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Manhattan Magic: Jerry Bruckheimer’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice Comes to Town

No marching brooms, cartoon mice, dragons or robotic tentacles: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel and Alfred Molina star in Jerry Bruckheimer’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Jerry Bruckheimer may be the most soft-spoken, least bombastic man in Hollywood.

Not to mention one of the most conservatively dressed. Wearing a trim grey suit and tie, he showed up at a midtown screening room earlier this month to share a pair of scenes from his upcoming summer popcorn movie The Sorcerer’s Apprentice for an audience of appreciative geeks.

How to Train Your Dragon’s Jay Baruchel is the apprentice and just about every third movie’s Nicolas Cage the sorcerer. As ‘Balthazar Blake’ (uh-huh), Cage gives a wonderfully screwloose performance. (You’ve probably already seen the trailer where Baruchel screams “are you insane?!” to which Cage responds with a ‘just a little’ thumb and forefinger gesture). Baruchel (who’s easily filling Shia LaBeouf’s shoes as the latest adolescent-to-young-adult action movie hero) is suitably dumbstruck at the wizard’s world that waits inside a Soho storefront. (I looked up and down Crosby Street the other day but could not find the “Arcana Cabana;” however I did come across an equally old-timey storefront with a huge “Wong’s Mystical Emporium” banner flying overhead. Unless the film crew guys were pulling my leg, it’s an exterior for the upcoming live-action Smurfs movie. (Hey, if the Muppets can take Manhattan, why not those little blue mini-Na-vi’s?))

Alfred Molina, sans Doc Ock’s tentacles is Cage’s nemesis Maxim Horvath. Their head-to-head battles were a noisy, nifty blend of high-end CGI spellcasting and toss-the-stuntmen around physical combat. (And when are they gonna make the Doctor Strange movie I’ve been waiting for for more decades than I care to admit?)

Bruckheimer hung around for a bit of Q&A after the screening; a few excerpts thereof:

How did you know this project would appeal to Nic Cage?

Nic came to me with this. He and Todd Garner [the movie’s executive producer] came to us with a script and we worked on it with them. Nic was already committed to the film, which was much easier than chasing him.

On casting Molina as the villain after his turn as Doctor Octopus:

Alfred Molina is wonderful actor. He has a sense of humor and always has a wink in his eye. He doesn’t go to his trailer after his scenes, he hangs out on the set with everyone. In Prince of Persia [another Bruckheimer production] he plays a rogue sheik. We like to use actors over and over again like a touring company – they’re so much fun to work with and they’re good at what they do.

Did you think about a 3D release?

I did, but Disney didn’t. It would’ve been expensive and Avatar hadn’t come out yet, so they didn’t know the appeal of 3D. They changed their tune with [Burton’s] Alice. Also I wasn’t sure how good a conversion to 3D would work out – I heard Clash of the Titans wasn’t that good in 3D. We did G-Force in 3D with Disney – but that was lot of animation so it was easier to do.

The conversions are getting better. I think you’ll see movies partially shot in 3D and the rest converted to 3D. The technology is getting better and better, the cameras are getting lighter. We’re discussing doing the next Pirates in 3D.

That morning the radio reported Disney had cut Bruckheimer’s budget for the upcoming Pirates sequel by two-thirds – down to a mere $200 million.

I never made a movie that the studio didn’t want it for less, that goes on all the time. I’ve never turned in a budget the studio was happy with.

The movie is loosely based on the Fantasia sequence; are you going to keep using unorthodox sources?

Everybody thought we were nuts with Pirates of the Caribbean, you couldn’t turn a theme park ride into movie, but if you have terrific ideas and wonderful writers you can do anything.

Are you thinking of sequels to this movie?

If the audience shows up I’m sure Disney will come to me and say, “hey let’s do another.”

Joe Strike's picture

Joe Strike has written about animation for numerous publications. He is the author of Furry Nation: The True Story of America's Most Misunderstood Subculture.