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And he's able to make the world's best B movies without condescending to the audience. "On CSI I told them to use the correct terminology even if the audience doesn't know it," says Bruckheimer, "because even if they don't understand it, they'll know it's real." These days, his instinct for what excites audiences is eerily perfect. People may mock Kangaroo Jack, but it opened as the No. 1 film in the U.S. "It was fascinating to watch him watch a tape and know in 15 seconds if an actor has the charisma and naturalism for a part," says Hank Steinberg, the creator of Without a Trace. "His instincts were right on the money every time."
Although he doesn't show up at writers' meetings, surprisingly Bruckheimer does get involved in the details of each show. In between meetings about marketing his movies, he reads every outline and script and watches each daily and edit. He gives his notes only by telephone or in person, never in writing, as most producers do. ("Personal contact is good. We try to boost up the people who work here.") And he doesn't yell. That's because screaming was the bailiwick of his old partner Don Simpson, who played the completely insane cop to Bruckheimer's laid-back cop until he died of a cocaine overdose in 1996. Bruckheimer has never made the Jungian leap to taking over Simpson's role, remaining oddly calm for an action-movie producer. "There are very few people in this business who are men of their word," says LaPaglia. "Most people waffle and bulls___ you. He has been nothing but straight up. He hasn't promised me anything he can't deliver, and he returns my phone calls. In this day and age, you can't ask for more."