He remains one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers. Critics may have scoffed at his films through the years but audiences have loved them, from Top Gun and Flashdance which defined a generation, through to his multi million dollar franchise, a franchise, he recalls, was almost never going to happen. Bruckheimer first met our LA correspondent 20 years ago when he visited Australia to promote Top Gun. Two decades on, Bruckheimer reflects on pirates, critics, the past and the future.
Question: Are you relieved that this particular period of your professional life is over?
Bruckheimer: No I’m sad.
Question: Oh really?
Bruckheimer: Yeah it was a great, great group. I love working with these people and I’m sorry it’s over.
Question: You know, what is the primary thing you look for when you decide to take on a project and I mean, when it was first suggested that you do a film version of a Disneyland ride, a lot of people said ‘Oh not another Disney writer going to make another movie.’
Bruckheimer: Yeah that’s what I said too.
Question: ‘Why?’ Was that your first question?
Bruckheimer: Yeah I thought it was the end of my career. I thought ‘This will be it. This will be their coup de gras’. But when Elliott and Rossio pitched the idea that the pirates are cursed, and said ‘What happens if the pirates are cursed and they turn to skeletons in the moonlight and they have to return the treasure rather than steel treasure?’ I’d go see that. So that excited me. It starts with an idea. And once you have an idea and you populate it with some interesting characters and interesting themes and plots, that’s what it’s all about.
Question: Did you expect this, I mean this is a very expensive picture to make …
Bruckheimer: All of them were.
Question: Is it very tough to persuade anybody to part with that kind of money?
Bruckheimer: It was really hard and the first picture and the second picture were cancelled a number of times. They were sending Gore home and said it was too expensive. ‘ We’re not going to make the movie’. One was cancelled because the budget was too high and the executives really didn’t want to make the movie because of a fear that they were going to lose their job if it didn’t work. I called Michael Eisner and Bob Eiger and said ‘You’ve got to come down’ because we had all these drawings and things we wanted and we were ‘well you got to come down and look at what we’re doing before you throw this movie away’. We brought him in the room and we took him on a tour and we showed him a little animatic of what we were going to do. That’s how the movie got greenlit.
Question: Is this the fitting finale for this trilogy?
Bruckheimer: Yeah, I think it’s fantastic. It ties up all the loose ends. II was basically an hors d’oeuvre for III, the legend of III and that last forty minutes is the best filmmaking I’ve ever been involved with. It looks amazing. It’s amazing.
Question: You know, you’ve never been what you would call the ‘critics’ darling’ …
Bruckheimer: Right that’s true. Let me read you a quote that a journalist gave me today about being the critic’s darling. You know Liz Farers, singer/songwriter? Here’s the lyrics from one of her songs ‘It’s nice to be liked but it’s better to get paid’. So that’s it.
Question: And clearly you’ve never cared that much about what the critics think anyway …
Bruckheimer: You do care but the real critics are the people who pay money. And as long as they’re paying money, they’re liking our movies.
Question: Did it hurt you when the second movie was received the way it was received?
Bruckheimer: Yeah you’d all love it to have good stuff and people write nice things about you, but do you know what we got paid so it took the sting away.
Question: There are rumours of course that they’re going to do another group of these Pirates movies, without Johnny Depp.
Question: Do you think enough is enough and that this is the end?
Bruckheimer: Yeah I do. I thing we’re done with this particular group of stories. It’s finished and see what happens from here. I mean we even give you a glimmer of hope with the last scene …You see, you missed the very last scene. You didn’t stay.
Question: Oh for the post-credits?
Bruckheimer: Yeah. And its really cool.
Question: Oh you saw me leave before the end of the credits?
Bruckheimer: No, I mean there was only twenty people there.
Question: At the end of the film?
Bruckheimer: Yeah. There were fifty people there.
Question: Much has been said about the length of these movies. How mindful are you of that particular criticism and did you make an attempt to trim it back or do you think – it’s about 2 hours forty right?
Question: Is it the right length?
Bruckheimer: I think that it’s satisfying and that it’s the right length. If you’re satisfied when you walk out of the theatre it’s the right length. Because what you have to do is when you end the picture, that feeling of satisfaction is because of an accumulation of everything you’ve seen previously. That whole maelstrom doesn’t work unless you have all the build up to it.
Question: When I first met you twenty years ago you were a young and idealistic filmmaker with a partner and the whole world was ahead of you. Did you ever think that you would end up where you have and how have you changed and how has the film industry changed in that twenty years?
Bruckheimer: Well I think, you know, through the twenty years you gain more confidence, you feel better about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, you learn a lot, you gain a lot of knowledge so it makes your job a little easier. Filmmaking is so much more inventive and interesting now because we have these digital effects which we can do now which we couldn’t do before. So a whole world has opened up to us that we couldn’t imagine doing. That maelstrom at the end of this movie, Davy Jones in he second movie and the third movie, you couldn’t do that twenty years ago. And that’s what so exciting about the future of film. Because who knows what’s going to happen. I mean 3D – you might be watching theatre in front of you, you might have a screen right there and the character really in the living room creating all this in front of you, you know, a holograph. I don’t know what’s coming but I know it’s going to be exciting because you look at twenty years ago, we didn’t have cell phones right? Even before that we didn’t have DVD players, we only had VHS. We had nothing. When you think about it. And that’s only been a short period of time. How fast this has evolved. The internet wasn’t around. Think about it.
Question: Nothing was around.
Bruckheimer: Nothing was there.
Question: But yet you were a product of the times in which you made films. When Flashdance was very much a product of its era – you couldn’t make a Top Gun today could you, and get away with, given what’s been going on in the world.
Bruckheimer: I think every movie has its time and place. And that was the time and place for Top Gun.
Question: Is there a film that you’ve made in the past that you look back with a degree of reference?
Bruckheimer: I think you look back at all of them and say, you know, ‘How could I have done it better?’ and I feel proud of the work we’ve accomplished over the last twenty-seven years – thirty years.
Question: How’s National Treasure 2 going?
Bruckheimer: Fabulous. We’ve got a phenomenal cast. Helen Mirren joined the cast and Ed Harris joined the cast which is great.
Question: And you have a number of other film projects?
Bruckheimer: Yeah we have G Force which is kind of half animated and half live action. It’s about special forces guinea pigs. That’s fun. And then we have Diary of a Shopaholic which I think we’ll get started hopefully this year.
Question: What is that?
Bruckheimer: It’s a best selling group of books in England about this young girl who can’t pass a store window without going in and buying something and the kind of trouble it gets her into. And then we have another one called Prince of Persia.
Question: There’s a lot of riding on that one isn’t there? They’re catering for a gaming crowd.
Bruckheimer: Yeah, it’s a big one.
Question: Do you think you’re as passionate now as filmmaker as you were twenty years ago.
Bruckheimer: Absolutely. I mean, I ‘m a little more knowledgeable than I was. But I’m still as excited about starting a new project as I was before.
Question: And how’s the TV. Any more TV?
Bruckheimer: We don’t have any new shows on this season but hopefully the next or January. We’ll see.