Director Jon Turteltaub has revealed the reasons why Disney still hasn't gotten around to making National Treasure 3. Released in 2004, the first National Treasure starred Nicolas Cage as an intrepid historian and cryptologist searching for a lost treasure, learning that the Declaration of Independence holds an important clue. So naturally he breaks into the National Archives and steals the historical document.
National Treasure proved to be a big hit with $347 million in worldwide grosses, which is why Disney soon followed it up with the sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which repeated the first movie’s formula of combining historical mystery with lighthearted comedic heist action. The sequel would make even more money than the original, grossing $457 million worldwide.
It’s now been 11 years since the second National Treasure released, and despite company head Bob Iger declaring in 2016 that a third movie could still happen, the studio is clearly not in any hurry to get going on the project. The director of the first two movies, Jon Turteltaub, addressed this situation while speaking to Collider and revealed why Disney has seemingly put National Treasure on the back burner... forever. According to Turteltaub, it’s all a matter of Disney having more franchises than it knows what to do with. As the director explained:
“When National Treasure first got made, there was a lot more money to go around. Everybody got paid nicely. The problem with getting the third one made isn’t the people who are getting paid saying, 'I’m not doing it unless you pay me a lot!' It’s really that Disney feels they have other films they want to make that they think will make them more money. I think they’re wrong. I think they’re right about the movies they’re making; they’re obviously doing a really good job at making great films. I just think this would be one of them, and they don’t quite realize how much the Internet is begging for a third National Treasure.”
Turteltaub also said that a script for a third National Treasure was well on its way to being completed but Disney simply wasn’t interested enough to continue pursuing the project. Clearly, Disney has a lot of priorities bigger than National Treasure with all their huge properties including Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Pixar, and their endless live-action remakes of their own prior animated classics.
Given Disney’s full slate, it seems highly unlikely that National Treasure 3 will get a chance to happen any time in the near future. Further complicating matters is the fact that the first two movies’ star Nicolas Cage is nowhere near as big a box office draw as he once was. Nowadays, Cage mostly makes crazy low-budget movies that thrill his fan base but are of zero interest to wider audiences. His forthcoming movie Mandy looks like a real treat for the hardcore Cage fans out there, but not the kind of movie that would convince Disney to bring him back at the lead of a big-budget franchise film.
For National Treasure 3 to happen, the internet outcry would have to get a lot louder than it currently seems to be (notwithstanding Turteltaub's insistence that in the internet is begging for the film). It would take a substantial petition to get things moving on the project, but at least the creative team behind the series are still interested in the project.