Sorcerer’s Apprentice Producer Jerry Bruckheimer

ON has been lucky enough to talk to superstar producer Jerry Bruckheimer many times over the past few years. He’s certainly one of the more interesting people working in the film business, having produced big budget action movies for so long he’s amassed quite a collection of feathers in his producorial cap. One of those was realizing how Nicolas Cage could excel as a box office action star, and when Cage’s career seemed to be faltering going into the 21st Century, Bruckheimer brought him back with the “National Treasure” movies, both of which were enormous hits.

With The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, he’s reunited with Cage for the fifth time, as well as once again working with director Jon Turteltaub to potentially create a new franchise that brings the world of magic into very familiar real world surroundings.

After visiting Steiner Studios and the Brooklyn Armory, we were taken to the Wall Street location where they were shooting and talked to Bruckheimer amidst a steady stream of the actors who appear in the movie. What inspired you to get involved with this, knowing how precious the source material is to the American public?
Jerry Bruckheimer: You know, I love concepts and I thought this was a really great concept so you can imagine a contemporary movie that’s just a blast. I haven’t seen anything like this, and I always like to do things that are hopefully fresh and different.

CS: You’re going to end up having two really big movies next summer.
Bruckheimer: Let’s hope. From your lips to God’s ears.

CS: Is it daunting having to develop both of these big projects and having them come out the same summer almost back to back?
Bruckheimer: It scares the hell out of me, but that’s okay.

CS: Did you always have Nic Cage in mind from the beginning?
Bruckheimer: Oh, yeah, it was developed by him originally so he was attached to it, which was great. We’ve done six movies together or five movies.

CS: Was there any key element either in the screenplay or the pitch they gave that made you want to keep pushing to get it made?
Bruckheimer: I think the relationship between the apprentice and the sorcerer, it’s a great relationship and I loved it. It’s got a lot of humor to it, and I like this kind of genre a lot, where you can use humor and be serious at times, it’s kind of a natural. Jon’s got that wonderful sense of humor, he’s a great character director and a good storyteller, so a combination of Nic and him…

CS: Do you see this as some sort of franchise that can be expanded upon later?
Bruckheimer: It’s up to the box office and Disney if they want to make another one. If it does well, I’m sure they’ll come to us and say, “Can you guys figure out another one?”

CS: The question you probably get a lot is the decision to make a movie PG or PG-13? With “Pirates,” you made the first PG-13 Disney movie, with this and “Prince of Persia,” have you decided in advance what you’re going to do?
Bruckheimer: No, it sort of comes to the ratings board when we turn them in. “National Treasure” was always a PG-13, but when I looked at the movie, I was like “This is not a PG-13, this is going to be a PG movie” and it turned out to be a PG movie. In fact, we initially talked to Disney about making it a Disney movie, because originally I don’t think it was, and then they changed labels on us. It was kind of “Pirates” and “National Treasure,” they changed their branding a little bit.

CS: So for this one, you don’t have a set rating you’re going for?
Bruckheimer: Yeah, we’ll make it, and let the ratings board look at it. Hopefully they’ll give it a “PG” rating, I’d like that.

CS: Jay (Baruchel) has said that he’s done a lot of improv where they’ve had to stop him and say, “No, you can’t do that or say this.” Do you ever want to go to the editor and say, “Oh, no, put it in” if it’s funny?
Bruckheimer: No, we always go for funny, but it’s gotta be within certain boundaries. You can be clean and funny, rather than “Hangover” funny.

CS: What about shooting in New York City? You’re obviously shooting a lot more on location and some amazing locations? How has that been compared to some of your other movies?
Bruckheimer: Fantastic. It’s such a great city and has so much color and the Film Commission is really helpful and you have a tax break, so it’s a good place to shoot.

CS: Has it been hard getting all of the locations you’ve wanted to get?
Bruckheimer: Not really, no, they’re really cooperative here. You have to be realistic. You’re not gonna at 5:00 on a Friday try to shut down Madison Avenue, you’ve gotta be smarter than that, but within their guidelines.

CS: What has been your exposure to the original cartoon?
Bruckheimer: Other than watching it a few times, nothing. We looked at it again, we looked at it a number of times. I remember it when I was a kid, and I hadn’t seen it since.

CS: Is there a sense of wanting to stay true to the original?
Bruckheimer: We’ll make our own version and do what we feel is right for the movie and what an audience of today will buy, try to do that.

CS: The timing on this is kind of perfect to maybe fill the void of the end of the “Harry Potter” series. Was that at all in the back of your mind to get the same audience?
Bruckheimer: Listen, I would love that, we’d love that, but we don’t think about that. That’s an enormous undertaking, what a franchise that is.

CS: On one of the sets, it said “Potter Electrical Company,” was that done on purpose?
Bruckheimer: I’m sure one of our art department guys came up with something clever like that.

CS: Whenever you’re doing something like this and you’re aware it could potentially be a franchise, is there ever a project that you’re working on where you know beforehand that you don’t want to do a sequel and just make this one film even if it ends up being huge? Like “National Treasure”?
Bruckheimer: That’s not one but some of our more realistic films like “Blackhawk Down,” or something like that. We just bought a new book called “Horse Soldiers” (by Doug Stanton) which is in the same arena, it’s about special forces, but it’s again a true story, and there won’t be a story like “Blackhawk.”

CS: Obviously, you’re going to be busy over the next year finishing these two movies but there are other movies in development like “The Lone Ranger,” another “Pirates,” another “National Treasure.” How are those going to be developed while these movies are being made, especially since you’re sharing directors?
Bruckheimer: That’s what we’re doing right now. I have a great staff of people who work with us and did all these movies with us and most of the people who’ve been with me over ten years, so…

CS: What’s the priority? Is “Lone Ranger” going to be priority?
Bruckheimer: No, I think for Disney, it’s going to be “Pirates” obviously because it’s a great franchise for them and for us too. It’s a beloved character. Johnny was really excited about coming back to Captain Jack, so it’s good.

CS: You mentioned that Johnny wants to move forward with “Pirates,” but does that mean he might not be able to be Tonto if the movies are in production at the same time?
Bruckheimer: No, I mean he’s certainly interested in Tonto, but Disney’s priority is to get “Pirates” made first. You never know what’s going to happen but that’s what they would like.

CS: Are they already working on a script for the 4th “Pirates” movie?
Bruckheimer: Yes, it’s the same writers, Elliot and Rossio, are writing “Pirates” as we speak.

CS: Have you seen any of it yet?
Bruckheimer: Yes, it’s funny, it’s a whole new way of going, it’s really terrific.

CS: As far as “The Lone Ranger,” it’s surprising that no one has been announced to play the title role. Is that something that might be coming soon?
Bruckheimer: No, we’re going to wait until we get a director and Disney says “Go make the movie.”

CS: What’s your favorite scene in this film so far?
Bruckheimer: There’s so many. The “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” scene is a really good scene. You can’t really tell until you get the whole movie put together, then you see what pops, but if it’s going to be success, there will be five really terrific scenes. That’s when you know that you have a hit movie.

CS: When you first got the script and realized you wanted to set it in New York and using those locations, did you have to figure out whether you’d really be able to shoot the Chrysler Building and knowing you’d have to build some stuff, how do you go about deciding how feasible it is?
Bruckheimer: What we do is we do these pre-vises, which is amazing, because the technology has gotten so much better, and we actually map out these big action scenes almost shot-for-shot. We have these visual artists and they work with the director and they create these little movies, it’s almost like a video game, and that tells you what you need to build, and what you can use for real.

CS: There are so many producers who’ve had as much success as you’ve had wouldn’t necessarily be on set at 11:00 at night. Why is it important for you to be on set and be hands on?
Bruckheimer: I’m not here all the time, obviously because I have a few other commitments, but nah, I just love moviemaking. I certainly don’t have to do this anymore. I’ve made a few bucks and I have a dollar or two in the bank, and if the banks are still solvent I’ll be okay, but I just love it. I love the people, I love the creative energy. I never did this for the money. I always did it because I loved doing it. If you really love something, the money will come.

CS: Obviously, you’re not afraid of spending money on big blockbusters, but if someone said, you have $5 million to make a film, what kind of film would you want to make?
Bruckheimer: We’d find something interesting to do. I think that’s a challenge, and you look at what Michael Bay has done. He’s made all these cheap horror pictures that he doesn’t spend very much money on and they become big successes, so there’s always something interesting that you can do for very little money.

CS: Is there something smaller that you’ve wanted to do?
Bruckheimer: You know we did a romantic comedy, which is different, we did a half-animated movie, so we’re always attacking new things and we’re going into new games. I always like to branch out and learn new things, not that we’re going to get it right always, but it’s fun doing it. I love to learn. That’s why I keep doing this stuff. Now this big visual FX movie we’re doing, I’m learning a lot, stuff that I haven’t done before. That’s the fun of what we do, and it’s the same thing with what you do, you get to talk to different people from all different things and you get to learn. It’s a learning process.

CS: What’s going on with the TV front? Do you have anything for the fall season?
Bruckheimer: Yeah, we have three new shows. We have “Dark Blue” on TNT, we have “Miami Trauma” on CBS, and we have “The Forgotten” on ABC.

CS: And these are all new shows, so you have to keep an eye on their development at the same time or do you have people taking care of that for you?
Bruckheimer: Both. You know, I have great people working on them, great show runners, so I try to hire really talented people so they make me look good.

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