Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, the producers who brought you "Top Gun," "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Flashdance," have moved their tent to the Walt Disney Co. -- specifically, the still-new Hollywood Pictures division. This new alliance could serve the interests of science by revealing what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.
Last year Paramount Pictures renewed its contract with Simpson and Bruckheimer amid all sorts of fanfare, but that deal abruptly collapsed just months later. The friction occurred during and after the shooting of the duo's latest, "Days of Thunder." In a nutshell, Paramount reportedly was perturbed that the producers spent something like $60 million on what turned out to be a box-office disappointment, and the producers reportedly were distressed because they thought the studio had rushed them into making the film. When the film didn't perform to expectations, the studio took the unusual step of asking the producers to return some of their share of the gross profits. The producers declined and packed their bags.
This new deal reunites Simpson and Bruckheimer with a cadre of executives that formerly ran Paramount (several of them worked for Simpson when he was head of production at Paramount). Those executives regrouped at a then-faltering Disney, where their success is legendary. Also approaching legend is studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg's penchant for keeping a tight grip -- not to say stranglehold -- on budgets and filmmakers' creative decisions.
Simpson and Bruckheimer are coming off a deal at Paramount that allowed them to green-light their own movies -- within certain budget limits -- and exercise creative control. It makes for an interesting mix.
But Katzenberg says Simpson and Bruckheimer "have earned the right to have greater latitude of creative freedom and have chosen to accept a real responsibility for these movies." In bottom-line terms, that seems to mean that the deal calls for Disney to cover its costs on each film before Simpson and Bruckheimer get their cut of the profit. The quid pro quo is that the producers get a heftier-than-usual share of the profit -- if there is one -- once the costs are covered.
Simpson and Bruckheimer no longer have carte blanche to pick their movies, but the deal isn't exclusive and they can shop anything Disney doesn't want elsewhere. The producers no longer get a cut of the gross from the first dollar, but they get more of the take if the take is big. Simpson says the deal "is much fairer" to everyone involved than the arrangement at Paramount and besides, the environment is better. "It's nice to go to work with people who you know are on your side," he says. "These guys are friends of ours."
The deal is expected to cover five pictures over five years. No one will reveal details or say when the world can expect the next Simpson-and-Bruckheimer project.
The Gulf in Movies
One movie got a new title, a new ad line, a new set of villains and new plot details. It's all part of Hollywood's attempt, depending on your point of view, to exploit the Persian Gulf conflict for commercial gain or to reflect these stormy times.
For instance, pointed out Daily Variety in a survey of gulf-related films, 21st Century Film Corp. chief Menahem Golan is making a movie called "S.E.A.L.S." that deals with a Navy SEALs unit on assignment in the Middle East. Now the film has a different title, "Desert Shield," and a new plot line that takes its heroes -- including Rob Lowe -- into an Iraq munitions stockpile. In a similar vein, "Shield of Honor," a film from veteran low-budget-movie kingpin Roger Corman, has changed the nationality of its bad guys -- in the original script they were Libyans, but now they're Iraqis. Details that reflect the crisis have been added to "Target USA," which deals with terrorists -- Iraqis, naturally -- who invade an American city. And although the low-budget action film "Hangfire" was in the can and couldn't be amended to reflect the current situation, there was still time to change its advertising: The first ads for the movie, which opened in a limited engagement last Friday, includes the line "Saddam Hussein Watch Out."