Justin Bartha Interview, National Treasure 2

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline recently caught up with Justin Bartha at the Los Angeles press day for his new film, “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.” In this follow up to the box-office hit "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. Bartha resumes the role of his comic-relief side-kick, Riley Poole.

Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Jon Turteltaub and directed by Turteltaub, the story reunites the original cast including Cage, Bartha, Diane Kruger, and Academy Award winner Jon Voight, joined this time by four-time Academy Award nominee Ed Harris, Academy Award nominee Harvey Keitel, and 2006 Academy Award winner Helen Mirren.

Justin Bartha was most recently seen opposite Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker in “Failure to Launch,” in addition to roles in such films as “Trust the Man” and Sidney Lumet’s HBO film “Thought Crimes,” as well as the starring role in NBC’s comedy, “Teachers.” He garnered critical acclaim for his portrayal of the psychologically challenged younger  brother of a powerful federal prosecutor in Martin Brest’s ”Gigli,” opposite Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez and Christopher Walken. Next up, Bartha will star opposite “Cesar” winning actress Melanie Laurant in the whimsical romance “Shoe at Your Foot” from first time director Jennifer Devoldere due out next year.

Bartha bursts into our press conference while Jon Turteltaub is still fielding questions from journalists. He teases him good-naturedly.

Justin: Stop talking!  [They hug].  Boring! 

Jon Turteltaub: [to the press] Is he funnier than me?

Justin: Impossible!

Q: You’ve been following him around all day?

Justin: I know. He’s a hard act to follow.

Q: Well here’s a question we didn’t have a chance to ask him because he was so long winded. [Laughter] What is the idea behind having a relatively handsome young man [his character] running around saying he can’t get a date?

Justin: Are you talking about me?  I’m single.  I cannot 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.  Ask the hard-hitting questions.

Q: 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.

Q: When we spoke with you after the last movie, you told us you weren’t much of a techy.  Have you become any more tech savvy since 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.

Q: Do you own an iPod?

Justin:  I do own an iPod.  Of course. 

Q: What’s on your iPod?

Justin:  Music.

Q: What kind of music?

Justin: All types of music.  I’m a huge music nut so I listen to many, many, many things.

Q: We hear that working on a Bruckheimer film is sort of like a high wire act.  The script is always in flux and you may 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.

Q: What did you say specifically 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 really wanted to see what happened to Riley between the first movie and the second movie.  How did the money affect him? What has he been doing? And, with a book that he wrote, how can that book affect 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.

Q: 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…

Q: 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.

Q: Did you do a lot of your own stunts?

Justin: I did Nic’s stunts also [laughter].  I did my stunts and I did Nic’s stunts.  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.

Q: 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. 

Q: What kind of driver are you?   If you had that Ferrari (or whatever it was) would you back it into the car behind it?

Justin:  I’m a little better driver than that, yeah.

Q: 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?

Q: I don’t want to hear that he’s a great guy, easy to work with, and an amazing actor.

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

Q: 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 me about myself.  They ask me about Nic Cage and they want to know what he’s like and if he’s 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.

Q: 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 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.

Q: It sounds like your movie relationship is similar to your real life relationship.

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

Q: 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.

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

Justin:  I do.  Do you know?  I would love to know.

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

Justin:  That’s the thing I love about this movie.  No one really 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?’

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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 in the movie.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: What have you done since wrapping 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.

Q: 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.

Q: Can you tell us what Holy Rollers is about?

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 ecstasy drug smugglers in and out of Amsterdam into Brooklyn..

Q: Were they diamond merchants?

Justin:  No.  It has nothing to do with diamond merchants and that’s racist.  Who brought that guy?  [Laughter]  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. 

Q: What are you doing for Christmas?

Justin:  I am promoting this film.

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

{Laughter]

Justin:  I like this guy. 

Q: Do you have any Christmas traditions your family does?

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

Q: I apologize, Hanukkah.

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

Q: Alright, name eight toys you want this year.  [some people groan]

Justin: I speak for them.  They don’t like that question.  I can’t answer it.  There’s going to be a mob in here.

[Laughter]

“National Treasure: Book of Secrets” opens in theaters on December 21st.

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