While tracking boards boast a bevy of projects brewing at Jerry Bruckheimer Films, the shingle maintains a lean and mean strategy.
“Our basic plan is to make two to three really good movies a year with legs,” says Bruckheimer film topper Mike Stenson on the company’s standard of quality over quantity. “If you look at our averages over the last several years, they tend to get released in clumps and are ambitious projects.”
Even though the token screenwriting guide warns novice scribes about penning a Western or a musical, no genre is taboo with Bruckheimer.
Case in point: “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Prior to 2003, pirate pics were box office poison in the wake of Errol Flynn, the last swashbuckler film being Renny Harlin’s pricey “Cutthroat Island,” which topped out at $10 million in 1995 (Roman Polanski’s “Pirates” fared worse, with a $1.6 million take in 1983).
“We don’t think about those rules,” observes Stenson about Bruckheimer’s criteria for projects. “Jerry loves movies that take you to another world — places the moviegoer never experiences, whether it’s the space program in ‘Armageddon’ or the special forces in ‘Black Hawk Down.’ ”
Below is a sampling of Bruckheimer’s anticipated sked for the next two years.
Deja Vu (BV)
Release date: Nov. 22
Director: Tony Scott
Scribes: Bill Marsilii, Terry Rossio
Cast: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, James Caviezel
Synopsis: An ATF agent goes back in time to prevent a terrorist act in New Orleans. While time-warping, he falls in love with a woman at the scene of the crime.
Lowdown: One would think that terrorist plots are a no-go after Bruckheimer misfired with “Bad Company” ($39 million), a spy actioner with a dirty bomb macguffin that was released the summer following Sept. 11. ” ‘Deja Vu’ is primarily a love story,” says Stenson. “I compare it more to ‘Titanic.’ There’s a terrorist incident, but it’s the equivalent to the iceberg in ‘Titanic’: It’s what threatens the love story.” Despite all the hoopla about lensing “Deja Vu” in a post-Katrina New Orleans, the story deals with the city’s damage tangentially without exploiting the Crescent City’s tragedy as a plot point.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (BV)
Release date: May 27
Director: Gore Verbinski
Scribes: Terry Rossio, Ted Elliott
Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Chow Yun-fat, Bill Nighy
Synopsis: Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann battle evil pirates Davey Jones (Nighy) and Sao Feng (Chow) at the edge of the world.
Lowdown: Is this really the end of the trilogy? If “Pirates 3” cleans up, who says that there won’t be a fourth installment?
National Treasure 2 (BV)
Production start: January
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Scribes: Gregory Poirier, Cormac & Marianne Wibberley
Cast: Nicolas Cage
Synopsis: Benjamin Franklin Gates (Cage) and company go international as they embark on their latest quest — to discover the truth behind the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Lowdown: “We’re still working with Turteltaub on the film’s final payoff,” says Stenson. “We don’t want to give it away. Like the first film, the sequel is based on unknown historical facts about the Civil War and Lincoln.”
In the works
Another rule of thumb at Bruckheimer Films, according to Stenson, is to develop a polished screenplay before courting talent. As such, the following films are still in the throes of being honed on the typewriter or word processor:
Beware the Night
Scribe: Bryan Bertino
Synopsis: Based on the true story of Ralph Sarchie, a tough-as-nails South Bronx police officer who was involved in investigating exorcisms and demonic possession crimes — many of which weren’t explained, solved or understood, except by Sarchie and his partner.
Lowdown: “If there was a movie way to pitch it, it would be ‘Serpico’ meets ‘The Omen’,” explains Stenson.
Director: Hoyt Yeatman
Scribes: Cormac and Marianne Wibberley
Synopsis: In this family adventure, a team of genetically enhanced guinea pigs working as spies for the U.S. government must stop a deranged billionaire’s plan to rule the world through household appliances.
Lowdown: Currently the pic is planned to be a combination of live action and CGI in the vein of “Stuart Little.” A notable sight gag in the film: When the guinea pigs talk on their headsets, it looks like they’re chewing. Yeatman is a notable visual effects artist from previous Bruckheimer pics.
The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless
Scribe: Tim Firth (“Calendar Girls”)
Synopsis: An adaptation of the upcoming Ahmet Zappa children’s book, this fantasy-adventure tells the story of a sister and brother who discover they’re descended from a long line of monster hunters and must rescue their father, who has been kidnapped by the Monster King.
Lowdown: Walt Disney and Bruckheimer Films plunked down $1.5 million for Zappa’s unpublished debut novel last October after a bidding war. Asked whether such a price was normal for the shingle, Stenson points out that spec prices are all over the map, from $25,000 to $3 million.
Prince of Persia
Scribes: Jordan Mencher, Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Synopsis: Based on the popular ’90s videogame series, a young Persian prince must team up with a feisty princess to stop a power-mad villain from possessing the Sands of Time, a gift from the gods that holds the key to rewinding the past and changing history.
Lowdown: Game’s original creator Mencher took a stab at an outline that Nachmanoff (“The Day After Tomorrow”) is currently fleshing out. “Disney would like ‘Persia’ to follow up the ‘Pirates’ franchise as another PG-13 … family vehicle,” Stenson says.
Scribe: Kayla Alpert
Synopsis: Based on the bestselling books by Sophie Kinsella, this romantic comedy follows Rebecca Bloomwood, a young woman addicted to shopping and drowning in debt. Ironically, Rebecca gets a job as a financial advice columnist and must hide the truth of her own miserable finances from her boss, with whom she’s falling in love.
Lowdown: “Kinsella has a truly unique voice,” says Stenson. “We’ve been looking for the ideal romantic comedy for quite a while and think we have it in this material.”