The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Jerry Bruckheimer
Jerry Bruckheimer © Disney Enterprises, Inc and Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Jon Turteltaub, the team behind the National Treasure franchise, are now introducing what they hope will be a new movie franchise, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Based on the short segment in the 1940 iconic animated movie Fantasia, which cast Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer’s apprentice, eager to demonstrate his own magical powers by ordering old broomsticks, which grow two arms, to carry water and do his chores, Bruckheimer and Turteltaub are bringing a new twist to the story for the 21st century.

Set in New York City, Nicolas Cage portrays Balthazar Blake, a master sorcerer from the time of Merlin, trying to defend the city from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). But he can’t do it alone, and he recruits Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a seemingly average geek who demonstrated hidden potential, as his reluctant protégé.

What makes a great movie?

Jerry Bruckheimer: For me it’s always the screenplay. It’s always to get a terrific screenplay and layer the characters and have a terrific plot and themes going through it. That’s always the hardest thing.

What was your biggest challenge while making this movie?

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Nicolas Cage and Director Jon Turteltaub
Nicolas Cage and Director Jon Turteltaub © Disney Enterprises, Inc and Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc

Jon Turteltaub: The amount of special effects made it very difficult. It was the first movie I think all of us have done with this many special effects. So you have to be much more prepared and know exactly what you want, because you have to be very specific with the special effects.

And then actors have to act, pretending to be chased by giant dragons or scary monsters without there actually being a dragon or a scary monster there. So you have to do a lot of planning and prepare yourself.

With the emphasis on 3D, and with so many wonderful 3D movies coming out, this seemed perfect for 3D. Why is it you chose not to make it 3D?

Jon Turteltaub: We didn’t choose. Do you want us to give you the honest answer? Are we allowed to do that in this day and age?

Jerry Bruckheimer: Yeah, be honest.

Jon Turteltaub: We went to Disney two and a half years ago, and said, ’This is a perfect 3D movie.’ And they said, ‘Oh that’s silly. No one is doing 3D and it’s a waste of money.’ True story. So there you go.

Can you talk about the magic that Nicolas Cage brings to the character of Balthazar?

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Nicolas Cage
Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) © Disney Enterprises, Inc and Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc

Jon Turteltaub: Nic is a powerful presence as a person. He has an intensity and there’s something very strong and masculine about him actually that you feel when you’re around him.

It was really important that this sorcerer be a daunting and intimidating figure. You always feel safest I think around the dangerous person who’s on your side, more than the nice, good person who’s on your side.

Nic really was able to bring all that without losing that sensitivity and heart and a sense of goodness, because that’s Nic.

You’re remaking one of the biggest film moments (with the animated mop scene) in movie history – what was that process like?

Jon Turteltaub: I think the big fear comes from fear of (critics) actually. I don’t think we go into it worried that the audience will be too judgmental of our place in movie history. They just want us to make a really good movie.

The way the movie is going to be talked about by the press and by critics, that’s where we have to be careful, because you’re also going to tell the public whether we succeeded or didn’t.

I think it was always in our mind that it had to be done in a very modern context, but most important I think to all of us is that it had to feel like it was a part of the movie, that it affected the story. It was related to the characters, that it wasn’t just a little scene on its own, or else we could have just cut it out. So that was really the hardest part of it.

Can you talk about building a movie franchise – you’ve done it before with Disney successfully.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Nicolas Cage
Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage) © Disney Enterprises, Inc and Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc

Jerry Bruckheimer: It always comes down to the story you’re telling and the characters that are in it. It’s always, what is your theme and what is your point-of-view on that particular story? You need a good idea at the core of it, that’s why Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a great idea.

It’s based on something that’s classical. We built the whole movie around one sequence basically. Then you have to populate it with a great director, you have to have great writers and then the actors are the ones who fulfill everybody’s vision of what we dreamed of as we were developing the project.

That’s the easiest and the hardest thing to do. It’s easy to come up with an idea; it’s really hard to put it all together. And when you finally do put it together then it’s up to the audience and up to (critics) what they feel about it. If the audience embraces the idea, then you have a franchise, if not, you don’t.

We got the news this week you started production on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – how is that going and are you noticing any differences with Rob Marshall directing?

Jerry Bruckheimer: It’s going very well, we’re in Kauai, we’ve finished out first week and into our second week, and Rob is doing an amazing job, and Johnny couldn’t be happier playing Captain Jack again. He fell right into the character and he’s going to give (the character) some new twists and turns which you’re going to love.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.