Jerry Bruckheimer: Higher Concepts

January 15, 2020
From Top Gun to Pirates Of The Caribbean, uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer has drawn in audiences for nearly 50 years. With Gemini Man he’s got his eye on the next 50. And here’s how…

It’s fitting, given how seismic a shift Gemini Man is, that its producer is a marquee name with an unparalleled pedigree in realising what audiences want – before they do…

From American Gigolo to Flashdance to Top Gun to Beverly Hills Cop to Bad Boys to Pirates Of The Caribbean, for over five decades Jerry Bruckheimer has changed the way we watch movies. And now, with Gemini Man, he unveils his highest concept yet: one that will change the way you watch movies for the next 50 years.

We sat down with the billion- dollar producer to drill into his impact and to try to unlock the secrets of his work. Not that he even thinks of it as “work”, of course…


With Gemini Man, Bruckheimer is backing the future of film, giving – alongside Skydance’s David Ellison – visionary director Ang Lee the opportunity to push the boundary of what is possible on the big screen. “We have tried to advance a new way of how audiences can experience cinema,” says Bruckheimer, “filming and projecting the film in high frame rate and enhanced 3D, which brings the viewer closer to the on-screen action than ever before possible.”


From Michael Mann (Thief) to Michael Bay (Bad Boys, The Rock, Armageddon) and Adrian Lyne (Flashdance), Bruckheimer has given modern directorial masters their big breaks – also working with both Scott Brothers, Ridley (on Black Hawk Down) and Tony (Top Gun, Crimson Tide), and recent Oscar-nominee Paul Schrader (American Gigolo).


“It takes an enormous amount of guts to do this,” says Bruckheimer, of trusting the ground- breaking visual technology employed to make Gemini Man a success. “Because no one can assure you it’s going to work, including Ang. He would say ‘I think this is going to work,’ and you have faith in an Academy Award-winning director that he will do it. And he did!


“You always have to evolve,” says Bruckheimer, reflecting on how he has stayed at the forefront of cinema for nearly 50 years. “You trust the material and the people you work with, and we did that with Ang.” This meant backing his incredibly ambitious plan to 100% digitally create a young Will Smith – but previously it’s meant giving hotshot music video directors (who Hollywood used to look down on) the keys to the blockbuster kingdom.


“You have to create something that’s visually different,” says Bruckheimer, on how he gets people out of their houses to visit a movie theatre and appreciate the spectacle up on the big screen. “With our movies, we try to make them look unique and exciting by hiring the right talent who bring that element to it.


From Eddie Murphy to Johnny Depp to Will Smith, Bruckheimer has shown an unerring eye for great actors – either taking unknowns and turning them into movie stars, or showing different sides of established personas. With Depp, no one imagined he would make a brilliant movie pirate – and then he delivered one of the most iconic characters of all time in Captain Jack Sparrow. Will Smith was best known as TV’s freewheeling and fun Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air before Bruckheimer turned him into a movie star. “I see myself as somebody who inspires people, who has a talent for knowing talent,” says Bruckheimer.


“My duty is to the audience, they’re the ones that we are a slave to,” says Bruckheimer, who has never lost sight of the people he makes movies for. “We are concerned about what they think about our work.” He rigorously prescreens all his movies, making sure audiences are not confused by what we’re presenting. “We previewed Gemini Man. We made alterations. We always do – to make it something you really want to go out and see and enjoy.”


Instinct is important as a filmmaker – the gut feeling that a person, or a story, will connect with audiences. But then there’s also the emotion within the story, which Bruckheimer embraces. “It’s very emotional at the end,” he says of Gemini Man, “with the resolution of the movie. And that’s the thrill for me – watching the audience really tear-up or have that catharsis.”


Bruckheimer believes in taking audiences out of their everyday lives – in giving us an escape and a journey outside of our own experiences. “We want audiences to not think of all the issues that are in their lives today. There are a multitude of things going on in the world and we want to just absorb them in that cinema screen.”


From Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop to Maverick in Top Gun to Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean, Bruckheimer blockbusters are known for their iconic lead characters. The same holds true for Gemini Man. “This is the thinking man’s adventure film,” Bruckheimer says. “It’s about a damaged character and how he deals with that damage and how he comes through it.”


No matter how many hits he has produced and how long he has remained at the top of the producing business, Bruckheimer hasn’t lost sight of the fact his ‘work’, well, it isn’t really work when you love it as much as he does. “It’s not work!” he says. “My dad worked. What I do isn’t work. We have bad days, where things don’t go the way you want, but we’re not brain surgeons. This isn’t life or death. It’s fun to work with creative people and entertain audiences.


When all else fails, never be afraid of spectacle. Bruckheimer blockbusters have created unforgettable images – from the point-of-view bomb shot in Pearl Harbor to the Las Vegas crash-landing in Con Air. And Gemini Man is going to give them both a run for their money. “You have these phenomenal action sequences [in this],” Bruckheimer says. “I mean, they are doing stuff with the stunts that you are saying, ‘How did anybody do that?’ There is a fight at the end that just makes you go, ‘My God!’”


Bruckheimer loves to work with people who are dedicated. Ang Lee’s seven-day a week working schedule would, Bruckheimer says, “blow your mind”. Lee, like the other directors Bruckheimer works with, “put all this time and effort into every single detail”. As did the leading man himself. “Some actors I’ve worked with, in between takes they go to their trailer, they couldn’t care less, but Will [Smith] is involved in every aspect of his performance, and the screenplay. He works very hard. He really wants to win.”


No one could have imagined how successful Jerry Bruckheimer would become – not even Jerry Bruckheimer. Looking back, his advice to his younger self would be to know no limits.  “I think [my advice to my younger self] would be, ‘Follow your dream’. I have lived a life that I am very fortunate to have. It’s hard for me to look back and say what I would do differently because I’m living the dream. Just to be in this business and be surrounded by the talent, it’s just terrific to be a part of this.”

Gemini Man out now on digital download


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