Uber producer Jerry Bruckheimer remains one of Hollywood’s most successful producers on TV and film. This summer he’s back again with a new Pirates adventure, and the man himself confesses to Paul Fischer that he consistently retains his passion for movies.
Question: How did it feel to see it last night?
Bruckheimer: It’s always nice to see it, you know, with an audience. It’s much better. Cause people laugh and react. It’s much nicer.
Question: How does it feel to have a “sure thing?”
Bruckheimer: Nothing’s a sure thing, other than death and taxes. That’s about it. They’re the only sure things that I know.
Question: People are going to see it no matter what we say.
Bruckheimer: I’m not so sure. We’ll see. You’ll get a weekend, but the movie’s got to live up to the hype. Its gotta be good.
Question: Why did you decide to do another one?
Bruckheimer: First of all, the first movie entertained so many people. Disney and myself, and some of the other people involved felt that we should do another one and try to entertain them again. And Johnny wanted to continue his character. Orlando and Keira were excited about coming back, and I think the hardest part was getting everybody together at the same time period. That’s why we made two movies. To get Gore, Elliot and Rossio, the three lead actors – that’s the hard part. Scheduling is really difficult. Then making the deal, especially when you come off a successful picture everybody deserves more money, and of course Disney always wants to make it for less. So you have a real problem.
Question: And you insisted that you get the same creative team?
Bruckheimer: Yes. That’s right. They were very supportive.
Question: What is Gore’s biggest strength?
Bruckheimer: Gore’s biggest strength – his intelligence. His ability as a filmmaker, ’cause he’s a brilliant filmmaker. He’s exceedingly smart, and, I mean, you see how clever he is, how creative he is by watching the movie. You see all the kind of nuances he does. That’s the kind of movie you’ve got to see again. There’s so many things going on on the screen you can’t really take it in the first time. I’m still seeing things that are fresh to me and I’ve seen the picture 50, 60 times.
Question: You have about 70 more days of shooting to do for #3. What stretched it out?
Bruckheimer: Storms, hurricanes, sick actors. Little things that – some mechanical problems that we had stretched it out, so we had to cut our shooting short a little bit, which in a way was good because it gave us more time to prepare and edit the second movie.
Question: Was sickness a problem?
Bruckheimer: We had an actor that was stuck in England because he couldn’t fly, so we had to try to scramble and figure out something else to shoot.
Question: Are we going to see you do more action/adventure and sci-fi stuff on television?
Bruckheimer: I think we’ll stick to the formula that has been working by giving you good strong dramas, and hopefully drift into some comedies too. So I think it’s hard to do the big action/adventure stuff for television ’cause you just don’t have the budgets to do it.
Question: What kind of comedies do you think you’ll be doing?
Bruckheimer: Don’t know yet but will look for any good ideas.
Question: Do you feel differently between your film projects and your TV projects?
Bruckheimer: No. Good entertainment’s good entertainment. You try to, um, we call it our television division feature television so we try to put the same kind of creative talent behind the cameras that we do on our big features, so you get, hopefully, something unique and fresh and something different for television.
Question: Can you be specific about the technical problems?
Bruckheimer: Weather. Weather. Constant weather problems. We built this tank in the Bahamas and we had to dredge out to 25 feet so we could get the Black Pearl in there, and next morning we’d dredge out to 25 feet and the next morning it was back to 5 feet. The storm had pushed all the sand back in. Then they put up a sea wall to stop the sand from coming in. You know, you get those things and you have to roll with the punches.
Question: How do you account for the success of the first movie?
Bruckheimer: I think it’s a combination of what Terry and Ted wrote, Gore’s vision, and the fact that you had three, four phenomenal actors. So I think the combination of Johnny, Keira, Orlando, Geoffrey Rush, the creativity of the way Gore did it, the way they constructed the story, and the entertainment value. It’s just great entertainment, and that’s what people look for.
Question: Can you give us an update on Déjà Vu?
Bruckheimer: Sure. We finished filming. It’s with Denzel Washington. It’ll come out in November, and Tony Scott directed it. And it’s kind of a love story, crime procedural.
Question: Were you able to shoot it in New Orleans?
Bruckheimer: Yes. We were I think one of the first films to come back and went back in February to open arms. They were thrilled we were there and they had tears in their eyes that we gave them the ability to make a living – the film community there – ’cause they hadn’t worked since the storm hit.
Question: Is Without a Trace moving out of its Thursday slot?
Bruckheimer: It is. That’s correct.
Question: Do you like that juxtaposition with Cold Case?
Bruckheimer: I have no say in it, unfortunately. It’s really the network that makes those decisions, and hopefully they’re making the right decision. They made the right decision by moving CSI to Thursday night, so let’s hope that their wisdom holds for Without a Trace.
Question: Did you see any growth in Orlando and Johnny as actors from 1 to 2?
Bruckheimer: I think we all grow. As we get older hopefully we learn and pick up things along the way. You certainly can see it in Keira. She’s a woman now. She was much younger the first time. I think she was 18 years old or 19 years old when we first filmed her. So you can certainly see it in her. And Orlando too, he’s maturing very nicely. And Johnny’s just brilliant. He always does wonderful things.
Question: What are you working on?
Bruckheimer: I love Déjà Vu, and I’m excited about Pirates 3 which we start filming again in August, so those are the ones that are happening. And we’re trying to put together another “National Treasure” starting in January.
Question: How’s that going?
Bruckheimer: We have a screenplay that we’re still working on and Nic of course is interested in doing it and how good the screenplay’s going to be.
Question: Is there a mystery with an equal component of true American history?
Bruckheimer: Yes. Same thing. We found phenomenal facts about American history and we’re going to try to incorporate it into the story.
Question: Who was the first person to say “let’s do pirates 2?”
Bruckheimer: I don’t know if it came from me, from Disney. It was either Dick Cook or myself who said maybe we should do 2.
Question: But which one?
Bruckheimer: Again, I don’t recall. I could have been me but I’m not sure.
Question: It’s a big decision not to remember who said it.
Bruckheimer: Well, the big decision is when they say ‘Yes.’ And they said yes. It’s their money not mine. It was done by Dick Cook and the management.
Question: Did you ever play cheerleader for Gore?
Bruckheimer: No. I think he’s – Gore gets in the trenches and just fights you know. He just puts one foot in front of the other and just keeps going. It’s really hard to push him off. He’s very sturdy, very even. I’ve never seen him raise his voice or get too excited. He just gets it done. You’re on the set with him and everything could be falling apart and he just stays very calm.
Question: How do you stay calm?
Bruckheimer: I’m churning inside, but I’m calm on the outside.
Question: Johnny said he would keep going on with these movies. Is there a point where you just say that’s enough?
Bruckheimer: As long as Terry and Ted come up with interesting plots and themes, we’ll continue to make them. And Disney wants to finance them, we’d love to do it. He loves the character, we love the movies, we love working with all the creative talent that’s involved. It’s been a lot of fun.
Question: Memorial Day is the opening for 3?
Question: Are you concerned about coming up with something special?
Bruckheimer: No, I think good ideas will rise to the top – fresh, unique ideas. And those are the ones that are the most dangerous. This was a dangerous movie to make. When I sat here with you three years ago when the first one came out, before you’d seen it everyone was very skeptical about it and about its commercial potential. On paper you’re looking at a movie about a theme park ride to follow The Country Bears. So I mean, it was daunting to try to convince the press that we had something that we thought was real special.
Question: Gore said he hasn’t thought about what’s going to be on the DVD. Do you have DVD plans?
Bruckheimer: Oh yeah. There’s a lot of phenomenal stuff that we filmed that is not in the movie. That dice game. There’s some additional footage on that dice game that’s fantastic that will be in the DVD. There’s a lot of stuff like that.
Question: Do they require more money to complete the effects?
Bruckheimer: They’re already completed. Gore getting time to go into the editing room and kind of go through all that material and start putting it together. And some wonderful stuff on Cannibal Island with Johnny. Some very funny things that you just couldn’t put everything in.
Question: What about trailers for the third one?
Bruckheimer: In the DVD? Yeah, I would imagine we would. I would think so.
Question: How about behind the scenes?
Bruckheimer: Tons of it. We had a guy there most of the time. I think we gave the assistant cameramen some video cameras or digital cameras that they were filming stuff. So there’s a lot of material available. There was a documentarian that was following Gore around during the pre-production and the script phase of it, which has got some wonderful stuff. And decisions that were made on building the ships, not building the ships, where to build things, what to do, the twists and turns in the script.
Question: Did you have input into the theme park ride?
Bruckheimer: Yeah. Disney did it and they showed us the kind of things they were doing and I know Johnny gave them quite a bit of input on what he felt was appropriate for his character, and even changed some of the dialogue that they wanted him to record, and made it more form the point of view of Captain Jack.
Question: Do you still remain impassioned as a film producer as you were in the beginning?
Bruckheimer: Oh yeah. I love it. I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t care about it or had other things that I felt were more important, but I love what we do. I love the work. I love the ability to be able to talk to you and answer questions and promote our movies. Making them is one thing but you’ve got to go out and sell them too.
Question: Back to Déjà Vu. Did you have Terry (Russio) on set a lot?
Bruckheimer: He did some, but his partner Bill did some rewrites as we went along. But that script was in fairly good shape when we started.
Question: How different is it to have this franchise with everyone together?
Bruckheimer: They’re such great writers and inventors that we love having them around on all our stuff. They worked on National Treasure for us, they came up with new ideas for National Treasure 2. They’re a creative team that we want to keep in our family.
Question: You said Nic wants to do National Treasure 2. What’s the supporting cast? Jon Voight, Sean Bean?
Bruckheimer: No, I think we’re past Sean Bean but hopefully we’ll have the same group back together again.
Question: Jon Voight, Diane?
Bruckheimer: That’s what we’re looking at right now.
Question: How do you choose what projects you oversee and take on?
Bruckheimer: Do I want to see it. It’s real simple. I don’t know what you like. I know what I like. And that’s all I can judge it on. I have no idea what the audience wants to go see. And some day it will pass me by. I won’t be here and somebody else will be sitting in this chair. But right now my tastes are very similar to what movie goers want. I’m a passionate moviegoer. I’ll be at the mall on the weekend or in Santa Monica watching films when I’m not working. So I love going to movies. It inspires me to see terrific film.
Question: What did you like this year?
Bruckheimer: That’s a tough question. We’ll talk about the summer movies. Da Vinci Code I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code. I thought it was a really well made, well acted film and an intriguing concept, it’s a great concept. I saw X-Men which I really liked. What else came out? The Break Up. I loved that. I thought it was great, a fantastic comedy. Cars, I haven’t seen Cars yet. Mission Impossible was exciting. It had great action in it and Tom was great. Just really good filmmakers.
Question: Could you compare the anxiety level on the day before the first Pirates opened and this one?
Bruckheimer: This one’s harder, only because the first movie we put in front of a real audience and we previewed it and we saw what worked and what needed work and made adjustments. This one we’ve never put in front of an audience, other than 20 people, some friends and stuff like that. Never a real audience. You’re the first audience, and you’re avid filmgoers so you’re not the public. So it’s still frightening because we’ve never seen it with people who pay money to go to the movies.
Question: Is there time to adjust Pirates 3 if you discover something with this one?
Bruckheimer: Yeah. Of course. There are plenty of things we can adjust in the third one, but this one’s done. It’s finished. It’s out there. What you saw is the movie.
Question: What can we see with comic book transformations?
Bruckheimer: We’re working on Prince of Persia, which is a big video game. Hopefully we’ll get that made.
Question: On the rare occasion when a Jerry Bruckheimer movie doesn’t connect with hundreds of millions of people, how do you account for that?
Bruckheimer: I screwed up somewhere.
Question: One time when you had a more unusual taste?
Bruckheimer: I think just sometimes we made mistakes in telling a story. We make errors in story telling and characterizations. Those are the things that don’t drive people to the movie theaters. You’ve got to make things fresh and unique, and what I love about this movie is it’s unique. It’s fresh. It takes you on a real ride. And it’s unexpected.
Question: You knew you were taking a risk with King Arthur but you wanted to go ahead with it.
Bruckheimer: I still loved the movie. It was a success. It did 150 million foreign. It’s a big DVD seller. It just didn’t expand 50 million dollars here. But that happens. Look at The Da Vinci Code, which I can’t compare those two movies, but they’re 450 or something foreign and 200 here, so you can see the difference with what a foreign audience likes and a domestic audience. Sometimes it’ll work overseas and you won’t even know about it and it will be a successful film and yet you look at it here and you say ‘ah, it’s mediocre.’
Question: Is there anything you don’t like to see?
Bruckheimer: Yeah. I’m not a horror fan. I’m really not. I don’t go to horror pictures. It doesn’t excite me. That’s about it.
Question: You brought up King Arthur. Do you think the rated R version would have done better stateside?
Bruckheimer: I think in retrospect – it’s easy to look in retrospect because you have 20-20 vision – I think if we had released it in the fall and gone with an R rated version we would have done better, but that’s in retrospect, so.