Jerry Bruckheimer on National Treasure: Book of Secrets

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Jerry Bruckheimer may be one of the busiest people in Hollywood, but he somehow always finds time to do press for his upcoming films as well as attend the media screenings to announce his latest project to the journalists covering the film. ComingSoon.net recently talked to the prolific producer about his new film, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, as well as his take on the writers strike and his upcoming projects.

ComingSoon.net: You have at least 10 projects in various stages of production right now. How many clones do you have?
Jerry Bruckheimer: 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.

CS: 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?
Bruckheimer: 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.

CS: 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?
Bruckheimer: 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 they were more enclosed stories.

CS: This clearly leaves room for another sequel. Any scripts in the works?
Bruckheimer: No. Nothing.

CS: You haven’t figured out what’s on page 47?
Bruckheimer: The writers might know. But I don’t know. And they’re not going to tell me now because they’re on strike.

CS: What are you most proud of with this film?
Bruckheimer: 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.

CS: Is she signed for another sequel?
Bruckheimer: No. Nobody is.

CS: How did you get Helen Mirren? Was this after the Academy Awards?
Bruckheimer: 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.

CS: 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 dialogue 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?
Bruckheimer: 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.

CS: Nic said the tabletop scene where they were trying to balance, you had to go back and re-shoot that a couple times.
Bruckheimer: Yes.

CS: Is that you paying to get it right?
Bruckheimer: I don’t pay. Somebody else does. We convince them to pay for it. Let’s put it that way.

CS: The holidays are coming up. What does someone get Jerry Bruckheimer for Christmas?
Bruckheimer: I don’t know. I have no idea.

CS: Are there any gadgets or toys you want?
Bruckheimer: I usually buy them myself.

CS: Any plans for this holiday to make it special?
Bruckheimer: 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.

CS: 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?
Bruckheimer: You know, I think we hired a very interesting director, Mike Newell who did one of the “Harry Potter’s” 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.

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

CS: Do you have any casting on it?
Bruckheimer: Not yet.

CS: What’s your take on the writers strike?
Bruckheimer: 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 [editor’s note: this was before the breakdown in talks], which is good. And I think if it breaks off it’s going to be very long. A long strike.

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

CS: 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?
Bruckheimer: 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.

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

CS: I mean the percentage the writers are asking for…
Bruckheimer: Don’t know. Don’t know.

CS: Movies never make money though.
Bruckheimer: Well, net money they don’t.

CS: Do you go in knowing you’re aiming for a certain rating?
Bruckheimer: 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.

CS: Any news on “Pirates 4”?
Bruckheimer: No, nothing. Not with the writers out. They can’t even think about it, so…

CS: Why or how did you get involved with “Prince of Persia”?
Bruckheimer: 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.

CS: Do you foresee any challenges in filming in the mid-ages? Is it the mid-ages?
Bruckheimer: 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.

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

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

CS: What did you see in them that made you think they could do that?
Bruckheimer: They’re great actors. Great actors can do anything. They really can.

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

CS Any thoughts about going up against Johnny Depp on opening day this time around?
Bruckheimer: 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.

CS: What’s next for you?
Bruckheimer: 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.

CS: Nic is supposedly doing a voice in “G-Force”…
Bruckheimer: Right.

CS: How hard was it to get him to do that?
Bruckheimer: I think when he saw the character and read the script, he saw how much fun it is. It’s always about the material.

CS: What have been your favorite movies of the year?
Bruckheimer: 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…

CS: Hairspray? Across the Universe?
Bruckheimer: “Across the Universe.” Yeah, I liked that a lot. And I liked “American Gangster.” Those are ones that I remember.

CS: What are the plans for “National Treasure 3”?
Bruckheimer: You’ll see about a month afterwards. If the picture performs, you know?

CS: If “National Treasure 3” doesn’t get made, will you tell everybody what’s on Page 47 on the DVD?
Bruckheimer: No. We don’t know.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets opens in theaters on Friday, December 21.