Pearl Harbor's Top Gun

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Flashdance was the first collaboration between Bruckheimer and Simpson, a former Paramount executive. Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun made them legends. Also legendary was Simpson's voracious appetite for drugs. "You knew it was coming," says Bruckheimer of his partner's 1996 overdose. "It's amazing that he lived as long as he did." Simpson had been considered the duo's creative force, but since his death, Bruckheimer has proved himself with low-budget winners and big-budget blockbusters. Last year he pulled in nearly $280 million at domestic theaters with Gone in Sixty Seconds, Coyote Ugly and Remember the Titans. He has also scored on TV with the crime drama CSI.

"Jerry is still making movies that Don would have loved, but he's interested in doing other things," says Kathy Nelson, Bruckheimer's music consultant and supervisor since 1984. Indeed, Bruckheimer, who is surprisingly soft-spoken for a man whose movies are so loud, has begun working with more established directors such as Joel Schumacher and Ridley Scott. He has even thought of directing himself. But there's one thing about Bruckheimer that won't change. "My biggest thrill is when I sit in a theater and watch people laugh and cry and cheer," he says. "You start with a little idea and make it happen and watch it explode." Pearl Harbor may be loud enough to drown out the critics.

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