While doing press rounds for their film Jack Reacher, some of the cast and crew were nice enough to stop by New York City and present themselves for a press conference. While Tom Cruise and Werner Herzog were no where to be found, we were graced by the presence of actress Rosamund Pike, actor David Oyelowo, director Christopher McQuarrie, and novelist Lee Child. What followed was an interesting half and hour where audience members learned how Tom came to star as lead character Jack Reacher, who thought Werner Herzog was perfect for a silent and intimidating role, and how David Oyelowo almost wasn’t in the film at all.
Writer and creator of the Reacher character Lee Child started off the event, as our moderator asked if he’d written his franchise with a film adaptation in mind. “If you write a book with one eye on its eventual screen adaptation, you’re going to end up with a bad book and a bad screenplay. What I do is I write the books, and I throw in whatever I like, and it’s the ultimate power with that responsibility. When it comes to the movie, then it’s somebody else’s problem.” This makes perfect sense because you don’t want to muddle thinking with grandiose thoughts of cinematic fame and fortune when you don’t even have an established source. It’s great to think ahead, but a writer’s original focus should first be creating a book or novel franchise worth big screen bucks.
Lee was also asked if he drew inspiration from Sherlock Holmes with his character Jack Reacher, both of them being more sleuthy and gadget-less crime fighters that favor deductive reasoning over shootouts and explosions. “Reacher is a half breed, a blend of a more ancient character. Sir-Lance-A-Lot, the wanderer essentially. Just the other week a journalist said his dad was a huge fan of the books and he called [Reacher] Sherlock Homeless. I’m thinking, why didn’t I think of that 13 years ago?”
Then it was director Christopher McQuarrie’s turn to address the crowd, being asked how he came to inherit the Jack Reacher film adaptation. “Normally it is not ever a simple thing. In this case, it was. Don Granger, a producer on the movie, brought me the book, which he had been working on a few years before, and asked me to write and direct [the film].” Wow, talk about falling into a gig? “I had been in director jail for 12 years and was tired of asking for permission to make movies, so I issued the challenge to Don that if he could get the studio to offer me the movie then I’d read the book, thinking he’d never do it, and week later he came back with the offer from the studio.”
So, to recap, not only did McQuarrie essentially get spoon-fed the job, he also had his bluff called? It was almost like fate wanted him to direct this movie. Oh yea, and director jail? Well, he directed a criminal comedy/drama titled The Way Of The Gun back in 2000 which didn’t do so hot in the box office, and it’s taken him this long to jump back in the director’s chair. He was also skeptical of scoring someone like Tom Cruise as an actor because of his long stint in “director jail”, so he approached him with a producing offer. “He read the script and called back saying, ‘I don’t know who you have in mind to play this guy, but I’d love to do it.’” Wait, wait, so not only did a producer give you a job, but Tom Cruise himself called up and essentially begged for a part? Well, not really begged, because when Tom Cruise says jump, you pretty much always ask how high.
Rosamund was then asked if her character Helen was drawn from Watson if Reacher was a Sherlock Holmes inspired character, a much more attractive Watson I might add, and she jested saying “Well I don’t get to say no shit Sherlock.” But getting more serious, Pike explained “What interested me is she’s a good lawyer, a competent lawyer, but she hasn’t got the brilliance of Reacher, and that drives her mad.” Commenting how Reacher comes in and adds drama to Helen’s life, “Chris agreed it was much more interesting to see a lawyer out of her depth than a lawyer in control of the show, it was fun, and you see another side of the law.”
She also went on to discuss the romantic implications between Jack and Helen – which I won’t leak a drop of, dont worry – and how Chris is such a talented writer, he’s able to deal with it beneficially to the whole film, treating that aspect with proper balance. That’s all I’ll say, promise! Rosamund did comment on working with Tom though, saying “Tom and I had a very easy chemistry, it wasn’t anything we had to work on. In a way, I started to think maybe a sex scene is what people put in when there isn’t anything stewing.”
David of course has the job of playing opposite Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher, as his role of Emerson doesn’t take too kindly to a drifter showing up and stealing the show, sharing screen time with someone who commands all of it. When asked how he dealt with the scenario, he said “One of the things I have an allergic reaction to playing, especially as a black actor, is the mandatory best friend cop detective type. You will never see me in that movie.” That’s good, because there was nothing buddy buddy about Reacher and Emerson. “There was almost a whole other Emerson movie, he was on his own track” David added, separating himself from what he would call a “typical role.”
Werner Herzog is phenomenal as The Zec in my opinion, not really having to do much yet bringing a very imposing presence to the character. When asked how he got involved in his casting, McQuarrie admitted “that was entirely the doing of casting director Mindy Marin.” Even though he wanted someone European and vastly unknown to the American public, and even after Herzog expressed interest in playing The Zec, McQuarrie still had doubts he’d just be lost as a bit part in a bigger Tom Cruise movie. Cruise came in as the voice of reason though, saying “It’s Werner Herzog man, I don’t understand! Hire him!” That, kids, is the story of how Werner Herzog got hired, bringing joy to the set. McQuarrie called him a “student of film,” always hanging around with cast and crew even when he wasn’t needed, always learning and observing, just taking the moments in and telling war stories from his life.
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A big point of controversy among fans is some of the casting that went on, especially Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher. When asked, Lee applauded the collective efforts of every actor, stating “Whatever I’m watching, baseball, football, I like to see things done really, really well. That’s what I was seeing throughout and it was very inspiring. It makes me think I should work a little bit harder to come up with something they can’t do.”
But for fans it’s hard to ignore Cruise’s physical stature in comparison to Jack Reacher’s. In Child’s description, he paints Reacher as a six foot five, 250 pound buff male with blonde hair and blue eyes. Cruise is pretty much the opposite. This didn’t sway any decision makers though, starting with Christopher reassuring “we started to compile the list of six foot five, 250 pound blonde haired blue eyed American actors, and discovered not only were there none, there had never been one, and there were none in the pipeline.” Well, OK, that actually makes sense.
“We knew very early on fans were going to have a reaction no matter who we cast, and we thought ‘Well if they’re going to be angry, let’s make sure they’re angry before they see the movie and not after they see the movie.” Hmm, Ok, I’ll bite. “There’s a difference between character and characteristics, who he is and how he interacts with people.” Alright, I’ll admit at first I was on the anti-Tom Cruise train, but after seeing the film, color me a believer in McQuarrie’s message. “[Reacher's] physical size became an obstacle for great many scenes, before I had an actor in mind, he was somebody so big. I had a six foot five guy and suddenly had to fill the room with six foot eight guys so that I had any sense of tension or suspense as to how he would get out of it.” Well I’d say Cruise gives you plenty of opportunities there with his smaller size.
Lee also weighed in on Tom playing Jack Reacher, saying size doesn’t play as big a roll on screen when compared to the book. Sure, in the book, on a blank page, you need that sort of stand out characteristic which pops, in this case Jack Reacher being a giant man – but it’s all in your imagination. Child mades a great point by saying both the book and film versions of Silence of the Lambs were phenomenal, but in the book, Hannibal Lecter has six fingers on one hand. This was a grotesquery that was needed for creative writing purposes, but in the film you’ve already got Anthony Hopkins being loads grotesque enough, and it just wasn’t a necessary detail anymore for cinema audiences to grip the level of repulsion – Hopkins alone was enough.
Child goes on saying “Ten percent of my fans are going to hate the movie anyway because it’s their possession that’s being taken away from them. Ninety percent of them, if they go in with open minds, are going to come out like I did and want to see it again, immediately, because it’s good.” Looks like both creative minds are standing firmly behind star Tom Cruise, and with good reason.
Probably the most interesting tidbit to hear about was Tom Cruise’s involvement in the car stunts, because he is an “amateur” race car driver and all – but to what extent? Christopher told us “[the car chase scene] in the script is very short. He drives away from the hotel and promptly crashes the car and runs away.” Nope, that isn’t what we see at all. “Tom read those pages and had vision, saying ‘Look, I think this can be the set piece, the central sequence of the movie, tell me what you want to do and we’ll figure out a way to do it.’ [Looking back on old car chases] we decided if the camera wasn’t in danger, the shot wasn’t worth doing. Quite often you were seeing instances where the camera probably did get wiped out on the next take. The other mandate that grew out of this was you have a guy that’s a professional driver, he should be in every possible shot he can. We then went back to Tom with this car chase and design, and the assistant director figured out [through all the shots] about 20% of those Tom would be explicitly on camera. We said ‘OK Tom, you’re going to be in these shots, then we’ll go off and shoot with the second unit,’ and Tom said ‘No, I’m going to be in all the shots.’ McQuarrie went on to explain the challenge then shifted from the olden days when directors struggled to make sure you couldn’t tell it wasn’t the actor driving, to now actually wanting to prove your actor was whipping around turns and driving in reverse.
Finally, concerning David’s casting, we were told director Christopher McQuarrie actually had an entirely different actor in mind and was decided on his choice until he saw David’s audition, and then the problem became needing to find a way to incorporate him somehow. Guess who was the voice of reason? Yup, in piped Tom again, saying “He’s really good, just put him in the role, just do it!” Looks like what Cruise wants, Cruise gets, and the man obviously knows talent when he sees it.
Be sure to check out Jack Reacher when it opens December 21st, 2012, and thanks to all the talent who took the time to talk!Previous