UPDATED: Paramount Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer are back in business together, with the free-agent producer and his Bruckheimer Films finalizing a three-year first-look deal with the studio that will begin in April 2014. “I have a lot more freedom than at Disney,” Bruckheimer told me today. Clearly, he’s referring to the fact that he can take projects elsewhere to develop if need be, something he couldn’t do at Disney. He also cited Paramount’s strong marketing and distribution team and said he was impressed with how well they handled the Brad Pitt zombie movie World War Z when the going got rough in the press.
In September, Disney announced it would not renew its first-look with one of the few brand-name producers in town — the one who begat the mega-successful Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise. That decision came as the studio said it would have to write down as much as $190 million from losses tied to The Lone Ranger, the big-budget pic from Bruckheimer that failed to pop at the box office. Bruckheimer’s films have earned a combined $16 billion over the years, with 19 of his movies topping $100 million mark in U.S. box office receipts. His deal with Disney was about the most expensive in the business, with generous overhead, 7-figure producing fees and gross.
Bruckheimer will not have a discretionary fund at Paramount.
Projects he set up at Disney will remain there until they pass on them. One of the projects Bruckheimer will take with him is Shake, a cat-and-mouse thriller about and FBI agent who is bringing in a serial killer when an earthquake happens and the killer gets loose.
The first project under the new deal, however, will be a new Beverly Hills Cop movie — a reboot of one of Bruckheimer and Paramount’s biggest successes together when he produced the original with late partner Don Simpson. Eddie Murphy closed his deal to reprise his role as Detroit cop Axel Foley — this time Foley will be returning to his Detroit roots. It will be the fourth installment of the lucrative franchise. Brett Ratner, who is currently finishing up Hercules for MGM, is attached to direct the film as soon as his duties on the Dwayne Johnson-starrer finishes up. The picture bows in July. The Beverly Hills Cop script is still being worked on.
Another big Bruckheimer-Simpson-Paramount hit in their sights: Bruckheimer as part of his deal will also produce the long-in-the-works Top Gun 2, which is being developed by Skydance Productions with Tom Cruise back in the cockpit to star.
The production deal brings another heavy hitter into the Paramount mix with Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Michael Bay, David Ellison and J.J. Abrams already there.
“Jerry Bruckheimer is one of the most creative and prolific producers in motion picture history,” said Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Brad Grey in a prepared statement. “His signature style has attracted huge global audiences and we are thrilled to have him back in the Paramount family.” Bruckheimer and Simpson had parted ways with Paramount after producing 1990’s Days Of Thunder.
Bruckheimer had been negotiating with Warner Bros — where he has a lucrative TV production deal — and Paramount. Warner Bros dropped out of the running earlier this week.