Jerry Bruckheimer Interview – NATIONAL TREASURE: Book of Secrets

     December 20, 2007

One of the reasons I was looking forward to the press day of “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” was Jerry Bruckheimer would be there. It’s not too often you get to ask one of the biggest movie producers in the entire industry a question, and it was an opportunity that I was really looking forward to.

The fact is, even if you don’t know his name, I promise that you’ve seen something that Jerry has produced. From movies like “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Bad Boys,” or TV shows like “CSI” and “The Amazing Race,” as I said, you’ve seen his stuff.

Anyway, one of the other reasons I wanted to participate was to ask him to confirm a story I wrote back in May of this year. In case you missed it, I wrote that Jerry and the team behind the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies were next going to tackle “The Lone Ranger.” When I wrote the story, I had been told that a trade break was immanent. Needless to say, the official announcement never happened. But since I wrote the story, writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio have confirmed they are working on it but I hadn’t heard if Jerry was definitely involved.

So when the mini-press conference ended, I grabbed my tape recorder and waited in the hall. After a minute or so Jerry walked out and I asked him if it was true that he was working on “The Lone Ranger.” He said, “We’re working on a Lone Ranger project with the same writers, we are doing that. That’s true.”

Collider: Is that a character that you always wanted to work with?

Jerry Bruckheimer: Yeah, I love that series. I think The Lone Ranger is a great thing that we can work on.

Collider: Gore Verbinski hasn’t been attached to anything yet and the rumor is that he’s been working this whole time on pre-production.

Jerry Bruckheimer: No, that’s not true. We don’t have… we’re just working out the ideas of the movie and we don’t have a script yet.

While I could’ve asked him another 100 questions, he needed to get to his next interview room and that little bit of time was all I could get. So while I was definitely wrong about when there would be a trade announcement, I wasn’t wrong that the team behind the “Pirates” trilogy was working on “The Lone Ranger.”

With the writers strike going on this project is stuck in neutral, but as I originally wrote back in May, I think this could be a great property for the big screen and Jerry is definitely a great person to make it happen.

Now about the full interview…

Posted below is the entire mini press conference with Mr. Bruckheimer. As usual, you can either read it or download the audio as an MP3 here. And while I did already post the “Prince of Persia” quotes a few weeks back, I figured you’d want to read everything that was said.

“National Treasure: Book of Secrets” opens this Friday at theaters everywhere.

Question: You probably get asked this question at least a dozen times a year but I’m going to do it again anyway.

Jerry Bruckheimer: Good.

Q: In the IMDB you have at least 10 projects in various stages of production right how, probably another half a dozen in development, there are between 6 and 10 television series that you have in production. How many clones do you have?

Jerry: There’s a great team of people. Between the people that work in our office, people with Disney, and television people. People with Warner Bros. All value added. They make me look good all the time.

Q: Entertainment Weekly just named you one of the 50 smartest people in Hollywood and say that you pay attention to and participate in every single one of these productions as well. What kind of toll does that take on you?

Jerry: 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.

Q: It seems like only a few years ago you weren’t in the sequel business at all and now you have this franchise, Pirates, Bad Boys had a sequel.

Was there something that happened that made you see a way to continue stories?

Jerry: 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. 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 ’cause there were more enclosed stories.

Q: This one. Wasn’t it started with the idea, like Pirates, to…

Jerry: Never. Never. It was a one off.

Q: This clearly leaves room for more. Any scripts in the works?

Jerry: No. Nothing.

Q: You haven’t figured out what’s on that page?

Jerry: The writers might know. But I don’t know. And they’re not going to tell me now because they’re on strike.

Q: What are you most proud of with this film?

Jerry: I think the most fun of this is the ride that it takes you on. It’s a movie that kind of builds slowly then starts to take off. I think I’m so proud of the fact that we have this wonderful relationship between Jon Voight and Helen Mirren. I think that’s such a nice addition to this movie. It’s unexpected. And that’s what I like about it.

Q: Is she signed for another sequel?

Jerry: No. Nobody is.

Q: How did you get Helen Mirren? Was this after the Academy Awards?

Jerry: Yes. We sent her the script. Very simple. And she liked the character and we worked with her on the character and we paid her well.

Q: Nic said there is a tightrope act on a Jerry Bruckheimer film involving the script. That you were working on it constantly. You never knew what the dialog might be until the day you show up. Can you talk about how that feeds the project to make things as good as they can be?

Jerry: I don’t think they’re ever good enough. 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.

Q: Nic said the tabletop scene where they were trying to balance, you had to go back and reshoot that a couple times.

Jerry: Yes.

Q: Is that you paying to get it right?

Jerry: I don’t pay. Somebody else does. We convince them to pay for it. Let’s put it that way.

Q: The holidays are coming up. What does someone get Jerry Bruckheimer for Christmas?

Jerry: I don’t know. I have no idea.

Q: Are there any gadgets or toys you want?

Jerry: I usually buy them myself.

Q: Any plans for this holiday to make it special?

Jerry: You know, we usually go to Kentucky. We will get there. Although I shouldn’t be saying this in such a large group because my mother who claims she’s 82 is about to turn 103, which is kind of interesting. So we’re going to throw a little party for her.

Q: Many video game fans have been frustrated by Hollywood to deliver the goods and you’re going to be making Prince of Persia. What can you tell fans of that series that they can look forward to for that franchise?

Jerry: You know, I think we hired a very interesting director, Mike Newell who did one of the Harry Potters and also Donnie Brasco, and he’s a very inventive, ingenious director and I think he’s going to bring something really special to it. And we’re just starting. We have a screenplay. We’re just starting to develop the look of it, so it will be unique and fresh.

Q: At this point are these properties that you envision in the possibility of A, a franchise, and B, is this going to be a really big film, like a National Treasure?

Jerry: Yes. It’s a big production, and if they work it’s another character you can take on to other adventures.

Q: Do you have any casting on it?

Jerry: Not yet.

Q: Can you do for video games what you did for theme park rides?

Jerry: I don’t know. We’ll see.

Q: Is that script set in stone now because they can’t develop?

Jerry: Well, we’re not going to film ’til June so hopefully the writers will come to some kind of consensus with the studios and we can continue.

Q: What’s your take on the writers strike?

Jerry: I just think it’s unfortunate. It’s an unfortunate time to have a strike. It’s coming into Christmas. Our crews for our television shows are all shut down, so a lot of these kids aren’t going to get the kind of Christmases that they deserve. People are going to lose their homes. Our crew members. It’s sad. It’s really sad. I hope they can work it out so a lot of this doesn’t happen, but the problem you have is that they’re doing so much negotiating during the press rather than just sitting in a room and doing it. We’re fortunate now ’cause they are talking, which is good. And I think if it breaks off it’s going to be very long. A long strike.

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Q: What do you make of the position that they don’t know if the Internet will be very profitable?

Jerry: 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 the time to – when you’re making a lot of money it’s easy to give money up ’cause 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.

Q: You’re aware that Bob Iger, Rupert Murdoch, and Sumner Redstone have all quoted internet revenues in the tens of billions of dollars just for the coming year already?

Jerry: You know, I don’t know about that. I think they say that to Wall Street to get them all hyped up, to project their stocks going up. But I don’t know what the reality is.

Q: Wouldn’t they just be giving away a percentage of zero if it doesn’t end up being profitable?

Jerry: I don’t think so. I think they have to pay money whether it’s a failure or not. You invest a lot of money in a movie, and it could not bring any returns in. So I think you like to make it so you have a movie before you’re giving money back.

Q: I mean the percentage the writers are asking for…

Jerry: Don’t know. Don’t know.

Q: Movies never make money though.

Jerry: Well, net money they don’t.

Q: What’s the difference between a PG movie like this and the Pirates movies… were they PG-13?

Jerry: PG-13.

Q: and going to an R? Do you worry about the ratings board?

Jerry: No.

Q: Do you go in knowing you’re aiming for a certain rating?

Jerry: Yeah, we knew this was…We wanted to make this a PG movie. The first one, we didn’t know what we were doing. We honestly thought we were making a PG-13 movie, and when I read the script, I went to Dick Cook, and I said, “Dick, this is a Disney movie.” It wasn’t originally a Disney movie. And I said, “There’s nothing in here that would give you even a PG-13.” And then he changed the…It was going to be a Touchstone film, and he changed it.

Q: Any news on Pirates 4?

Jerry: No, nothing. Not with the writers out. They can’t even think about it, so…

Q: Why or how did you get involved with Prince of Persia?

Jerry: It’s a 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.

Q: Do you foresee any challenges in filming in the mid-ages? Is it the mid-ages?

Jerry: Yeah, I think it’s the 8th or 9th century. But you know, that could change, too. We might change it a little. It’ll definitely be a period film. We’re not going to make it contemporary.

Q: Where do stars fit into the Jerry Bruckheimer movie universe? Do you feel it’s essential to have an A-list star, especially if the budget is over $100 million?

Jerry: Project by project. You never know. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Q: What makes Nicolas Cage one of your favorite actors to work with?

Jerry: Because you never know where he’s going. You know, certain actors, you watch them and you know their mannerisms. You know what they’re going to give you. With Nic, you never know what’s going happen. You know, how he’s going to take a scene, what he’s going to do with a scene, what he does with a character. He’s such a gifted…He’s so quirky and interesting to watch. You love watching him, you know? He’s such a good guy, too. And you see it. You know, you see it when you watch him. It’s somebody you want to have around. You like him as a brother, or somebody who marries your daughter. He’s just fun, you know?

Q: I think before your films, no one would have thought of Nicolas Cage and Johnny Depp as action guys…

Jerry: Right.

Q: What did you see in them that made you think they could do that?

Jerry: They’re great actors. Great actors can do anything. They really can.

Q: Was there something about the projects you matched them to that took advantage of their abilities?

Jerry: Well, 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.

Q: Any thoughts about going up against Johnny on opening day this time around?

Jerry: I wish it didn’t happen, because I’m sure the movie’s fantastic, and I’m sure he’s great in it. Because it’s a really good filmmaker. It’s a great filmmaker. And he’s a terrific actor. So I wish we weren’t going head-to-head. But fortunately for us, they’re not in as many theaters as we are.

Q: Well, that’s an R-rated movie, too…

Jerry: Yeah, Johnny’s movie…

Q: What’s next for you?

Jerry: We’re doing a movie called G-Force right now, which is half animated, half live action. And we’re starting Confessions of a Shopaholic, which is a series of books, end of January, that Isla Fisher’s starring in. So that will be our next release.

Q: Will you be re-writing on the set?

Jerry: No. We have a very good script and actors who improvise anyway, so I think we’ll be fine. Even when they’re not supposed to, they do it.

Q: Nic is supposedly doing a voice in G-Force…

Jerry: Right.

Q: How hard was it to get him to do that?

Jerry: I think when he saw the character and read the script, he saw how much fun it is. It’s always about the material.

Q: What have been your favorite movies of the year?

Jerry: I haven’t seen enough of them to tell you truth. I’ll tell you what I liked. I liked 3:10 to Yuma, I thought it was a really good movie. I liked Michael Clayton. I liked that musical…

Q: Hairspray? Across the Universe?

Jerry: Across the Universe. Yeah, I liked that a lot. And I liked American Gangster. Those are ones that I remember.

Q: Judd Apatow might be becoming the Jerry Bruckheimer of comedy. Do you see anything in his trajectory that you relate to?

Jerry: You know, I just think his movies are terrific. I loved Superbad, and I liked…Is it Knocked Up? Yeah. I love both those films. He’s a talented guy.

Q: Is there any scene brought to you that can’t be done because it’s too big or complicated?

Jerry: No, there’s nothing we can’t do. There are certain things we can’t afford, but nothing we can’t do.

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