Nine writers have tried their hand at archaelogical pic

Nicolas Cage has committed to next star for Touchstone Pictures and director Jon Turteltaub in “National Treasure,” with production to start in August. Jerry Bruckheimer is producing with Turteltaub.

While the project looks to be a 2004 tentpole, salvaging this treasure has been anything but easy. The idea was hatched five years ago by Turteltaub, Disney marketing head Oren Aviv and Charles Segers. Nine scribes, including Jim Kouf (“Rush Hour”), were drafted to hone the formula, and the code was finally cracked by Marianne and Cormac Wibberly (“I Spy”).

“The treasure and the lore is real, but the story is fiction,” said Turteltaub, who’s making his seventh film for the studio. “Most movies I’ve done came together very easily, and this is the first one I’ve been involved in putting together from scratch. It has been three years since I completed ‘The Kid,’ but getting Cage was worth it.”

Cage will play an archaeologist-historian who is the eighth generation of his family to believe the country’s founding fathers drew a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

Christina Steinberg, Turteltaub’s partner in Junction Entertainment, will exec produce with Mike Stenson, Chad Oman and Barry Waldman. Disney’s Jason Reed is supervising.

Cage, who is starring for director Mark Steven Johnson in the Marvel Comics adaptation “Ghost Rider” at Columbia, next will be seen starring in Ridley Scott’s “Matchstick Men” for Warner Bros. His Saturn Pictures is teaming with Lorenzo di Bonaventura to turn the vidgame “Dead to Rights” into a starring vehicle for the actor. They’re looking to set it at a studio with Kevin Brodbin scripting.

Bruckheimer, who’s worked with Cage on several actioners, just produced the summer pic “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which Disney execs hope will unearth treasure from its venerable theme park ride.

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