When the National Treasure franchise reboots we are going to have at least one familiar face returning for some of the historical treasure hunting the stories have been known for up until this point. While we are unlikely to see the franchise’s biggest star, Nicolas Cage, making a return, other characters from the original films will be making their way back into the story. Deadline has it that Justin Bartha is set to reprise his role from the first two movies in the upcoming Disney+ National Treasure series, giving the show and the movies some overlap in terms of continuity.
Justin Bartha played Riley Poole in the first National Treasure movie and then the follow-up Book of Secrets. His character is a quick-witted computer hacker who acted, at times, something like the “man in the chair” for Nicolas Cage’s Benjamin Franklin Gates. Those two plus Diane Kruger’s Abigail Chase made up the treasure-hunting trio that tasked itself with securing the Declaration of Independence in the first film and disproving aspects of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in the second. He’s a key piece of the plot of those films mostly on the back of his considerable computer skills that help push forward parts of the story.
It’s unclear just how big of a role Justin Bartha will play in this National Treasure series, though early speculation is that he’s on more in a cameo role than anything else. He’s been labeled a guest star, at least for the purposes of the beginning of the series. That’s because this new show will be taking the name of the franchise, but recasting things for a younger generation. There are sure to be callbacks to the first two movies, but it does appear they want to separate themselves just a bit from the origin of the franchise, at least in terms of lead casting.
The National Treasure series will star Lissette Alexis as Jess Morales in the lead role. Other cast members include Zuri Reed, Jake Austin Walker, and Antonion Cipriano. Catherine Zeta-Jones recently joined the cast as Billie, a billionaire financier and treasure hunter who looks like she will be a bit of a wildcard. Lyndon Smith will play an FBI agent. The series just started shooting back in February and will have Jerry Bruckenheimer on as executive producer. Mira Nair is handling directing duties from the outset. The story is set to follow Alexis’s Morales as she tries to uncover a Pan-American treasure.
National Treasure first came out back in 2004 and on a whopping $100 million budget managed to take in $348 million at the box office. A silly action film around historical artifacts and intrigue, Nicolas Cage carried the film on the back of his devil-may-care attitude and some elaborate set pieces. The followup, National Treasure: Book of Secrets did even better a few years later, earning $459 million at the box office. Though both movies underperformed with critics. A third movie has been in the works for years but has failed to get off the ground. Maybe Justin Bartha returning as Riley Poole can help bridge the gap in that respect.