The super-producer talks about his career and life in the biz.
"I'm always surprised when an audience likes what we do," admits producer Jerry Bruckheimer. His latest film, National Treasure: Book of Secrets is sure to be just the next piece in the puzzle of the 'National Treasure' franchise. Bruckheimer is the man with the Midas touch when it comes to franchises. He produced the Pirates of the Caribbean films and is taking the National Treasure characters on to more success.
"You know, we make these movies in a kind of vacuum, we have nobody telling us what's right and wrong," says the modest man. "It all comes from instinct and surrounding ourselves with talented people. It takes just as much hard work on a picture that doesn't work for an audience as one that does, so you're always pleasantly surprised when they're excited by a movie."
Besides the movies, Bruckheimer also has a television production company which currently produces the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation series as well as Cold Case, Without a Trace and The Amazing Race. How does he keep up with his busy schedule? "There's a great team of people," he again says modestly. "Between the people that work in our office, people with Disney, and television people (and) people with Warner Bros. All value added. They make me look good all the time."
He keeps up a busy pace, and Entertainment Weekly named Bruckheimer one of the 50 smartest people in Hollywood. About his illustrious career, he admits, "You know what? I'm not working in a factory. I'm not an accountant. It's a creative business and it's fun to do. Although we have days when we wish we didn't have to replay. We all go through those kinds of days. But in the end you have something that you can be very proud of. Like this movie. You work hard on it. You get to enjoy other people enjoy it. And that's the best part of the whole thing. The end game. It's the end game that when you're done you're going to reach hopefully tens of millions of people and make their day a little bit better."
Bruckheimer is the king of sequels these days. However there are some films that simply do not lend themselves to sequels, not that the filmmakers haven't tried. "It all depends on the film itself and the characters. You know cops - there's always another crime. Treasure hunters - there's always another treasure they're seeking. Certain pictures are going to lend themselves. Pirates - there's always another adventure. They're always seeking something that's not right. That's fun." He continued, "We tried to develop something on Top Gun years ago but it just didn't go anywhere. We've been asked a number of times to develop a sequel to The Rock. Again, we couldn't come up with anything that we thought was interesting to do because they were more enclosed stories," he explained.
"What's key in making a sequel is getting the same talent behind the camera as in front of the camera." He was happy they were able to reunite the cast and crew for National Treasure: Book of Secrets. "We got Jon Turtletaub and the same writers back to attempt to make an even better film than the first. Then you've got to get the same actors in front of the camera, and that's key as well. We did it on the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movies and we've done it again on 'National Treasure,' on which both Nicolas Cage and Jon Voight are in sequels for the first time in their careers," the producer is pleased to announce. "Then we've added some exciting new elements, including Helen Mirren and Ed Harris."
About the next National Treasure story, Bruckheimer chuckles and says he hasn't heard any specifics yet. "The writers might know. But I don't know. And they're not going to tell me now because they're on strike."
Actors on Bruckheimer films are always kept on the edge. They often do not know what the dialogue will be on a specific day. This keeps them on their toes while the filmmakers continually work on the scripts. "I don't think they're ever good enough," he states without any hesitation. "So we're constantly trying to make it better. And the writers, the majority of time, are on the set working with the director to try to come up with something that, you know, you walk on a set and you see something, you'll see a vase or you'll see something that, 'Oh Wow We can just have some fun with this.' So that's what we try to do." The cast reveals that a Bruckheimer set is filled with fun.
Before the 'Pirates' and the 'National Treasure' films, audiences didn't quite equate Johnny Depp and Nicolas Cage with action heroes, but these films changes all that. "They're great actors. Great actors can do anything. They really can," says Bruckheimer about the two men who skyrocketed his films to the top of the charts. "Nic's a very physical, imposing individual. He's very health-conscious, he works out a lot. Johnny's a very agile actor. I mean, he's a phenomenal mimic. He can mimic anything. And it's just fun watching him work physically, how gifted he is." Audiences completely embraced these two actors in their action roles.
When asked about the writers strike, Bruckheimer claims, "I just think it's unfortunate. It's an unfortunate time to have a strike." With the digital age being a point in the negotiations, the producer is not certain how that will affect the industry in the future. "I think you don't know how it's going to be profitable. You look at what happened to the music business. You thought that the CDs were going to be the thing of the future, and all of a sudden iTunes pops up and the record companies are all in trouble, and you have Napster and they're taking everything for free, so there's so many things that they don't know that they want to find out what it is first before they start giving away money. Not that I'm taking the studios side, 'cause I'm not. But I think ... when you're making a lot of money it's easy to give money up because you're making a lot. When you're not making a lot of money yet, to me it's a little premature to go through all this to a dark area."
He is currently working on the movie G-Force, and Bruckheimer has several other projects coming up as well, including a film of the popular book "Confessions of a Shopaholic," and a film based on the video game Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. About the latter, Bruckheimer says, "It's a big production, and if they work it's another character you can take on to other adventures." So this might be his next franchise, depending on how audiences receive the film. "It's a (video) game that was brought to us early on, and I thought it was very exciting. First of all, it's an interesting period. And it's something that other people weren't doing. So I always like to go into arenas that other filmmakers aren't in."
This holiday season Jerry Bruckheimer is remaining focused and excited about his current release - National Treasure: Book of Secrets. "It's always about the characters. Since we have a very exciting plot, and you've already fallen in love with the characters from the first movie, now we're bringing them back in a much more adventurous situation. What's wonderful about this movie is that it's for everybody. It's intelligent, but your kid can still understand what's going on, and it's one of those pictures that, at Christmastime, the whole family can go to after dinner, buy their popcorn, sit there for a couple of hours and really be entertained."