The desk shines, as do rows of Montblanc pens, and everything seems in its place, including the man who appears as if a meticulously dressed whisper. Most of the bottles in the liquor cart have not been opened, but the man, one of Hollywood's most successful producers, mentions that when a preview goes badly, Scotch and commiseration flow.
One anticipates an explosion or a crack of bravado, but all is civilized in
Bruckheimer, who recently turned 70, is a presence in the hockey rink. But he concedes he is more fragile than he was in the 1980s when
The producer — his movies have tallied more than $13 billion in global ticket sales — is back in the news. His 23-year partnership with the
That touch was celebrated Thursday night when Bruckheimer received the 27th American Cinematheque Award at the Beverly Hilton. The movie elite mingled with those who chose self park.
Bruckheimer's time at Disney produced big films including "Armageddon," "Con Air" and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. But there were misfires, such as the
When "Top Gun," which solidified Bruckheimer's reputation and made
That strange alchemy can baffle even a man known for his intuition, especially in an era in which three-dimensional special effects are producing one-dimensional characters and single-syllable dialogue.
"Movies [today] catch fire within hours or die in the night," he says, noting that the whims of the market have become difficult to anticipate. The young "don't know what they want but they know it when they see it, that's for sure."
In his office, Bruckheimer stands before a bookcase — there's a ladder to reach the top — and nods toward a collection of Jack London stories. Those tales epitomize character versus adversity, man against himself and the elements. "I loved his stuff when I was a kid," he says. Some of his characters mimic the spirit of London's wanderers even if they are more hyperbolic and prone to bang-bang denouements.
"If you don't fall in love with the character you're lost," he says. "I don't care how big the explosions are."
His split with Disney was in part over character and tone. He says he is seeking "darker and edgier" stories than the studio prefers, half joking that Disney did permit him to "go a little darker [in Pirates] … with a skeleton in the moonlight."
A new retrospective coffee-table book, "Jerry Bruckheimer: When Lightning Strikes/Four Decades of Filmmaking," was published by Disney. Thick and heavy as a gravestone, the book, written by Bruckheimer's publicist Michael Singer, notes that in early stages of filming "Pirates of the Caribbean" some studio executives were "veritably freaking out" about
Bruckheimer's reemergence at Paramount, which in recent years has been notable for making fewer films, should free him to go deeper into the nether places. "I love movies like 'Black Hawk Down,'" he says of his 2001 collaboration with director Ridley Scott on the visceral tale of U.S. forces trapped in Somalia.
The producer is also intent on reprising earlier hits, including the 1980s "Beverly Hill's Cop" series, which is in development to bring back
But will the musings and scamperings of Det. Foley still resonate?
"As long as he's interesting and has evolved," he replies. But he says finances, studio constraints and other pressures can change the scope of a film and that "character development is the first thing that goes on the editing room floor." Television narratives, including his successful "
Film has two hours, and in the end, the plot must propel; the movie must make money. "It's called show business," he says. And these days, he adds, "you have to think about a world market. What's going to be accepted in China and Russia."
"I don't know," says Bruckheimer, who has spent time in Russia but not China.
Sunlight streams through windows of his office. It shines on his face, his eyes, his trim reddish-beard. Every centimeter groomed. There is still the trace of a boy in him — the son of German Jewish immigrants with a flop of hair and a camera dangling from his neck. He speaks of
"I love the process of entertaining people," says Bruckheimer, who has a wife, Linda, and a daughter, Alexandra. "The rush I get when I sit in the back of a theater."
That thrill led him from ad man to producer to his early partnership with the late Don Simpson. Bruckheimer once said that he and Simpson — his co-producer on "Flashdance," "Top Gun" and others — were two parts of the same brain.
"Don was bombastic and extremely intelligent, a salesman," he says. "I don't have that in my DNA. I think things out, roll things around in my head. I'm cautious and hard-working." Bruckheimer is known for a "God is in the details" scrutiny, from visuals to dialogue to music. The Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack in Mike Nichols'
Much of his tenacity is rooted deeper than a filmmaker's creativity: "Fear of failure," he says. "You always try to make something better.... Good enough is never the right thing to say to me."
In his new coffee-table biography, he speaks of his first camera — "that beautiful little plastic and metal box changed my life." He has been looking through lenses for decades, glimpsing the sublime and the imperfect, always, he says, working to get the image right in film and in life. "I'm taking pictures of the present that becomes the past very soon," he says.