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They finally got to work together - on a war movie. And on the promotional tour that accompanies its release. Jerry Bruckheimer, one of the most successful producers in Hollywood and Ridley Scott, one of England’s most successful exported filmmakers, talk to Andrew L. Urban.

Jerry Bruckheimer and Ridley Scott were originally set to meet me for interviews separately, one after the other. Then together. But on the day, it was a bit of each; first Bruckheimer arrived, at the tail end of a mobile phone conversation. He actually said “a good deal” before hanging up, which I thought was sooooo Hollywood.

"a war movie with a difference"

Ridley Scott was finishing a call of his own elsewhere, and joined in a short time later, his fat, trademark cigar filling the room with the atmos of Cuba. Scott was in casual T shirt, Bruckheimer in a suit that tried to avoid looking like a suit, tie missing.

Bruckheimer has worked with Ridley’s brother Tony, several times, but not with Ridley. Until now. Ridley Scott has not directed a war movie before; Bruckheimer produced Pearl Harbor.

But Black Hawk Down is not a Pearl Harbor; this is a war movie with a difference. Black Hawk Down is the story of a short urban battle, fought in the dirty streets of Mogadishu in 1993. It should have been short; it actually lasted horrific18 hours. Both men wanted to make the film for the sake of telling the world all about this relatively small but tragic incident. “I didn’t know much about the subject matter,” says Bruckheimer, a wiry man in his mid 50s, looking trim and successful. “I saw the two US soldiers being dragged through the street [on news reports at the time] and nothing else. And the media called it a debacle. I didn’t.”

He chose Ridley Scott for the simplest reason: talent. He calls Scott “one of our greatest living directors.” But, he says, he “couldn’t convince him to work with me before.” But now Scott has taken to Bruckheimer, it seems, and quotes the producer’s favourite way of describing his work: “Jerry’s got this great line, he says he’s in the transport business – transporting audiences …”

"I was surprised to discover that women like the film" Jerry Bruckheimer

With box office money and accolades rolling in, Bruckheimer is not only pleased; he’s proud of the film. And he’s pushing every angle. “I was surprised to discover that women like the film,” he says in his economical, focused way of speaking. “Of course many women have had lovers, husbands, brothers and fathers go off to fight, and when they come back home, they never talk about it. In this film, the women can get a real sense of what it’s like . . .”

For Ridley Scott that reality of what it’s like was a real attraction. He shot it like he was a war correspondent covering for television. “It was the only way to do it.” And as Bruckheimer says, “The news media is an inch deep and a mile wide and can’t go into depth. This is an event we felt should not be forgotten.” But Scott’s enthusiasm tends to contradict this objective. He maintains that the objective was to simply tell the events as observers, avoiding the issues for the most part. When I raise a remark made by an English film writer, that “the film lacks moral context or concern” Scott says the man has missed the point of the film. “The whole point of the film was to show this is what happened. No answers.” He goes on to describe the men who join the special forces as a rare breed, “young men not corrupted by politics.” And throughout the film, we get a sense that Ridley Scott admires these men and sees them not as heroes so much as incredibly loyal buddies in battle.

Scott says the film portrays the futility of war accurately: “There’s no good guy bad guy and no satisfactory outcomes. To me, it’s a typical scenario of war, so for me it’s a powerful war movie: the end result is a lot of death.”

After giving Russell Crowe world wide Gladiator status, was casting another Australian, Eric Bana, intentional or coincidental. “It’s a coincidence that he’s an Australian. He has an interesting presence and being a comedian, to pull off that portrayal of Chopper, and to have that continuity, suggested to me there’s a thinking man at work.”

"He’s pretty formidable…" Ridley Scott on Russell Crowe

Presence and intelligence are what appeals to Scott in actors, and he finds Russell Crowe has both in spades. “Russell has got all those things, and on top of that he’s unusually inquisitive, which is usually a sign of high intelligence. He’s pretty formidable…”

For Scott, picking actors with that something, that presence, is part of the filmmaking process he loves so much; and he’s pretty good at it. “The hardest thing is chosing the material and then getting it onto paper as a blueprint for all the departments on the shoot.” With Black Hawk Down, Scott managed that task pretty well. Will the film make a difference? “I’d hesitate to say,” he says squinting through the cigar smoke.

Published February 28, 2002

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Scott & Bruckheimer

Black Hawk Down
Australian release, February 21, 2002


On the set of Pearl Harbor with director Michael Bay

Selected filmography:
Pearl Harbor
Gone in 60 Seconds
Crimson Tide
Days of Thunder
Top Gun
Beverly Hills Cop


On the set of Gladiator with Russell Crowe

Selected filmography:
GI Jane
Thelma & Louise
Black Rain
Blade Runner

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