Photo by Greg Williams

July 2, 2014

Film: Jerry Bruckheimer blows up Kentucky

Hollywood mega-producer meets fans in his other home

People have been confused as to why in the unholy heck legendary movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer is coming to an antiques store in the middle of Kentucky. He had a similar type of reaction when his wife, writer and Louisville native Linda Bruckheimer, first told him she wanted to buy an additional house in her home state. She didn’t stop there, continuing to buy buildings and making a revitalization of Bloomfield’s quaint downtown a favorite project. It didn’t take long for her husband to fall for the beauty of the region and the kindness of his new neighbors.

“I love Kentucky, and I love spending time there,” he says. “It’s a great place to relax and forget about L.A. and Hollywood and work. We have a wonderful farm, and I spend a lot of time there.”

If any of the residents of the small town near Bardstown care about his work, he says they keep it to themselves, treating him like any other (occasional) neighbor who enjoys playing hockey with kids at the skating rink.

Nettie Jarvis Antiques is one business owned by the Bruckheimers in Bloomfield, so that’s where he will be signing “Jerry Bruckheimer — When Lightning Strikes: Four Decades of Filmmaking,” the $60, 8-pound coffee table book about his Hollywood career. He’s proud enough of his other town to go out of his way to invite Louisvillians to make the 43-mile drive to see it for themselves. It’s near some distilleries, if one needed more convincing. (His bourbon of choice is Pappy Van Winkle.)

Bruckheimer, a Detroit native, has benefited from Kentucky’s riches in other ways, too. Tom Cruise, born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV of the Louisville Mapothers, starred in two early Bruckheimer hits, “Top Gun” and “Days of Thunder.” The Owensboro-born Johnny Depp writes in the book’s intro about how producer Bruckheimer saved him from being fired from the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie when executives, scared of how children would react to Depp’s performance as Capt. Jack Sparrow, wanted to replace him. The fifth Depp-starring film in the hugely successful series is currently in pre-production.

That the “Pirates” movies are on number five is no accident. Some of Bruckheimer’s success has been tied to his company’s development of concepts that can become franchises, including “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Bad Boys” and “National Treasure”; he is also working now on a reboot of “Top Gun,” in addition to adapting the comic “Alien Legion” as his first live-action superhero movie. Plus, there are his TV titles, including “CSI” and the upcoming “CSI: Cyber,” plus its two other recent spin-offs.

He’s a creature of habit, having worked with some of the same people repeatedly, like actors Nicolas Cage, Denzel Washington and Eric Bana (star of his latest, “Deliver Us From Evil,” out today) and director Michael Bay. “When you find winners, you want to keep going,” Bruckheimer says. When asked what movie had excited him lately that wasn’t made by his company, Bruckheimer says he “loved” Bay’s fourth “Transformers” movie, calling it “terrific, beautifully done.”

But Bruckheimer, who has loved movies since childhood, says it’s original voices that get his attention. “If it’s something that not only do I want to see, but is unique and special and different … if you try to do something that’s a little different, you won’t always succeed. But we try.”

He still falls for emerging stars, even now at 70, saying, “There’s always somebody new that you look at and you see is fascinating and somebody you’d like to work with — Jennifer Lawrence being a perfect example of somebody that wasn’t around five, six years ago, and now she’s a major movie star.”

The Bruckheimers visit Louisville most years for, if nothing else, Derby. “It’s really an emerging city that has changed a lot,” he says. “It’s amazing what’s going on — the whole warehouse district they’re redoing, it’s really nice. The whole downtown is revitalized.”

As an entrepreneur and Kentucky investor, does he plan to step into the Louisville market? “Unfortunately, I’m too focused on what I’m doing here in California,” he says. So it seems Jerry Bruckheimer has found a story he likes — Hollywood kingmaker invests in a Kentucky town — but this time, he isn’t making a sequel.