Jerry Bruckheimer on the highest-tested movie of his career: 'I couldn't believe it'

Jerry Bruckheimer on the highest-tested movie of his career: 'I couldn't believe it'

The Hollywood institution behind "Top Gun," "Pirates of the Caribbean," and more discusses "Young Woman and the Sea."

As the story goes, screenwriter Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can, The Lion King) was looking for a movie for his daughters to watch but couldn't find anything. So he decided to make one himself.

He went to a used bookstore and stumbled upon Young Woman and the Sea, author Glenn Stout's biography of Olympic medalist Gertrude "Trudy" Ederle, who became the first woman to swim the English Channel. Nathanson then brought the book to a Hollywood institution, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, with whom he worked prior on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Together, they embarked on a voyage to get it to the screen with director Joachim Rønning in tow.

That was all nine years ago. Today, their final product, Young Woman and the Sea, which opens in theaters this weekend from Walt Disney Pictures, stands as the highest-tested movie of Bruckheimer's career. "I couldn't believe it," Bruckheimer tells Entertainment Weekly about that early praise from test screenings. "You feel it in the audience. You feel that they're with it. They're not moving around a lot, and then you get the laughter and the applause and the sniffles. I felt we had something."

<p>Courtesy of Disney</p>

Courtesy of Disney

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Starring Daisy Ridley of Star Wars fame as Trudy, Young Woman and the Sea chronicles the athlete's life, from her miraculous recovery from measles at a young age, to her struggles to learn how to swim at a time when it wasn't considered normal for a woman to do so, to her Olympic adventures, to her history-shaping decision to swim across the English Channel.

Throughout his career, Bruckheimer found consistent value in setting up test screenings to gauge audience feedback and see what needed to be tweaked before his films hit theaters. When they tested 1998's Armageddon, he recalls how the women in attendance were peeved that Ben Affleck's blue-collar oil driller turned astronaut A.J. Frost didn't give his girlfriend, Liv Tyler's Grace Stamper, an engagement ring. "So we went out and shot Ben giving her an engagement ring, putting it on her finger," Bruckheimer recalls.

Similarly, when they tested 1995's Dangerous Minds, he remembers how everyone in the theater, except for perhaps five people, walked out. The early cut of the film featured a romantic storyline for Michelle Pfeiffer's LouAnne Johnson, a former Marine who became a high school teacher. "The audience didn't care about that. We cut the whole thing," Bruckheimer says. "Andy Garcia was her boyfriend, and they didn't like that story. They wanted the story about the classroom and the kids."

<p>Frank Masi/Sony</p> Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in 'Bad Boys: Ride or Die'

Frank Masi/Sony

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in 'Bad Boys: Ride or Die'

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According to the producer, the only other movie of his to score anywhere close to Young Woman and the Sea from these top-secret showcases was Bad Boys: Ride or Die, the next Bad Boys film with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence that hits theaters June 5. But even then, they needed to tweak things to get that rating.

"It started out at 71 and ended up with a 96 or 97," he says. "We think we're smart. We show it to an audience, and they tell us you didn't get it at all. So we listen to what they tell us and try to make the movie as good as we can make it."

The process was much simpler for Young Woman and the Sea. "I tell you, it tested so high, there wasn't much at all," Bruckheimer reveals.

"I didn't realize that it resonated not only with women but with men who were like 97," he continues. "It's pretty extraordinary when you hit it like that... We felt it was a great story, but [about] a character you've never heard of who accomplished an amazing feat against all odds. She set the path for so many female athletes of today. She broke the barriers. She showed women are tough and as strong as men. She broke the record for swimming the channel and beat the men's record by two hours. She slammed 35 miles in that freezing water. It's unbelievable what she did."

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.