Jerry Bruckheimer is synonymous with hugely popular movies (and movie franchises) including The Rock, Flashdance, Top Gun, Pirates of the Caribbean and Bad Boys. The 77-year-old film and television producer is also the mind behind the CSI TV franchise and the American version of The Amazing Race. In July 2003, Bruckheimer outdid himself by becoming the first producer in Hollywood history to produce the two highest-grossing films of a single weekend, when Bad Boys II and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was released simultaneously.
On this list are just some of the movies Bruckheimer has produced over the years and a few of the tales that make them that much more interesting.
10 American Gigolo and Giorgio Armani
American Gigolo was released in 1980 and features Richard Gere as a male escort who gets himself entangled in a murder case. It was one of the first cinema-bound movies to include frontal male nudity and kickstarted Gere’s career as a Hollywood leading man. However, if it wasn’t for Paul Schrader, Gere might never have starred in the film. The role of Julian Kaye was offered to Christopher Reeve by Barry Diller at Paramount Pictures, but Schrader was so against the casting that he contacted Reeve’s agent to get him to persuade Reeve to decline the offer. Reeve eventually did turn it down and Gere’s memorable character was born. But not before John Travolta briefly stepped into the role before declaring it wasn’t the right movie for him.
The movie has also been credited with putting legendary Italian designer, Giorgio Armani, on the map. Armani was tasked with creating lightweight suits for Gere, and the style that shone through his clothing designs, was soon mimicked by men worldwide. The rest, as they say, is history.
9 Johnny and the horse
Not even Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski’s producing skills combined with Johnny Depp’s quirkiness could save The Lone Ranger from bombing at the box office. The 2013 American Western Action film was almost cancelled before it ever saw the light, because of production and money problems and when it was finally released, it received mostly bad reviews.
Then there was the controversy surrounding the casting of Depp as a Native American, to which Depp responded that he believed he had Native American ancestry (possibly Cherokee) on his great-grandmother’s side and considered the role as an opportunity for him to “try to right the wrongs of the past.”
Depp also revealed during The Late Show With David Letterman that he had been lucky to survive a freak incident on set when the horse he was riding during a scene decided to suddenly jump over several obstacles. Depp slid down the horse’s back but managed to grab hold of its mane and hold on for dear life. After being dragged along for around 25 yards, Depp decided to let go and he fell to the floor, unhurt. Two other people involved with the movie, weren’t so lucky, however. A crew member was injured during shooting and a stunt diver killed while cleaning a water tank meant to be used for an underwater scene.
8 Three dancers make for a perfect routine
The most memorable part of the Flashdance film, has to be the audition scene with its eye-popping dance sequences. The star of the scene and the movie, Jennifer Beals, was only seventeen when she was given the role of Alex Owens. Beals didn’t perform the amazing dance routine however, but had two body doubles do the work for her. And when certain breakdancing elements became too difficult for the dancers to master, Richard “Crazy Legs” Colón was roped in to assist. Colón was 16 years old at the time, and he happily shaved his facial hair, put on a permy wig and donned a black leotard. It is believed that his efforts are still paying off, as he continues to receive residual cheques for the film.
The songs used in the film became massively popular with Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” selling over two million copies after the movie’s release. The song “Manic” was originally composed for the 1980 horror movie Maniac and its lyrics had to be amended for Flashdance. The made-over song was nominated for an Oscar but ultimately disqualified because of the changes made to the lyrics. This didn’t stop the soundtrack from selling more than 6 million copies though.
Flashdance received mostly negative reviews, but was a huge hit at the box-office, becoming the third-highest grossing film of 1983 in the US.
7 The story behind 12 Strong
It was probably only a matter of time before Jerry Bruckheimer teamed up with Chris Hemsworth. In 12 Strong, the plot centers around the first Special Forces team sent to Afghanistan after 9/11 and the push to take down the Taliban. For the film, Bruckheimer also allowed a first-time director behind the lens. Up until 12 Strong, the only features Nicolai Fuglsig directed were commercials.
Fuglsig succeeded in bringing the events of the real-life story to the big screen. In 2001 Colonel John F. Mulholland was busy helping plan US entry into Afghanistan and part of the project was to find the right soldiers for the mission. Some of the soldiers who would take part, didn’t even know about the 9/11 attacks, until they were packing away their gear after a training mission in Texas and heard the news reports over the radio. Operational Detachment-Alpha 595 immediately set off for its home base in Kentucky and three days later it was established that they would be the one of the first teams to be sent to Afghanistan. Their mission would eventually result in the defeat of the Taliban in just a few months.
6 The lasting popularity of Coyote Ugly
Coyote Ugly is a quintessential 2000s feel-good romantic musical comedy-drama produced by Bruckheimer and starring Maria Bello, Piper Perabo, John Goodman, and of course an iconic cameo by then 17-year-old LeAnne Rimes who belted out her hit song “Can’t Fight The Moonlight.” The song was written by Diane Warren and hit number 1 in 11 countries.
The movie was another huge hit for Bruckheimer, even though critics hated it, and it all started after a former Coyote Ugly bartender named Elizabeth Gilbert wrote an article about her experiences at the bar. Gilbert is also the author of the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia.
Mario Bello, who plays bar owner, Lil, visited South Africa while shooting another film a few years ago and visited a furniture gallery, Amatuli, while she was in the country. The gallery has a replica of the Coyote Ugly bar in its Gauteng showroom and every Sunday night the venue had “Coyote Ugly” night which included Bello standing on the bar and handing out drinks.
5 Enemy of the State upsets NSA spies
Enemy of the State, starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman took cinemas by storm in 1998, earning itself great reviews and over 250 million dollars at the box office. After 9/11 and Edward Snowden’s explosive revelations, the movie became noteworthy for its exploration of national security and privacy issues.
This doesn’t mean that everyone was a fan of the film, especially not NSA spies. The spy agency was particularly peeved at being labelled the villain, which happened after it met with Jerry Bruckheimer and other producers and expressed hope that the NSA would be painted in a positive light.
Several complaints by NSA employees saw the light after the film, including one about a personal car visible in one of the movie scenes, window blinds being up and production helicopters interrupting daily tasks at the agency and taking photos of employees.
4 Pearl Harbor: the new Titanic
Pearl Harbor is one of Bruckheimer’s cheesier efforts of an epic war drama. Combining his skills with Michael Bay, Bruckheimer produced an ultimate success even though the film was widely criticized for being too long, containing historical inaccuracies, and consisting of mainly bad dialogue. Here’s looking at you, Ben Affleck, with your “genuine French champagne… from France.”
The film was also the first Worst Picture-nominated film (Golden Raspberry Awards) that won an Academy Award (for Best Sound Editing).
Pearl Harbor was widely touted to be ‘the new Titanic’ and Celine Dion almost sang the theme song “There You’ll Be” but ultimately turned it down because she wasn’t feeling another romantic ballad for a major motion picture. Country star, Faith Hill, was handed the song and her version received Grammy, Golden Globes and Oscar nominations. The music video was also directed by Michael Bay.
Rosarito Beach in Baja California was used as the set for the movie’s scale model work and this location was also used by James Cameron who had previously built a large water tank here and used it to sink the Titanic replica in.
3 Catwoman in Dangerous Minds
The autobiography My Posse Don’t Do Homework by retired U.S. Marine LouAnne Johnson served as inspiration for Dangerous Minds, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Bruckheimer produced the movie alongside Don Simpson and it was one of Simpson’s last completed films before his death in 1996. Simpson was working on The Rock when he died, and the film was dedicated to his memory.
Dangerous Minds was a hit and even spawned a short TV series, even though the majority of the actors cast as students didn’t have any acting experience. Pfeiffer on the other hand, was obviously famous already because of her previous movie roles, including Catwoman in Batman. While she was preparing for her role in Dangerous Minds, Pfeiffer shadowed LouAnne Johnson while she went through her daily routine in the classroom. The students recognized her, even though she was wearing a non-descript black leather jacket and no makeup, and asked Johnson whether Catwoman was in their class. When Johnson said yes, they replied “What happened? She doesn’t look as good!”
2 The reality behind Deliver Us From Evil
With Deliver Us From Evil, Bruckheimer tried his hand at producing a supernatural horror that claims to be based on real events experienced by an NYPD sergeant, Ralph Sarchie.
The real Ralph Sarchie worked for the NYC Police Department for 20 years and retired in 2004 after which he started focusing on ‘demonology cases. Three years prior to this he had already published his book, Beware The Night, in which he detailed several experiences of evil during his time as a police officer. As portrayed in the movie, Sarchie was also involved in real-life exorcisms and helped to restrain a possessed woman while a bishop prayed over her.
Actor Eric Bana, who plays Sarchie in the movie got the fright of his life while preparing for the role, when he watched a videotape that supposedly portrays a genuine exorcism. He was so freaked out that he wouldn’t say more than “It was quite confronting. If I could have avoided it, I probably would have, but I saw it and it will be forever etched into my brain.”
1 Days of Thunder set leads to romance
Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer produced Days of Thunder, the 1990 sports action-drama flick starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman that focuses on the life of a young NASCAR racer from California, Cole Trickle, played by Cruise. The character of Trickle was inspired by Tim Richmond, a real-life NASCAR driver who died of AIDS in 1989.
It was during the filming of Days of Thunder that Cruise and Kidman started dating and the couple married six months after the film was released. Don Simpson had a new girlfriend during the time of filming, Donna Wilson. Wilson happened to be an actress and Simpson had a small role written for her to ensure she would have a reason to be with him on set during filming. The relationship was shortlived however, because of Simpson’s ongoing drug use and Wilson ended up with Director, Tony Scott whom she married in 1994.
Don Simpson also insisted that screenwriter, Robert Towne, write a four-page scene that would have seen Simpson as a driver named Aldo Bennedetti interacting with the characters of Tom Cruise and Robert Duvall. Simpson’s acting was unfortunately terrible and he eventually only got away with one line in the scene where he tells an ESPN reporter: “I’m glad he’s well enough to come back, and I hope I beat him, at the same time.”