Jerry Bruckheimer

King Arthur

Interviewed by Adrian Hennigan

“ My job is always to protect the movie ”

Jerry Bruckheimer has been responsible for more hits than the Mafia. The one-time advertising exec struck gold after teaming up with Don Simpson to produce a stack of box office smashes in the 80s and early 90s (including Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop, and Bad Boys). Simpson's death in 1996 had many writing obituary notices for Bruckheimer's career as well, but he's proved everyone wrong, producing The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Pirates Of The Caribbean, and many more. Now he's dismantling Camelot in King Arthur.

King Arthur is an atypical Jerry Bruckheimer film in that it's not about escapism but concerns itself with a supposed reality. How come?

I love history, I love uncovering things, I thought it was a fresh story and that you'd never seen this approach to King Arthur. You've seen more the mystical, soap opera King Arthur, and we thought this was the origins of the character, where the character came from, and who he really was. To me, it was very interesting and I wanted to see that story.

How much pressure was there to cast a big name in the title role?

Believe it or not, there was none. I had no pressure from the studio to do that. They were fans of Clive Owen.

Did you not have any doubts yourself, though?

No, not really. He's a wonderful actor, and that's what you go for - good actors. Saw him in Croupier and thought he was brilliant. Also saw scenes from Beyond Borders, and thought he was great in that too. I was also familiar with Ray Winstone's work from Sexy Beast, and had worked with Hugh Dancy on Black Hawk Down.

Presumably you moved quickly to hire Keira Knightley as Guinevere following the success of Pirates Of The Caribbean?

What's interesting is that she wasn't a star when we hired her for this movie. Pirates hadn't come out yet, and Bend It Like Beckham hadn't hit America, so she was an unknown ingenue at the time when Antoine and I cast her. He'd seen some scenes from Pirates, but that was it.

Antoine Fuqua wanted to avoid too much CGI in King Arthur. For you as a producer, is that a good or a bad thing?

It's a little bit of both, because sometimes the physical production is less expensive than the CGI, and vice-versa. You can also do things a little less dangerously with CGI, which I prefer as I don't want to hurt anybody.

Are you definitely shooting two Pirates Of The Caribbean sequels back to back?

We hope so. That's what we're trying to do but we'll see what happens, you never know. At the moment we have two outlines and we're writing the first script right now. Nobody's been cast just yet. Keira's close to being in place, Johnny wants to do it, and we want Orlando to do it. We hope we'll get them all.

What was the thinking behind the back-to-back shooting?

Because you'll never get them all back together again. Their careers have just taken off, and Gore Verbinski's got a lot of other things he wants to do with his career, so it's difficult.

You've successfully branched out into television. Are there any synergies between your film and TV work?

It's easier to make a TV series based on a movie but, look, any time you have a huge TV series, you can usually make a movie out of it as well. Maybe in the near future, or in the future somewhere down the line, one of these shows [eg CSI, Without A Trace, Cold Case] will become a film.

Two of the most successful and talked-about movies of the year have been a religious biopic and a documentary. As a producer, how much do you take these trends on board?

I never get driven by the money a picture makes, I get driven by creativity - I'm a slave to creativity, and to the idea and vision of what we're bringing to the screen, not by other people's successes. Because that's usually the road to ruin - if you start trying to follow other people's successes, you're doomed to fail.

But you must be aware of filmmaking trends? Following The Passion Of The Christ they've just decided to remake The Ten Commandments, for example...

I think that happens all the time, because the studios look to movies that are successful and think they can repeat the success with one of their pictures. That's human nature. Television does it all the time. There are a ton of CSIs coming on the air, that's just the way it is.

How difficult is it to keep budgets under control these days?

It's been a battle since the first movie was ever made, and it'll constantly be a battle until the last movie is made. It's always difficult, because the appetite of the filmmaker sometimes exceeds the money they've been given to do it. And sometimes the cost of the movie exceeds what the studio wants to spend, so it's always a struggle.

Whose side do you come down on?

My job is always to protect the movie. If I think it's good for the movie, I'll tell the studio it's the right decision; if I feel we're being extravagent, I'll go the other way.