It was a bit soggy Monday night in Hollywood at the premiere of “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” but maybe that was appropriate. If you look at the films of producer Jerry Bruckheimer, there’s often carefully lit downpours during the moody scenes — as well as slow-motion gun battles, lovingly documented explosions and some of the most photogenic civic mayhem in movie history. Luckily there were no bombs going off Monday on Hollywood Boulevard — although “Prince of Persia” is getting some underwhelming reviews so far.
Disney has high hopes that “Persia,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, (show in the photo below, on the left, with Bruckheimer) might become the adventure franchise that can take the place of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which has netted $2.7 billion in worldwide box office but is expected to go into dry dock after the fourth installment is released next May. Bruckheimer, who is as quiet as his movies are loud, shrugged when asked if “Prince of Persia” (which opens May 28) felt like a hit. “You never really know, you do the best you can and you hope for the best,” the 64-year-old said at the after-party at the Grand Ballroom atop the Hollywood & Highland complex
The premiere was melded with an American Film Institute tribute to Bruckheimer, who is one of the truly rare brand-name producers in this modern cinema era, which saves most of its spotlight heat for movies stars and directors.
Bruckheimer has made a specialty out of buddy movies and male-tribe films (consider “Bad Boys,” “Top Gun,” “Black Hawk Down” and “Remember the Titans“) and at the event there was a heayweight parade of leading men who showed up to fete the producer. Tom Cruise, Eddie Murphy, Bruce Willis, Nicolas Cage and Billy Bob Thornton were among the stars who showed up to watch the producer put his hands into the cement of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In addition to “Persia,” there were simultaneous screenings of five of Bruckheimer’s signature box-office successes: “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Armageddon,” “National Treasure,” “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Top Gun.”
Rich Ross, the new chairman of Walt Disney Studios, also sang the praises of Bruckheimer, who has produced two dozen films for the studio in the past 16 years. It was interesting to watch the Hollywood kabuki and look for messages within the dance; as Los Angeles Times business reporters Claudia Eller and Dawn C. Chmielewski just reported, Disney is scaling back on film budgets, including the fourth “Pirates” movie, due to the tough economic times and some under-performing movies (among them Bruckheimer’s expensive family film “G-Force“).
Bruckheimer told me he has no regrets when he looks back and no desire for any “do-over” in his career. He said that if he got his hands on the magic turn-back-time dagger from “Prince of Persia” he wouldn’t know what to do with it.
“I’d play it all out, just the same way,” Bruckheimer said. “The great thing has been the people I’ve worked with. A lot of the people here tonight, we’ve made all these movies together and it means a lot to me to see them here. [This event] celebrates the work done by these directors and actors and writers and everyone involved in these movies.”
Gore Verbinski directed the first three “Pirates” films but this time Rob Marshall (who was Oscar-nominated for “Chicago“) is in the director’s chair. “It is a difference but that’s what the job is; working with people, new people, different people, finding ways to set everyone up for success.”
Bruckheimer was eager for filming to start on “Pirates” and enthused, too, about his other big project this summer, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” due July 16. “I feel very lucky, most of all, and I’m very excited about the future.”
After chatting with Bruckheimer I stopped to say hello to Gyllenhaal, who I last saw in San Francisco, and made my way over to “Prince” director Mike Newell, whose credits include “Donnie Brasco,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire“ and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” Newell said he was having a good night but that the long lag time between the film’s completion and its release was disconcerting for him. At one point, the movie was scheduled for a July 2009 release but that was pushed back to avoid the high price-tag that comes with cramming too much effects work into a narrow time window, which is one of the reasons the most recent “Pirates” film cost a staggering $300 million.
“It was odd, we finished everything, what, five months ago? It’s very, very unusual but tonight it’s nice to finally have an audience see it,” Newell said. “Now we’ll see how it goes from here.”
— Geoff Boucher
Photo credit: Mario Azuoni / Reuters
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