NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM SECRET OF THE TOMB
A Pantheon of Comedy Stars
Beloved actor/comedian Robin Williams, who, sadly, passed away earlier this
year, reprises his role as Teddy Roosevelt.
For Levy, working with Williams on the three Night at the Museum films was an
indelible experience. "I was Robin's fan long before I became his director and I
will be his fan long afterward as well. In the process of making these films, it
was also my great privilege to become his friend. Robin's heart and humor shone
through his performance as Teddy Roosevelt and as such, this character has
always stood firmly at the soul of this franchise, something for which I will be
Long before Williams' Teddy Roosevelt became a waxen museum statue, Theodore
Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States who was renowned for his
varied interests and accomplishments, and who truly believed in the inherent
power of the common man. Here, Teddy is a good friend to Larry, often providing
valuable and sometimes fatherly wisdom, as well as some very good impressions.
"Teddy Roosevelt was an amazing naturalist, botanist, environmentalist and
hunter," noted Williams. "He had this sense of the great outdoors, that the wild
environment is where you find yourself. And part of his legacy was founding the
National Park System, helping get that up and running. He was, truly, an
exciting man." In the Night at the Museum films, Teddy is also a true romantic.
There's a charge between Teddy and the museum figure of Lewis and Clark's guide
and interpreter, Sacajawea. As Teddy jokes, "I'm wax, she's polyurethane, but
somehow it works."
Teddy's relationship with Larry is also central to the films. "Larry and Teddy
have a sort of a father-son dynamic throughout all the movies," added Williams.
"Teddy always considers Larry like a son - giving him life advice but, at the
same time, saying, 'You don't need my advice, you've grown and you've done
this." This film has some pretty subtle and at the same time powerful statements
As the destruction of the tablet progresses, the effect on the creatures becomes
more physical. "We start to become more and more wax and more and more frozen.
Then it's a little weird," Williams said.
Joining Williams as key returnees to this world are Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan,
as the surprising duo of American cowboy Jedediah and Roman Centurion Octavius,
both miniatures from historic dioramas. They're the smallest characters with the
biggest friendship. Wilson says, "There has been an arc to our relationship. We
started off sort of as adversaries, and now it's evolved into more of a team.
We're practically a buddy comedy within a funny family movie."
The friendship is all the more unexpected because the characters come from very
different cultural backgrounds and eras. "There's a brashness to Jedediah," says
Wilson, "that sort of runs up against and chafes the gentility of what Octavius
represents." The picture of civility, Octavius is a military leader from ancient
Rome. He and Jedediah face their greatest peril yet when they fly through a
museum air duct and find themselves in a Pompeii diorama where Mount Vesuvius is
about to erupt.
Because they differ in stature to the other characters in the film, Jedediah's
and Octavius' scenes were mostly shot without other cast members on set, and
many of their scenes were filmed against green screen. Coogan explains, "Shawn
would show us extracts, CGI mock ups of a scene on screen so we could see
physically how the action panned out. Or, he'd show us what had already been
shot with whomever we're speaking to, so we could judge from that and act
accordingly. You get used to it and imagine these things around yourself. In
some ways, it was like becoming a child. Even though we have to concentrate and
there is hard work, it is like playing. And that's the best thing about the job;
you get a license sometimes to not grow up."
Another Museum veteran, Golden Globe and Emmy winning British comedian and
actor Ricky Gervais returns as McPhee, the head of the Museum and Larry's boss.
Awkward, eccentric and blissfully unaware, McPhee doesn't realize that magic is
what brings the museum creatures to life. Moreover, he prides himself on a sense
of humor that he doesn't really possess. McPhee wants to take credit for Larry's
work, but that plan backfires disastrously when a gala showcasing all the
"living" exhibits goes horribly wrong. Gervais says, "McPhee thinks everything
coming to life is special effects. When it goes wrong, he's shocked and blames
Larry. But as McPhee has already tried to take credit for everything, he's the
one that gets fired."
When Larry and the gang are cornered in the "History and Myth of the Middle Ages
Exhibit" by the ferocious skeleton of a Triceratops, a knight in shining armor
steps in to handily dispense with the beast. Dan Stevens, who captivated
television audiences as Matthew in the acclaimed British series "Downton Abbey,"
stars as Lancelot, the epitome of chivalry, valor and bravery. The legendary
knight of the Round Table, Lancelot loves a quest, and once he understands the
importance of the Tablet, he is eager to assist in securing its repair - or is
he? Unlike all the other museum creatures, Lancelot has come to life for the
first time and doesn't realize that he's an exhibit at the British Museum - or
that he's a myth. That poses a huge problem to Larry and the rest of the gang.
"Lancelot sees that Larry and the others are on a quest, and he loves a quest,
so he joins them," Stevens explains. "Lancelot is a man on a mission: he's
probably on as many missions as he can take on. He is very much of the old
school of going on a quest, which is all about being fairly loud and brash and
thinking that a big sword can solve any problem. He's used to killing dragons."
For one of the film's biggest scenes, production closed down London's Trafalgar
Square one rainy night in February. "The first week of shooting was all rainy
nights in London, but in the midst of all that, I got to canter through
Trafalgar Square on horseback in a full suit of armor," says Stevens. "Just to
shut down Trafalgar Square is a feat in itself, but to have a horse run through
it was a little daunting."
Stevens hurtled through Trafalgar Square in full armor and brandishing a broad
sword. "That broad sword stuff is genuinely challenging," he says, "but really
fun, though I would be a little sore afterwards, especially in that suit! When I
first tried it on, it was like a dream come true for me. But after four months
of filming, I think I'm a couple of inches shorter than when I started. The suit
weighed about 50 pounds and it made everything about 30 per cent more difficult
to do. It was a workout."
Another new face is Tilly, the night guard at the British Museum. Tilly sits
outside the museum, in a small guard shack, chatting on the phone and taking the
occasional snooze. She longs for company and wishes she were armed with a weapon
more intimidating than just a hammer. The night that Larry and Laaa visit the
British Museum, Tilly encounters more adventure than she ever dreamed of, as
well as a surprising romantic twist. Australian comedy sensation Rebel Wilson,
best known for Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect, joins the Museum ensemble as the
Wilson says, "Tilly has been sitting in her booth for three years, and she
doesn't get many customers at her gate. But on this particular night, she gets a
lot of action. When Tilly sees Larry, she's like, 'Oh my God, another security
guard!' and she wants to have a chit chat. And when she feels deceived by him,
Tilly goes on the attack with a hammer."
Levy says, "Rebel is one of the funniest actors around. She saw an opportunity
to come in and just murder it and, in a kind of surprise twist, plays a romantic
storyline unlike we've seen Rebel do, and it's a weird one. But it's no less
compelling for its strangeness."
Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley stars as Merenkahre, Ahkmenrah's father and
Pharaoh of the Nile. Merenkahre had the Tablet created to keep his family
together forever, but when a joint American and British archeological expedition
in the 1930s discovered his burial tomb in Egypt, Merenkahre and his wife were
shipped to the British Museum while Ahkmenrah was sent to New York. Merenkahre
has held the secret to the Tomb for 4,000 years and only his knowledge can keep
the Tablet, and the museum creatures, alive.
"Since this movie is about a quest to reach Merenkahre and learn the secret of
the tomb, we knew that he needed to be formidable, with an extraordinary screen
presence," says Levy. "Ben Kingsley brings that in spades."
Kingsley enjoyed working with Levy and acting opposite Ben Stiller. "Most actors
who are well-known for their comedy are usually consummate actors," explains the
acclaimed actor. "If you can do comedy, you can do anything, and I really loved
working with Ben. He's very generous, a great leading man, and I think it's a
sign of confidence in the franchise that when you're a new guy on the set,
you're welcomed with graciousness. This was a very buoyant set to be on. But it
was never complacent, because you can't be complacent with comedy."
It's one thing for Larry to deal with an ancient Pharaoh. It's quite another to
wrangle his teenage son. Seventeen-year old high school senior Nick Daley,
played by Skyler Gisondo, is at odds with Larry. While his father wants him to
go to college, Nick wants to be his own person and pursue his dream of being a
deejay in far off and exotic locales. Larry wants to hold on tight to the kid he
knows and loves and looks at their adventure in London as an opportunity to
bond, but Nick would rather be anywhere else.
Gisondo says, "At the beginning of the film, Nick and Larry are in the same
situation that a lot of high school seniors and parents find themselves, which
isn't an awesome place. Larry wants very much for Nick to go to New York
University and succeed in life. Nick wants to take some time off to pursue his
dreams of being a deejay, which isn't the most practical thing. But over the
course of the film, Nick and Larry try to come to a better understanding of one
another, and the adventure helps them grow closer as father and son."
For Gisondo who was age ten when Night at the Museum came out, working on the
new film was an unforgettable experience. "I grew up with this franchise, so I'm
very much like a kid in a candy shop, with all these characters I've come to
love and it's so much fun and such an enhanced experience."
Another young man - this one from Ancient Egypt - gives his name to the magic
tablet that brings the Museum to life. That would be Pharaoh Ahkmenrah, the
young Egyptian mummy whose family holds the secret of the Tomb. Rami Malek
reprises his role as Ahkmenrah. Malek notes a special highlight of coming back
for the new film: "Ben Kingsley is an icon and someone I've admired my whole
life," he explains. "I remember Shawn telling me, 'Guess who's playing your dad,
it's somebody really special.' When he told me I was really taken aback and very
happy and the opportunity to work with him was a very special moment for me."
One of the most beloved - and troublesome - of the museum's exhibits isn't human
at all. The diminutive capuchin monkey Dexter wreaks havoc way out of proportion
to his size, especially when he arrives unexpectedly in London. But the
mischievous Dexter is also highly intelligent and resourceful, and he proves
himself surprisingly helpful in the British Museum.
Crystal the monkey, trained by Thomas Gunderson, plays Dexter. "People are
obsessed with Dexter," says Levy. "In this film we gave Crystal more of a
storyline and so many more things to do, and she continued to amaze us. From the
moment I put her in the first movie, her personality and charm have been a huge
part of our franchise and I'm happy to say we are tapping into it even more in
this third adventure."
"There are touching moments with Dexter," said Robin Williams, "But good luck
competing with a monkey! Crystal has just gotten better. She knows exactly what
to do at any given moment - and really upped her game - in terms of physicality
and very subtle things. She is truly an action monkey and really kicked it up
Patrick Gallagher returns as Attila, the lovable Hun. The real Attila the Hun
was a badass warrior in the 4th century, and legendary for creating one of the
fiercest and most-feared armies the world, or any museum corridor, has ever
known. But to know our Museum's Attila is to love him, and while Attila is the
go-to guy when muscle is needed, he's also a great big teddy bear.
While Gallagher embodies the look of the ferocious warrior, he did not
particularly love being back in the costume. "Forty pounds of yak fur and
leather," he wisecracks. "It was like wearing a 40 pound winter coat all day
long - but it sure was beautiful."
Mizuo Peck returns as Sacajawea, one of the legendary women of the American
West. Sacajawea was the daughter of a Shoshone chief whose skills and smarts
enabled her to serve as a guide and interpreter for Lewis and Clark's famed
early 19th century expedition from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean. Renowned
for her ability to lead and track, in this film her expertise and motherly
advice are vital in helping Larry and the gang on their mission to save the
"I'm honored and happy to have played someone who was such an important part of
American history" says Peck. "Sacajawea is like the ultimate mother and pioneer,
and she's just filled with inspiring notes. It's been great to bring her to life
in these movies, but in this one she really gets to shine. Sacajawea is famed
for being able to lead an expedition, and her expertise is very important in
Acting legends Dick Van Dyke, the late Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs reprise the
roles of the original night guards, which they created in Night at the Museum.
Says Levy: "Dick, Bill and Mickey brought such a collective charm to the first
movie and I wanted to tap that again in this film."
When the Tablet starts to deteriorate, affecting the beloved Museum exhibits,
Larry seeks out former security guard Cecil, who may have information to help
solve the problem.
Dick Van Dyke's debonair Cecil is retired, but hasn't slowed down. Now living in
a retirement community, Cecil gives dancing lessons and teaches Zumba class to
the resident ladies. The son of a renowned archeologist, Cecil has a long
history with the Tablet; it's why he worked at the Museum.
"The Tablet is losing its energy and power, causing the museum exhibits to act a
little strangely, so Cecil must explain its incredible mythology," says the
acting legend. A young actor, Percy Hynes White, plays Cecil at age 12, who,
while on an archeological expedition with his father in the 1930s, discovers the
Tablet by accident when he falls through a hole. "Cecil's got a kind of history
now," says Van Dyke.
When Larry visits the retirement home to see Cecil, he also encounters Reginald,
played by Bill Cobbs, and Gus, played by Mickey Rooney. Gus clearly holds a
grudge and hurls insults at his nemesis, Larry.
Shortly after completing what became his final film appearance, the inimitable
Rooney passed away at age 93. Levy recalls, "Mickey always came to the set
prepared, joyous and energetic. Working with Mickey was a reminder to us all
that to make a living doing something creative that you love is a life-defining
gift. While it's deeply sad to know this was Mickey's last role, we take pride
in that Mickey and his character Gus are a key part of the film. It was an honor
to work with Mickey and he will be missed."
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