Jerry Bruckheimer Honored With American Cinematheque Award

Jerry Bruckheimer - H 2013

UPDATED: At a star-studded gala in the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the veteran producer was lauded for his blockbuster movies and hit TV series, and for remaining “just a guy with his hand in the popcorn.”

Although he is the first movie producer to be honored by the American Cinematheque in the 27-year history of the prestigious award, Jerry Bruckheimer in his acceptance speech said he would not be there if not for the talents of directors, writers, actors, his crews and even lawyers, studio executives, agents and the team at his production company.

“They are all part of a creative family whose talent makes me look good -- and whose friendship I treasure," said Bruckheimer. "Each and every one of them has played an important part in my career.”

PHOTOS: Jerry Bruckheimer's Biggest Box Office Movies for Disney

It was a compliment that reflected the feelings about Bruckheimer expressed by actors, directors, composers and others during a clip-heavy tribute at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Thursday evening. It covered everything from his growing up in Detroit to his early partnership with the late Don Simpson to his blockbuster movies such as Pirates Of The Caribbean, Black Hawk Down, Armageddon, National Treasure and Beverly Hills Cop.

Bruce Willis, who presented the award to Bruckheimer, said, “If you are an actor who is lucky enough to be in one of his movies, he is the rainmaker who makes everybody happy and he makes everybody part of his film. He looks after his crews. He looks after his actors and everybody on the film. That’s what he does and he does it really great.”

For all his accomplishments, Willis said Bruckheimer thinks of himself as “just a guy with his hand in the popcorn.”

“His impact on the entertainment industry goes without saying,” said Sir Ben Kingsley, “but I’m here to tell you his influence on performers goes even deeper. While it's true Jerry’s films are full of action and thrills, to me he has never been given appropriate credit for all the magnificent roles and opportunities that he creates for us actors.”

PHOTOS: Johnny Depp at 50: The Superstar's Life and Career in Pictures

Johnny Depp, in a pre-recorded message, recalled when he first was cast in Pirates of the Caribbean and his take on the character of Captain Jack Sparrow baffled the executives at Disney. “I felt like Vesuvius was about to come down on us,” said Depp, “and all this hellfire and brimstone from the hoity toity types at Disney [wanted to fire me]."

“Jerry was right there for me and protected me and the film,” recalled Depp. “A lot of people at Disney would have liked to see me replaced, fired. They were talking about putting subtitles in for Captain Jack; and they didn’t understand what the character was or who he was, why he was, and why I was playing him that way, so they were quite upset. Jerry stood by me the whole way, as did Dick Cook from Disney and we got through.”

“On every single film he’s the great protector,” said Depp. “He’s quite a force to experience and a very creative force as well. Not your typical Hollywood mogul, as it were.”

The award was especially poignant for Bruckheimer, who earlier this year ended a long association with Disney, where he had been the go-to producer for what the industry calls “tent pole movies,” those high budget, star-driven pictures that get a wide release and gross hundreds of millions of dollars.

However, Bruckheimer’s last big movie for Disney, The Lone Ranger, didn’t do as well as his earlier pictures; and he left for greener pastures. He quickly found a new home at Paramount Pictures. At the awards event, there were many executives from Paramount on hand, including chairman Brad Grey, and some from Disney, including studio president Alan Bergman and head of movie production Sean Bailey.

STORY: Gore Verbinski Reveals Jerry Bruckheimer's Opening Night Ritual

Instead, a parade of stars and top Hollywood creators were there to talk about how special a Bruckheimer movie can be.

Jon Voight described the atmosphere on a Bruckheimer movie: “On all his productions, everyone seems to be in constant harmony and constant happiness.”

While by design most of the evening was about the more than 50 movies Bruckheimer has produced, which have grossed over $11 billion at the worldwide box office, CSI star Marg Helgenberger talked about the 25 TV series he has produced, which she said “changed the face of television.”

“Jerry brings the same dimension of craft and detail to television as he does to his movies. He gives the public things they have not seen before -- exciting cinematic experiences right in their living rooms every single week.”

She said his TV shows are a reflection of Bruckheimer himself: “Smart, elegant, caring and, let’s face it, very cool. For those of us who know Jerry personally, he is a man of few words but very big dreams.”

Helen Mirren called Bruckheimer a “titan of 20th and 21st century film whose films have grossed over $11.2 billion. “But this evening isn’t about how much money he’s made," she joked. “No, honestly, it really isn’t. It's about millions upon millions of people around the world he’s entertained during his lifetime. Jerry Bruckheimer knows how to give an audience what they want.”

Cuba Gooding Jr. praised Bruckheimer for his support of the American military in his movies and in life through his quiet charitable activities. After calling for a moment of silence to honor those who have fallen in the service of their country, Gooding said on a movie set, Bruckheimer is “our commander in chief,” adding: “I’m very proud to be a veteran of Jerry Bruckheimer’s movies.”

In explaining why Bruckheimer is the first producer to be honored by the Cinematheque, the organization’s chairman, Rick Nicita, a veteran agent and producer, said it is because his films “keep our love of movies alive and well,” adding: “Tonight is our chance to thank Jerry for all the enjoyment he has given us.”

The evening was a benefit for the American Cinematheque, which operates two theaters in Southern California that show classic films on big screens, and engages in other programs and activities for film lovers, to preserve cinema for generations to come. The Bruckheimer tribute was recorded and will be edited and aired at a later date.