Are we in the midst of a Nicolas Cage renaissance? The actor released what many call his best film — the drama Pig — in 2021 and following in the footsteps of actors like John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich, he’ll be playing a wild version of his own singular self in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. And now, the franchise that is arguably Cage’s most successful film series, National Treasure, is on its way back. But those hoping to see Cage return to the role of treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates may be disappointed — the cast of the new National Treasure has been revealed, and Cage’s name isn’t anywhere in the list.
Rather than making National Treasure 3, Disney opted to make a National Treasure series for its streaming service Disney+. In October Deadline broke the news that Lisette Alexis (Total Eclipse) would be the new lead of the franchise as Jess — a young Latina and genius with a knack for puzzle solving. There were still hopes that Nicolas Cage would find his way into the series, as well as rumors to that effect. But Deadline revealed the rest of the principal cast earlier this week, and Cage’s name isn’t among them.
Lyndon Smith (Parenthood) will play disgraced FBI Agent Ross who sees her part in the adventure as a way to redeem herself. Zuri Reed (The Get Down) is Tasha; Jess’ friend and a social media celebrity. Jess’ best friend Ethan — who carries a torch for the hero — is played by Jason Rodrigues (Lady Bird). Antonio Cipriano (City on a Hill) is a goofball conspiracy theorist, which is likely a character type mandatory for National Treasure. Finally there’s Jake Austin Walker (Stargirl) who plays Liam, a musician struggling to make ends meet, and whose bloodline has included plenty of treasure hunters.
There are no doubt lots of fans who will be disappointed in a National Treasure without the star who was there at the beginning of the franchise, but it seems to be at least in part Nicolas Cage’s decision. Or, at the very least, if it wasn’t his decision then he’s probably fine with it. Speaking to Variety last July about his role in Pig, Cage expressed a desire to steer clear of big studio roles, even singling out Disney specifically. “I don’t know if I’d want to go and make another Disney movie,” Cage said. “It would be terrifying. It’s a whole different climate. There’s a lot of fear there.”
Of course, there’s nothing to say Nicolas Cage couldn’t stop by for a guest appearance or two in the upcoming National Treasure series. Deadline reports the show will be an “expansion” of the franchise, meaning it will presumably take place in the same narrative as the two films in which Cage portrayed Benjamin Franklin Gates. While Cage may feel apprehensive about appearing in a big Disney blockbuster, making a cameo or two in a TV series is another matter entirely.
There’s no word yet on a release date for the first episode of the National Treasure series on Disney+, though we know whenever it drops, it will be in the hands of people familiar with the franchise. Jerry Bruckheimer — who produced both 2004’s National Treasure and 2007’s National Treasure: Book of Secrets — is on board as executive producer along with Jon Turteltaub who directed both films, and Cormac and Marianne Wibberly, who were writers on the movies. Directing the pilot is Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!).