Film producer and television producer
Born September 21, 1945, in Detroit, MI; married Bonnie (a producer; marriage ended); married Linda Sue Cobb (a writer and antiques dealer). Education: University of Arizona, B.A., 1965.
Addresses: Office—Jerry Bruckheimer Films, 1631 Tenth St., Santa Monica, CA 90404.
Worked for BBD&O, New York, NY, 1968–c.1972; began producing films, 1972; formed Simpson-Bruckheimer Productions, 1983; partnership dissolved, 1995; formed Jerry Bruckheimer Films, 1995; formed Jerry Bruckheimer Television, 1997. Associate producer of films, including: The Culpepper Cattle Company, 1972; Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins, 1975. Producer of films, including: Farewell My Lovely, 1975; March or Die, 1977; American Gigolo, 1980; Thief, 1980; Cat People, 1982; Flashdance, 1983; Beverly Hills Cop, 1984; Top Gun, 1986; Days of Thunder, 1990; The Ref, 1994; Bad Boys, 1995; Crimson Tide, 1995; Dangerous Minds, 1995; The Rock, 1996; Con Air, 1997; Armageddon, 1998; Black Hawk Down, 2001; Pearl Harbor, 2001; Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003; Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, 2006. Executive producer of television series, including: Soldier of Fortune, Inc., 1997; C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation, 2001–; The Amazing Race, 2001–; CSI: Miami, CBS, 2002–; Without a Trace, CBS, 2002–; Skin, FOX, 2003; E-Ring, NBC, 2005–06; Just Legal, The WB, 2005–06; Modern Men, The WB, 2006; CSI: NY, CBS, 2006–.
Jerry Bruckheimer is one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood, making blockbuster films since the 1980s. He worked with flamboyant but troubled producing partner Don Simpson until Simpson's death in 1996, by which time Bruckheimer had formed his own company, Jerry Bruckheimer Films. By 2006, his movies had made more than $6 billion at the box office. In the 1990s, Bruckheimer branched out into television producing, where he also proved to have a golden touch. In 2005 alone, Bruckheimer had at least ten series produced through Jerry Bruckheimer Television on the air. With his companies, Bruckheimer had a reputation for taking care of his talent and putting his individual touch on each production. Mike Stenson, the president of Jerry Bruckheimer Films, told David S. Cohen of Variety, "He's great at putting people in a room, letting the ideas bubble up and then being the arbiter of what gets through to the screen. He's got that Golden Gut."
Born in 1945, in Detroit, Michigan, Bruckheimer's parents were Jewish immigrants from Germany, and he was their only child. His father worked as a salesman, while his mother was a bookkeeper and a housewife. Bruckheimer enjoyed going to the movies at an early age to escape his quiet home life. He was also interested in still photography as a teenager growing up in Detroit. Bruckheimer decided early on that his career would be in the film industry. He told Michael Shelden of London's Daily Telegraph, "I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I knew I had to get into the movie business. I loved it. I wasn't going to be an actor or director. That didn't matter. Somehow, I had to be a part of the thing I loved."
To please his parents as well as prepare for his future career, Bruckheimer studied psychology at the University of Arizona. After earning his B.A. in 1965, he moved to New York City. He began working in advertising at the international firm of BBD&O in 1968. Bruckheimer started in the mail room and moved his way up. He eventually became a commercial producer, and was put in charge of advertising campaigns for major accounts like Coca-Cola.
In the early 1970s, Bruckheimer decided to move into film producing, though his new career took time to take off. In 1972, he had his first credit as the associate producer on The Culpepper Cattle Company. Working with director Dick Richards, Bruckheimer produced two more films which were not particular successes, Farewell My Lovely in 1975 and 1977's March or Die. In the early 1980s, the producer received more acclaim for the films he produced with director Paul Schrader, American Gigolo and Cat People. Bruckheimer also received attention for his work with director Michael Mann's Thief. By this time, the distinct look of a Bruckheimer film was already developing.
In 1983, Bruckheimer formed Simpson-Bruckheimer Productions with Simpson as his producing partner. Bruckheimer had known Simpson since the early 1970s. They had met through friends in the film industry, and lived together briefly in 1974 when Bruckheimer and his first wife, Bonnie, were separated. Simpson and Bruckheimer began their professional affiliation in the early 1980s at Paramount. At the time, Simpson was given a production deal as part of a severance package when he was fired as president of Paramount. Simpson had drug and alcohol problems which were being displayed much too publicly for the company's tastes. Bruckheimer and Simpson complemented each others' professional needs. Bruckheimer needed someone to give him the creative credibility he lacked as a minor player in Hollywood.
Together, they produced a string of hits which brought them to prominence as producers. Their first box-office smash came in 1983 with Flashdance, which cost only $10 million to make but grossed more than $200 million worldwide. Flashdance was followed by Beverly Hills Cop in 1984 and Top Gun in 1986, both major hits. Such films helped define how movies were made in Hollywood in the 1980s. These films reflected trends in American society with popular soundtracks. Bruckheimer and Simpson also changed the role of the producer in films, taking more control over every aspect of each film.
By the mid-1980s, Simpson's continued substance and medication abuse problems meant that he spent little time on the sets of their films. Bruckheimer had to do damage control for his partner. Many in Hollywood believed that Bruckheimer focused priarily on the bottom line and the actual productions, including editing, cinematography, and special effects. He was seen as the calm, funny, voice of reason in the pair. Over time, it came to be seen that Bruckheimer played a huge role in the creative process which had been overshadowed by Simpson's manic work energy, high-concept film stories, and reputation. Bruckheimer told the Daily Telegraph's Sheldon, "Don's ego made him think that he was the creative guy, and he was. But it was never the case that I was just the numbers guy. I knew it was a real partnership, and that I had contributed to all aspects of it."
By the 1990s, Bruckheimer essentially ran the whole company, though Simpson's name and input were included in the films. The pair's films in the late 1980s and early 1990s often did not do as well at the box office, including 1990's Days of Thunder and 1994's The Ref. Bruckheimer and Simpson did have several hits in the mid-1990s, including Bad Boys, Dangerous Minds, and The Rock. During the production of The Rock, Simpson died of heart failure related to his substance abuse problem. He was only 52 years old.
Though he was personally torn up by his long-time friend's death, Bruckheimer continued to produce films alone. He had already legally dissolved the partnership six months before, though The Rock was released under the Simpson-Bruckheimer name. Bruckheimer then formed Jerry Bruckheimer Films, and released his first film as a solo entity in 1997, Con Air. With his new company, he tried to make two to three films per year. Bruckheimer produced a number of hit films in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
One of Bruckheimer's first big hits with his new company was 1998's Armageddon. Despite his strong reputation, he sometimes had to fight to get the money to make films, like 2001's Black Hawk Down. This was a modern war movie about a U.S. military snafu in Somalia. Bruckheimer easily sold the concept behind the World War II epic Pearl Harbor, released the same year. Pearl Harbor was a hit at the box office, one of the biggest of the year with a box office of $450 million, through critics panned the film.
In 2001, what would become a hit movie franchise landed in Bruckheimer's lap. Dick Cook, the chairman of Walt Disney Studios, told Ben Fritz of Variety, "Jerry could take what we thought was a good idea and turn it into a great idea. Because of our ambition for this movie, because we knew it would be a complicated production, there were so many elements there that we didn't think we knew anyone who could do the project except Jerry." Bruckheimer produced the film, which was called Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl; the movie was based on a ride at the Disney theme parks. Released in 2003 and starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley, the film grossed more than $650 million worldwide. The cast was retained for the sequels, including the 2006 summer blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which received worse reviews than the original but was still a success at the box office.
While Bruckheimer's status as a film producer was becoming legendary, he also was making inroads into another part of Hollywood: television. In the late 1990s, he began working in television under the banner Jerry Bruckheimer Television. His goal was to use production values similar to film on prime-time television programming and make each episode like a movie. Bruckheimer told Michael Schneider of Variety, "We approach TV as a serious business; it's not just a sideline for us. We're passionate about it; we put enormous energy in it."
The first television series that Bruckheimer executive produced, Soldier of Fortune, Inc., was a syndicated show which failed. It took several years for Bruckheimer and his company to be successful at television, but by the early 2000s, he was a dominant force in television as well. In 2001, Bruckheimer had his first big hit with C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation, which aired on CBS and was an unexpected smash hit. C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation later spawned spin-offs, CSI: Miami and CSI: NY. He produced another hit for CBS with the FBI missing persons drama Without a Trace which began airing in 2002. Dramas were not the only shows produced by Bruckheimer. In 2001, he also had a hit reality show called The Amazing Race which aired on CBS for several seasons.
By 2005, Bruckheimer's company had ten series on the fall television schedule for several networks. This was a record for a company in Hollywood, beating the previous mark of eight set by television icon Aaron Spelling. Six of Bruckheimer's 2005 shows were returning, while four were new shows. Two of Bruckheimer's new shows that season ultimately failed: NBC's E-Ring, a drama set at the Pentagon, and Just Legal, a legal show starring Don Johnson, on the WB. He had had other failures as well, including his 2003 soap opera-like show for FOX on the porn industry, Skin. Bruckheimer created his first comedy, Modern Men, on the WB in 2006, but was not picked up when the network merged with UPN to form the CW later that year.
The networks appreciated Bruckheimer's generous attitude towards television, which including ideas for marketing. Les Moonves, head of CBS, told Stuart Levine of Variety, "What he brought to CSI was its unmistakable style; its look and feel were groundbreaking. He's also brought ideas for advertising and promotion, offering a different point of view for television that's helped a great deal."
Despite his power and stature in Hollywood, Bruckheimer lives inconspicuously and keeps a low pro-file in Hollywood. He does not promote himself, nor has he appeared in any of his productions. Bruckheimer enjoys playing ice hockey in his spare time, as he has since childhood. He told David S. Cohen of Variety, "It's not about who you're having dinner with or the parties that you're going to. It's about the work that you do. That's the important thing for me."
Business Week, May 31, 2004, p. 72.
Daily Telegraph (London, England), June 21, 2004, p. 14.
Times (London, England), December 21, 2004, p. 6.
Variety, July 10, 2006, pp. 21, S2, S7, S11, S20, S22, S25, S26, S37.
"Jerry Bruckheimer Biography," Yahoo! Movies, http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/contributor/18000203.tif35/bio (October 5, 2006).
"Jerry Bruckheimer," Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000988/ (September 16, 2006).