Bad Boys for Life – Jerry Bruckheimer: “My motivation? To entertain people!”

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Will Smith and Jerry Bruckheimer - Bad Boys for Life
Sony Pictures

The legendary American producer, nicknamed “Mr Blockbuster”, was in Paris to present Bad Boys for Life, the third part of the saga that began in the mid-90s. Interview with a legend.

Update of June 11, 2022: Whether First unfortunately do not recommend Bad Boys For Life (our review is available below), its release in early 2020 marked the occasion to meet the historic producer of the saga, Jerry Bruckheimer. An interview to read again below, to wait until the first unencrypted broadcast of this buddy movie still worn by Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. See you Sunday evening on M6.

Interview of January 20, 2020: Once upon a time in Hollywood, producers were as famous – if not more so – than the directors they employed. The names of David O. Selznick, Darryl F. Zanuck, Jack Warner, Louis B. Mayer were enthroned in large print at the very top of the posters like quality labels. Who can claim such class prestige today? Jerry Bruckheimer, 76, is certainly one of the last descendants of this prestigious line of moguls. Less refined, less poet perhaps, the man – question of time – made the blockbuster his trademark. In almost half a century of activity, it is behind Top Gun, The Beverly Hills Cop, Rock, bad boys, The wings of hell, Armageddon, Pirates of the Caribbean or more recently Gemini Man.

With his angry sidekick Don Simpson (who died of excesses of all kinds in 1996), he put Tony Scott and Michael Bay into orbit, two filmmakers little known for the stripping of their staging. The “Bruckheimer recipe” is precisely in this way of considering cinema as a fairground attraction where one-upmanship is an integral part of the game. It is therefore curious to note that the man produced at the beginning of his career two founding films from the beginning from the 80’s: American Gigolo by Paul Schrader and The solitary by Michael Mann. Two refined films, bordering on abstraction, far from 60 minutes flat Where Pearl Harbor

In this beginning of 2020, the producer advances all tanned and permed in the gleaming corridors of the Ritz hotel in Paris. He comes to defend his last born, Bad Boys for Life, the third part of a saga that began in another era (the mid-90s) at a time when digital effects did not yet exist. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence continue as best they can to roll mechanics on the screen but Michael Bay, he has failed. Too bad for him and for us. Jerry Bruckheimer, whose fly-like physique contrasts with the face of the omnipotent producer, takes a sip of mineral water, readjusts his elegant black velvet jacket and waits with strange sweetness for the first question…

Michael Bay, director of the first two parts of the saga bad boysappears here for a cameo but did not direct the film, why?

He just wasn’t available. He has thousands of projects in progress, I couldn’t afford to wait for him to move forward on this project… In Hollywood, once a film has the green light, you have to start immediately. And at that time, Michael was preparing a new transformers

As a result, you entrusted the production to two almost unknown young Belgian filmmakers, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah…

Someone brought me DVDs of their movies Black and Gangsta telling me that they would be perfect to take control of this bad boys that I wanted to be very organic, very close to the actors. A buddy movie must above all be human. However, seeing the work of Adil and Bilall, I found the energy and mastery I was looking for. On Black for example, 80% of the performers weren’t real comedians and they managed to transcend them. I like this audacity. When I met them, they told me they were fans of the saga bad boys and the work of Michael (Bay)…

… It is hard to imagine young filmmakers telling you the opposite…

Maybe, but they quickly proved to me, as well as to Will (Smith) and Martin (Lawrence), that they were very respectful of the universe of bad boys. They knew the first two films inside out.

How did you help them find their place in such a company?

Once the process of a film is launched – and this whatever its budget – you enter a bubble impermeable to external noises. Adil and Bilall were very focused on their goals. I told them : “Above all, don’t try to make a Michael Bay film, you won’t succeed!“If I hired them it was precisely for their specificity, their way of moving their camera, the color of their images, their humor… If you look closely at the structure of Bad Boys for Life, you will see that from one scene to another the heroes advance and retreat. This created a constant back and forth. These a priori contrary movements give a singular energy to the film. They are not followers of always more but prefer on the contrary to spare the story to better work the emotion. It’s “ying and yang” cinema.

Bad Boys for Life: A failed comeback [Critique]

Did Michael Bay have a say in the film?

Absolutely not. He has a house in Miami, he was around when we were filming. I asked him to come by to make an appearance. After all, these are his characters… He came, he left…

Why make a reboot of this saga today?

But we’ve been trying for 20 years! Former Sony execs weren’t thrilled with the idea of ​​a sequel. It took a change of management in 2018 to finally find people motivated by the project. Then, Will and Martin had to be available at the same time.

Have things gotten tougher in Hollywood compared to when you started in the 80s?

No, it’s the same as before, even simpler…

That’s to say ?

Before, you only addressed one type of audience: moviegoers. Today, with the rise of platforms and cable channels, the field of possibilities has widened. You just have to adapt your projects according to where it will be broadcast.

If we stay on the field of cinema and therefore of the room, the way of envisaging a blockbuster is no longer the same. Disney’s dominance has almost cannibalized everything else…

You have to fight to exist. So what ? It is the essence of this profession. If I had to tackle the universe of superheroes, I would also make green screen films. However, they are made by others and it works, so I’m not going to get into that. On the other hand, making films that take place today, in real shots, I know how to do. Bad Boys for Life was thought of like that. As Top Gun: Maverick where we asked the comedians – Tom Cruise in the lead – to fly for real in the fighter jets.

bad boys and Top Gun, this are brands…

That’s another problem. Yeah, studios these days want to buy things they already know so I pitch them projects accordingly. The public reacts no differently. If a spectator moves in a movie theater and likes to find himself in the middle of a crowd, it is above all to share a special moment. The idea of ​​finding Mike and Marcus excites them, they want to gather around them. At least, I hope so. On the other hand, for less obvious projects, a producer can turn to streaming platforms. It’s pretty ideal as a system…

What still motivates you after more than forty years of career?

Entertain people! It’s the only thing I like and know how to do. The spectator sits for two hours, he travels, forgets his problems… That’s what I try to offer him.

You would rather be remembered as the producer of the Solitaire by Michael Mann or that ofArmageddon of Michael Bay?

Both of course! There are different ways to take people elsewhere. When you start producing a film you don’t know if it will be a blockbuster. If I had to make a movie like The solitary today, I would go straight to see Netflix or Amazon…

Michael Bay: “Ever since Bad Boys, critics have hated my style”

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