Jerry Bruckheimer talks Detroit and Hollywood with Jalen Rose
It may be controversial, but I strongly believe that Detroit produces the best talent. Or in this case, it produced the best film and television producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, who noted in this week’s “Renaissance Man” that he is a great spotter of talent himself.
Who can argue with Jerry, who went from the Northwest area of the city to making some of the biggest blockbusters in Hollywood. His hits include “Bad Boys,” “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Remember the Titans,” “Top Gun” and its sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick,” which hits theaters next week. He’s a big Detroit Tigers and Red Wings fan, so naturally his recipe for success started to emerge early in those sports. But not necessarily with his own athleticism — he was more like an amateur GM.
“There are a lot of things I’d like to do, but I’m not good at them,” he told me. “I found something that I was good at when I was a kid. I was like 10 years old. I put together a baseball team. I took all the neighborhood kids, I got a sponsor and we had a little team at the local sandlot.
“And later on, I put together a hockey team … In fact, I’m a part owner of the Seattle Kraken. but [early on] I had a gift of putting talented people together. So my talent is knowing talent.”
It’s a simple sentiment, but he’s behind many a Tinseltown career. He helped launch Eddie Murphy into another showbiz stratosphere with “Beverly Hills Cop” and worked with A-lister Tom Cruise on a few films. And he has some “Top Gun” stories about Tom — his incredible preparation and iron constitution.
“We put our actors in jets and F-14s, and we had one camera in there. Unfortunately, every actor threw up because they couldn’t handle the G-force. Except for Tom.”
For the sequel, Cruise devised a plan where all the actors would train for three months on different aircraft.
“We put them in a prop plane first, just to [get the] feel of flying. Then they put [the actors on] an aerobatic prop plane so they can turn them upside down. Then they put them in a jet so they could really feel some G-force, and finally they put them in the F-14. So by the time they got into the F-18, they were more accustomed to the G-force” — which, Jerry added, is seven times your body weight or “like an elephant sitting on your chest.”
“They’re grunting and groaning. They’re feeling the pain. And when they got on the ground, they were all soaking wet. Including the pilots. We had the best Topgun pilots in the world flying our actors. And yet it’s so difficult. It’s unbelievable.” So no wonder Tom trains like an athlete, Jerry said.
It’s incredible that the movie is finally here. It took years and a few attempts to make it happen. About five years ago, Jerry and the director Joe Kosinski flew to Paris where Tom was filming “Mission: Impossible” and they presented him with the idea.
“And Tom was so excited by it. He picked up the phone and called the head of the studio and said, ‘I’m going to make another “Top Gun.”’ They were delighted,” said Jerry, who added that it was delayed by another two years because of the pandemic.
I’ve seen it, and yes, it will make you feel the need for speed.
However, one of Jerry’s next projects made me want to sport a certain Detroit Lions jacket and crank up “Axel F”: Another “Beverly Hills Cop” sequel starring the great Eddie Murphy is in the works.
“It’s not a movie yet, but we’re working on it and we hope to start filming it end of the summer,” he said.
After all, Axel Foley was a cop in our hometown. As a kid, I loved that Detroit played a starring role, but I had no idea the producer was a proud native infusing the film with authentic nods to the city. None was more authentic than late homicide detective and politician Gil Hill, who was a friend of my mother’s and a local celebrity. During a scouting trip, they met the legendary Gil and cast him in the movie as a police inspector.
“We met this gentleman named Gil Hill, who was an inspector [with Detroit PD]and he was so vibrant and so interesting and just had a great look about him and was so knowledgeable that [director] Marty [Brest] said, ‘We’re going to use him in the movie.’ And he turned [out to be] a terrific actor and great friend and did a lot of good for us.”
But he also reflected on casting Eddie in the 1984 flick, which was a revolutionary act at the time.
“They said, ‘You can’t put an African American to carry a movie by yourself. The only person ever did that was Richard Pryor, and he only did $25 million.’ ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ … did $235 million. For an R-rated movie in the United States … the only movie that beat it was ‘The Hangover.’”
And that, my friends, is what you call a winning record.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.