Bruckheimer soldiering on

With his summer blockbuster “Con-Air” exploding at $97 million in domestic box office and two high-budget, star-studded productions — “Armageddon” starring Bruce Willis and “Enemy of the State” with Will Smith — shooting or poised to shoot, producer Jerry Bruckheimer has plunged into… syndicated television.

Bruckheimer will co-executive produce the 22-episode order of Rysher Entertainment’s action series “Soldier of Fortune, Inc.,” which launches Sept. 22.

Why TV — and syndicated at that — now? “I thought it would make a great ongoing series, but it didn’t necessarily lend itself to a feature,” explains Bruckheimer.

The series is about Brad Johnson, leader of a dirty half-dozen — an A-Team with leading-edge technology and weapons performing covert missions impossible. Explains Bruckheimer, “It’s a group of guys (and a beauteous anti-terrorist expert played by Melinda Clarke), all specialists, that go in and do things that the government can’t do, but wants total deniability.”

This is not Bruckheimer’s first brush with TV. He was executive producer for one season last year of ABC’s “Dangerous Minds,” — spinoff of the Bruckheimer/Simpson feature which starred Michelle Pfeiffer. The show was moved around, suffered in ratings and wasn’t renewed. Bruckheimer found the experience frustrating.

“How can I say this — there are a lot of layers you go through with the networks,” says Bruckheimer, “But with syndication I’m just dealing directly with Rysher. Creatively, it’s very easy to get through it. We put up the talent, and they put up the money.”

Despite the fact that Bruckheimer’s feature film production is in high gear, he still considers “Soldier of Fortune, Inc.” worthwhile. “It shows that our company can do things for a very small amount of money. And we have the follow-through to do it week-in, week-out for 22 weeks. Hopefully it will have the same punch that we have in our features.”

The station buyers are aware that “Fortune’s” co-executive producer is on a roll that includes the back-to-back hits “Bad Boys,” “Crimson Tide,” “Dangerous Minds” and “The Rock.”

” ‘The Rock’ was a very expensive movie, and it’s turning an enormous profit,” notes Bruckheimer. “But they (feature films and episodic television) are two different businesses. You can’t compare them. You hope that you turn a profit at the end of ‘x’ amount of episodes, that the series carries on, and you have an annuity year after year. That’s what Rysher’s hope is too.”

Unlike other syndicated series which are often located in one or another former Brit colony to cut costs, “Soldier” will shoot locally, in Valencia.

“I look at everything,” Bruckheimer insists. “I can’t be there for all the shooting, but I’ll certainly look at all the cuts and give them my input. Unfortunately I still can’t be everywhere, and I’ve hired very talented people to run the show. I’m what the phrase says — executive producer.”

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