It's hard to argue with Jerry Bruckheimer's success. The artistic merit of the films that he has produced? Yes, that's up for debate. But what is not up for debate is that his movies make a lot of money. So much money, in fact, that many of his films -- "Flashdance," "Beverly Hills Cop," "Top Gun" (these three co-produced with the late Don Simpson) -- aren't just mere movies, but cultural phenomenons.
"The Lone Ranger," Bruckheimer's latest project, re-teams him with his "Pirates of the Caribbean" cohorts Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski. Depp stars as Tonto in this reconfigured origin story for the iconic masked hero (played here by Armie Hammer), which finds the unlikely pair teaming up to stop a wanted criminal and other nefarious evildoers.
Before the film's release on June 3, we took a deep dive with Bruckheimer -- not only discussing "The Lone Ranger," but also going back to the origins of "Beverly Hills Cop" (Bruckheimer discusses the version that starred Sylvester Stallone), "Top Gun" (which might not have killed off Goose in an early script), and the lingering, "What the hell was that?" absurdity of "Con Air." He also explains why, even today, he still gets nervous before every single movie release and offers an interesting theory on his relationship with movie critics.
There are rumors of an even more supernatural tone to "The Lone Ranger" in early scripts. Is that something you didn't like?
No, it's still there. You saw the movie.
I thought it was supposed to have even more than it did.
No, no. We have our [flesh eating] rabbits. In another iteration that we lost because of money, we had some supernatural coyotes -- they're gone. But, that was pretty much it: nature out of balance, which was played up to another extent when we had locusts. But, with budgetary concerns, it's gone.
With those budgetary concerns that shut down production, how involved are you? Was that at all your decision?
It's a combination. The studio comes up with a number that they want to make the picture for, which is sometimes not based on reality -- it is what they feel the picture should cost. Then the filmmakers go out and find their locations and put everything together and it comes to another number. So, you have to have a happy medium where the two meet -- and that's what you get to and that's how the movie got made. We had a number they weren't satisfied with and we worked to get to a number that's very close to what they thought the picture should cost.
Why The Lone Ranger?
Well, the theme of The Lone Ranger, the origin story of the silver bullet and the ambush -- the last man alive and looking for justice. So, I think it was a very heroic character. We wanted to develop the Native American part of it much more than what was done in the past -- that he just wasn't a servant to The Lone Ranger.
Do you look at the early '80s movie, "The Legend of the Lone Ranger," as a precautionary, missed opportunity?
I didn't look at that. I just remember the old TV show.
That film was badly bungled.
No, I agree with you.
Do you still get nervous before a new movie comes out?
Yeah, always. Always. It never changes. You expect the worst, but hope for the best. So, that's just what we do -- at least what I do.
Are you nervous about "The Lone Ranger"?
I'm nervous about every single movie that we've ever released. So, I was nervous about "Pirates," I was nervous about "Top Gun," "Beverly Hills Cop" -- down the line I was nervous.
Even with the sequels to "Pirates of the Caribbean"? Does it lessen it after it's established that people like that franchise?
Not really. You know, you always want to better yourself because the movie usually get a little bit more expensive. There's more at risk when you make a sequel. Even though it's pre-sold, you never know: you could have one weekend and it could be gone.
Of your movies, what was the biggest surprise for you as far as a movie being more or less successful than what you imagined?
It's usually more successful [laughs]. You know, when you're expecting the worst, you're always thinking nobody's going to pay any money to go see it. When they come in and they're a hit, then you say, "Oh, Jesus, that's fantastic." So, that's the big surprise.
Is there an example that stands out?
I'm not sure about any of them -- I know I love them. I love them. We worked very hard on them and we love the end product. You just hope that you're not the only one [laughs].
How have your tastes changed since "Beverly Hills Cop"?
I think as you get older and you experience more things -- and things around you change, society changes, the world changes -- you change with it. You're changing along with the masses. If you're not, you won't be doing this anymore. So, right now, hopefully we're still making movies that people want to go see.
To your point, I do think if "Beverly Hills Cop" were released today, people would still love it.
I would hope so, but you never know. They might think it's dated. I mean, they tried to make a TV series out of it and, for whatever reason, it didn't get picked up. You know, they test these things -- at least our TV shows they test like crazy -- and, apparently, the test audience or the executives didn't feel it was something the public wanted to see. So, you just never know.
Would we still hold "Beverly Hills Cop" in such high regard today if the Sylvester Stallone version had happened?
It would have been a much different movie. He had a different vision for the movie. He made a movie right after it where it took a lot of the stuff that he developed with us called "Cobra." So that was the tone of what he wanted to do. I don't know how successful it was ...
I think it made around $160 million worldwide. It made money, just not "Beverly Hills Cop" money.
Yeah, different, you know -- just a different movie.
I've read that you weren't thrilled with the first draft of the "Top Gun" script. What was the major difference between that first draft and the movie?
It was the emotion. It was a good script. Warren Skaaren came in and gave it a lot more emotion. I can't remember if the original draft had Goose dying or not, but he added some heart to the movie.
So we almost lived in a world in which Goose lived?
I'm not positive. I'd hate for the original writers to call you and say, "That's not true," because it was 30-some years ago. I can't remember what happened yesterday, let alone 30 years ago. [Note: A call to "Top Gun" screenwriter Jack Epps Jr. has yet to be returned.]
Of all of your movies, the one I disliked the most when I first saw it in a theater was "Con Air." Now, I can't not watch it if it's on television. Please explain this.
You know [laughs], I think it's a tough milieu. It's kind of twisted, a little bit. That's what it is. You have these despicable characters and another character who's in prison because he did something he shouldn't have done, but he was right because he was defending his wife and child at the time. And I think that's part of it.
In 1997, I would never have believed that one day I'd have an appreciation for "Con Air."
I've been though this a lot with journalists. We made a movie years ago called "Flashdance" and I remember one journalist just giving us the worst review ever. Then, about five years later, we get this kind of love letter -- that he totally "missed" it. That he loved the movie. And it's kind of the same with you that, any time it's on, you have to watch it. It happens, you know.
I feel that some of your movies are so big, it becomes more of a cultural phenomenon. They become iconic.
We certainly have people who don't like what we do -- a lot of critics think that some of the stuff we do is not for them. My wife always says to me that if you look at music critics, there's a critic for classical music and a critic for opera and a critic for pop music -- but, for films, the critic who loves "My Dinner with Andre" is the same guy who is going to write a review on "The Lone Ranger," and they're not going to see the same movie. So, that's kind of what happens with movies. You have people who are into art films who certainly aren't going to like mass audience movies. And that's what we make.
Is there a movie that you passed on that you wish you had back?
I mean, "Silence of the Lambs" is something that we could have been involved in, maybe -- which turned out to be a terrific movie. It was such a dark story that we were, at the time, interested in doing it. But, it was a great movie.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.