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Jerry BruckheimerBluntly Speaking: Jerry Bruckheimer
an emily blunt interview
photo: mathew rolston

 

 

 

 

Mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer's latest block-buster in-waiting, is a re-visioning of the Arthurian Tale. Acutely aware of the lullaby-like appeal Arthur and his stately Knights have on an audience's movie-going psyche, this millennium Arthur is a fresh take. We are catapulted back into a humorless Dark Ages' scrapbook of the legend, written by Oscar ® best-picture 2000 winner Gladiator screenwriter David Franzoni, and earmarked for accuracy by a team of historians, who are themselves ever in debate about the "real" King's past.

Bruckheimer always sets out to, "make entertaining films." He also believes box-office numbers are not Merlin-style magic - it's a strategic combo of subject research, listening to the trends/knowing what the market is calling for, and getting the best in the field to do their jobs for his productions.

Jerry's also open to what the market will bare. His version of the Arthurian legend has been edited to secure a PG13 rating (down from its original branding of the dreaded R). This simply means more viewers, which means the film is now legitimately poised to take a nip outta the summer's expected gladiators (Shrek 2 & Spider-Man 2).

Technically a Disney film, you'll still find no gossamer winged wizards and dainty ladies in waiting in King Arthur. Quintessential man-film producer Bruckheimer entertains with bloody nation-forming battles, matter-of- (probable) fact and his Arthur is an ethical Brit, employed by Rome to wage battles in the name of Christianity. He's an exceptional swordsman who has several local island Pagans - equally mesmerizing with modern-day weapons, under his command.

Emily: Your films, love or leave them as an audience member, always seem to be dotted with industry wildcards in some pretty key areas. King Arthur has an impeccable cast of talented yet virtually "unknown" men, like Clive Owen and Joel Edgerton, or Keira Knightley, who was pre-Pirates hoopla at the time of filming. And then you selected urban-esque director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) to steer. How do you go about these somewhat risky production decisions?

Jerry: Well, you're a writer, right? And you read a lot, don't you? If I only read two books, I wouldn't know a good writer from a bad writer because I've only read two books. You read some of these - wow, what a use of words. Where did they come up with this? I see actors all day long, that's what I do. I see hundreds of actors every year. You can tell who's pretty unique and who's different and also if the wheels aren't turning.

Emily: But you seem to have an extreme knack.

Jerry: But I think other people do too - if you do it a lot.

Emily: How much subject research do you, as a producer?

Jerry: I read an enormous amount . . . I changed a lot of the names to coincide with who were actually there during the period. I also read a lot about the weapons and how they fought. Just about what was going on in the world of the 5th Century.

Emily: And the casting. It was a conscious decision not to have a Tomben Cruisecrowedamon sparing Saxons on the Avon?

Jerry: [laughter] Yes. 'Cause it's the historical King Arthur, rather than the fictional Arthur. And you know what? I was also the baggage that a big star brings with it. He brings a history of other films and a history of other characters. This isn't Camelot! Clive Owen to an American audience and most audiences around the world is a fresh face. That's what we wanted. He's a brilliant actor, so he's got all the trappings of a movie star. He's handsome right?

Emily: Oh, yes indeed.

Jerry: He's a good actor.

Emily: Superb.

Jerry: That will happen for him.

Emily: Your director, Antoine Farque, wasn't a logical choice if you strictly look at his resume. Yet, your bet paid off. He brought so much to it's production style.

Jerry: Antoine worked with me on the video, 'Gangsters Paradise', and that song thing he did for Dangerous Minds. This was before he was doing features and I thought he was really good. I wanted to work with him. When I saw his work and saw Training Day, I said this movie needs that kind of edge of reality. That's what I wanted - a real gritty film. He loved it.

Emily: Like anyone wouldn't take your call! You decided - three weeks before the world premiere in New York City - to change King Arthur's ending. Literally pack up crew and cast and head back to North Devon and shoot new scenes. Was this the result
of test screenings?

Jerry: Of course. Sure. The audience wanted to know what happened to King Arthur. We had two screenings. One we just end at the funeral and the next one we had the funeral, but we added a voiceover about what happened to Arthur. They weren't happy with that either. And so we ended up shooting the wedding at the end. And I think that worked with audience.

Emily: Are screening results always part of your process?

Jerry: I make movies to entertain people, and if I'm not entertained, I have failed. That's my motto. They're spending hard-earned money; they want to be taken on
a ride.

Clive Owen & Jerry BruckheimerEmily: Have you ever kind of pooh-poohed the judgment of a test screening?

Jerry: [a broad smile] Sure, all the time. You have to take everything with a grain of salt. When you read the cast, who they like, who they don't like. 90 % of them hate the villains. That's good. They're supposed to hate the villains.

 

Emily: Okay this is a bit of what some would say is a revisionism - I don't say that because the Arthurian legend has all sorts of room in it and spans what 450 years of lore?

Jerry: Right.

Emily: But, the old John Ford saying in Liberty Valance, " When The Legend Becomes Fact, Print The Legend" How much of that - in particular the Camelot scenario - was a worry to you?

Jerry: Hmm. It was a worry. But I think the movie's entertaining, and I hope audiences will embrace it for what it is. It screens very well. We had a good reaction last night. People seemed to enjoy it. Word of mouth is good. If Disney promotes it properly, which they are doing, audiences will show up. It's always about what [the audience] thinks when they walk out.

Emily: Keira's character would have fought naked - but she had on a bit of strategically placed almost fetish leather across her chest.

Jerry: Yeah. Actually in that day they attacked naked.

Emily: So you put her in this skimpy outfit to avoid an R rating, right?

Jerry: [laughs] Exactly!

Emily: Otherwise she would have been naked.

Jerry: That's right. And we took out some violence that read gratuitous.

Emily: There's plenty of violence fear not. So, when and why'd you decide not to make it R?

Jerry: When Disney decided to move it from the fall to the summer.
Kids are available during the summer. You want to get them. And you get such competition during the summer. A week later, it's I robot, so you lose those big multiplex screens, you're on a push to the smaller screens. You gotta get 'em in.

Emily: How hard does it become as a producer then to sacrifice your R for a larger audience? How do you avoid damaging the integrity of the movie itself?

Jerry: I think the movie is effective the way it is. It might not be as effective
for certain people, but it's effective. If I'd made the real hard R movie, they'd say, "Why all the violence, why do you have to show all the blood?"

Emily: It's still pretty uncompromising.

Jerry: Yeah, it's a strong battle. There's a lot of cool stuff in that battle.

Emily: I spoke with your historians - who are very serious about all thiseth and thatith- they were none to happy when I mentioned a few scenes looked a bit Monty Python's Holy Grail-ish . They had, NO sense of humor. Were you conscious at the beginning what a major and serious subject Arthurian legend is?

Jerry: [laughter] Not at all. I was completely innocent. I was thrown into this world. [laughter]


END.

Bruckheimer listens to his own advise; melding an elegant trained cast that reads like an Alumn gathering of RADA, a trough of time-traveling historians, stitched into a script by a screenwriter known for an ability to humanize the ancient pasts' more translucent legacies and properly forged by a director who brought a gritty medieval angst. Still, with millions of dollars essentially on the line, even Hollywood's quintessential man-film action-packed producer insists you just never know because this time,
"This isn't Camelot!"

 

 

 

 

 

 


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