Connect with us


‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Producer Jerry Bruckheimer Reflects on His First Oscar Nomination: “Anybody Who Is in Our Business Would Love to Be Honored by Their Peers”



“You saved Hollywood’s ass.” That’s what Steven Spielberg told his fellow best picture nominee Tom Cruise at the Oscars Nominees Luncheon on Feb. 13, a remark that was captured in a now-viral video clip. And while Cruise’s star power and producing muscle played a major part in Top Gun: Maverick‘s success — it was the top-grossing film of 2022 and resuscitated theatrical distribution from a pandemic-driven coma — another key player was Jerry Bruckheimer, the producing giant who helped catapult the original Top Gun into cinemas nearly four decades ago. Now, at 79, Bruckheimer has earned his first Oscar nomination for best picture, proving that a box office megahit can compete in the Oscar race alongside the critical darlings — especially since Maverick managed to be both all at once.

After decades of making movies, this is your first Oscar nom. Was this always a career goal for you?

I think anybody who is in our business would love to be honored by their peers, people whom we make movies with, people we make movies for and people who understand our business. So it’s really an honor. And, you know, I’m not young anymore. I don’t have many more shots.

I read an interview in which you said you try very hard not to anticipate a movie’s success while you are making it. With Top Gun: Maverickwhen did you sit back and say to yourself, “We pulled it off”?

I think the Sunday after it opened. It’s all about the audience. We can fall in love with a movie and nobody else likes it. We make them for audiences; we make them for people to be entertained and educated and take their troubles away for a couple hours — forget about their kids and the neighbor and their mother-in-law and all those things that you think about. [Producing partner] Don Simpson used to say we were in the transportation business: We transport you from one place to another. Top Gun: Maverick did that

It’s been seen as a savior for the theatrical experience. What about this film connected with audiences and made them want to return to theaters to see it?

First of all, fathers took their sons to the first one. The sons now took their sons to the second one. But I think it’s always about the emotion. It’s always about the character development, the journey the characters go through. It’s that journey that the audience goes on with our characters, through Maverick’s eyes. [They get to] live his life for a couple of hours, all the trials and tribulations that he goes through. And it’s just so brilliantly acted — everybody’s so believable. It’s the kind of movie that the Academy, thank God, recognized, because it’s what we intended to do with the best of the best. The people who worked on this movie are all fantastic. They’re all Academy members. The fact is we have a lot of young actors and [voters] in the actors branch, [and the film obviously resonated with them]. There were parts for older actors, too; it’s great to honor some of the great actors that have been around a while. And also the technicians, from our cinematographer [Claudio Miranda] To the sound team, to Lady Gaga — all of the people who worked to make this movie the success it became, they’re all representing the craftspeople in the Academy who make movies happen.

There was obviously a large gap of time in between Top Gun and Maverick, and, as you said, nostalgia for the original played a part in the sequel’s success. But did you feel like you couldn’t simply rely on that emotion, that you still had to do something forward-thinking and propulsive?

We certainly gave nods to the first movie because it was a cherished film. And it’s a movie that propelled Tom’s career into superstardom around the world. And Joe Kosinski honored [the late Top Gun director] Tony Scott in the way he shot it — he certainly captured that. And that’s part of the style, the way Claudio [shot it]. The initial audience that came in to see it was a little skeptical because they loved the first one so much. But as soon as that first gong [in Harold Faltermeyer’s score] went off and the jets took off, they relaxed and said, “OK, I think we’ll be in for a ride.” And they were.

The first film had a major impact on the home video market. Did that influence the way you produced films, in the sense that you started thinking more about how differently it would look at home on TV?

Not at all. We make movies for the big screen and try to make them as the best visual, sound and dramatic experiences that we can give an audience. And that translates really well, obviously, to other mediums.

How important is the theatrical experience for you personally? Was going to the theater what made you want to make movies in the first place?

One hundred percent. I used to remember when I was a kid and went to the Saturday matinees, and I loved watching those characters on that screen. I always thought about all that magic and how I could be a part of it. I knew I could never be an actor — I’m not good in front of the camera. But I found an area that I’m good at and stuck with it.

You not only brought back Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, but you have a fresh class of young actors playing a new cohort of Top Gun pilots. What were the challenges in finding the right people for those roles?

There’s a lot of talent in this town, and you’ve got to sift through it and find the right ones. Plus, they were put through physical challenges to make this movie. Tom said they all had to be able to get in an F-18 and be able to have what they call G tolerance, which means they had to go through three or four months of training in various different jets to be able to withstand the seven or eight G forces they undertook while they made the movie. Those expressions on their faces were all real. They learned a lot, and some of them became pilots afterwards. But we had actors walk in and say, “You’re going to do this on a gimbal, right? Because I don’t like to fly.” You have to give real, I guess, awards to the actors that went through this whole process because it was grueling.

It does sound like quite the commitment. Even just being able to evoke emotion in a performance while flying a jet and being filmed in such tight spaces sounds like an extreme challenge.

They had to do their own makeup on the plane. They had to turn the camera [in the plane] on. They had to know where the sun was to match some of their earlier shots. So there was a lot going on in their mind besides acting. There were their own technicians in the planes. They’re up there in the sky for a couple of hours. And if it didn’t work, they went right back up to do it again. They were soaking wet [when they’d land], and a lot of them were nauseous. But they stuck with it, and you see the results.

There’s frequent debate about the types of films that are honored by the Academy, with some feeling like it prioritizes artier fare over popular films, but this year’s best picture lineup includes blockbusters. Why do you think? Maverick was able to achieve this honor while other films like it failed to do so?

It’s a movie that brought an audience — particularly an older audience — back to theaters. And it gives hope to anyone [that] they’ll be able to make movies that go in theaters. It was one of the best-reviewed movies of the year, so that’s another plus. It was the highest-grossing movie of the year. And it applauds Hollywood — it applauds our technicians, our actors, our writers and our directors, who do the best and make movies for the world.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

This story first appeared in a Feb. stand-alone issue of The News84Media magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Check the latest Hollywood news here.