called Holy Rollers?

Justin: It’s a movie that we’re trying to put together next year, yeah. It’s gonna hopefully start at the beginning of the year.

If there is a National Treasure 3, how would you like to see Riley progress?

Justin: I think I just said it, probably Nic as my side-kick and me getting a lot of girls.

Just wondering what you’ve done since the Shoe movie?

Justin: Well, that just wrapped fairly recently and then I bought a house and I’m producing a small movie and I’m trying to put together a couple of other small movies for the beginning of the year.

What are you doing for Christmas?

Justin: I am promoting this film.

Once it opens on the 21st, what are you doing for the rest of the holidays?

Justin: I like this guy.

Do you have any Christmas traditions your family does?

Justin: Yes, we light eight candles and celebrate my people.

I apologize, Hanukkah.

Justin: I’m not a very religious person and I really don’t have a lot of specific traditions besides spending time with my family and friends.

Can you talk more about Holy Rollers?

Justin: Yes. Holy Rollers is based on a true story in the early mid-‘90’s, there were some people in the Hassidic community that were used as drug smugglers in and out of Amsterdam into Brooklyn..

Were they diamond merchants or something?

Justin: No. it has nothing to do with diamond merchants and that’s racist. Who brought that guy? Not all Jews are diamond merchants, my God! [laughs] and you can quote me on that. So, basically, it’s a small drama. It’s kind of like Mean Streets but it’s kind of like Jew Streets. It’s myself and one of my favorite young actors Jesse Eisenberg are the two guys in the movie and, if you look at Mean Streets, he’s kind of like Harvey Keitel and I’m kind of like the Johnny Boy character where I’m already kind of into that world of drugs and I bring him into it.

Do you want to know what’s on Page 47?

Justin: I do. Do you know? I’d love to know.

I think they might have gotten themselves into a corner by introducing that.

Justin: That’s the thing I love about this. Nobody cares. They just want to see these characters hang out with each other. You know, I doubt anyone’s going to be coming up to me on the street and asking ‘what’s on page 47?’ They’re probably going to be saying, ‘What’s Nic Cage like?’.

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