Immensely popular among readers since the debut of ‘Killing Floor,’ the first novel by Lee Child 15 years, Jack Reacher has become a legendary, myth-based anti-hero. Having grown up and served the military, and multidimensional and relatively high principled, Reacher is a loner who’s determined to seek justice and do good deeds to help anyone who encounters trouble. The iconic character is brought to life by Tom Cruise in the new action crime drama ‘Jack Reacher,’ which hits theaters on Friday.
‘Jack Reacher’ follows an ex-military, trained assassin who randomly shoots five people dead as they go about their everyday lives in Pittsburgh. When the police, led by Emerson (David Oyelowo), quickly apprehend the sniper, he only asks for Jack Reacher, an ex-Army military investigator, who prefers to avoid other people. When Jack first arrives in Pittsburgh to help the sniper’s attorney, Helen (portrayed by Rosamund Pike), the daughter of the District Attorney prosecuting the case, Rodin (played by Richard Jenkins), he’s convinced of the suspect’s guilt. But despite his belief and his past connection with the believed killer, Jack proceeds with the case.
Easily self-sufficient and hyper-observant, Jack is determined to help Helen win the case, as he’s driven by a keen sense of justice. During the investigation, he finds an unlikely enemy, and uses his bias for violence and strategy to expose the entire truth.
The cast and crew of ‘Jack Reacher,’ including Pike; Oyelowo; writer-director Christopher McQuarrie; and Child, all attended a press conference in New York City recently to discuss shooting the first ‘Jack Reacher’ film adaptation. Among other things, they spoke about the casting of the film; the films’ stunning stunt sequences, including the famous car chase sequence featuring Cruise and the variations between the way Child wrote Jack Reacher and the way he’s presented in the film.
Question (Q): Lee, as you were writing the ‘Jack Reacher’ novels, did you have any interest in adapting them into a film?
Lee Child (LC): 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.
Q: Do you take any inspiration from Sherlock Holmes as you’re writing the Reacher novels?
LC: Reacher is a half breed, a blend of a more ancient character, like Sir-Lance-A-Lot, the wanderer. 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?
Q: Chris, how did you become involved in directing the film?
Christopher McQuarrie (CM): Don Granger, the producer of the movie, brought me the book, which he’d been working on for a few years before I came aboard, and asked me to write and direct it. I did an adaptation, and because Lee is a very cinematic writer, it’s a very straightforward adaptation. We gave it to Tom Cruise in his capacity as a producer. Tom read the script and called back and said, “I don’t know who you have in mind to play this character, but I’d love to do it.” So the other producer, Tom, turned around and hired Tom.
Q: Rosamund, if Reacher was a Sherlock Holmes-inspired character, was your character Helen drawn from Watson?
Rosamund Pike (RP): Well, I don’t get to say no shit Sherlock. (laughs)
Q: So what drew you to the role of Helen?
RP: Reacher’s a guy who rocks into town and he does things differently than everybody else. In any sort of normal social interaction, he just doesn’t behave properly. So Helen is left sort of startled at every turn by his mode of operation.
What interested me about her is that she’s a good lawyer-she’s a competent, accomplished lawyer-but she hasn’t got the brilliance of Reacher, and that drives her mad. It’s like she’s a girl who’s good at math and she meets a mathematician. I think 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.
Q: David, what was it like playing Reacher’s detective counterpart, Emerson, in the film?
David Oyelowo (DO): One of my first interactions, outside of the script, with Jack Reacher and the film was meeting Chris at a hotel in Los Angeles. And one of the things we talked about was the fact that he needed, in whoever played Emerson, someone who was a genuine counterpoint to Jack Reacher. 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.
Q: Chris, how did you decide to cast David in the role of Emerson?
CM: I actually had an entirely different actor in mind for the role and was decided on my choice, until he saw David’s audition. Then the problem became needing to find a way to incorporate him somehow, as I respect his work. After meeting him, I considered casting him as Emerson. Tom liked his work, and said, “He’s really good, just put him in the role, just do it!”
Q: Chris, what was the process of casting Werner Herzog to play the film’s villain, The Zec, like?
CM: That was entirely the doing of casting director Mindy Marin. When we first sat down and talked about the role, I gave her my list of criteria, the main ones being that I wanted someone European and unknown to a wider audience. The first name out of her mouth was Werner Herzog, which I thought was an inspired idea, but we would obviously never get him.
A week later I was on the phone with Werner, who was actually very excited about playing the role, and suddenly I had huge doubts about it. I was worried that he was too unfamiliar and he was going to feel like a documentary character in a Tom Cruise movie. So I vacillated on it for quite a while, and I was talking to Tom about it and Tom said, ‘It’s Werner Herzog, man, I don’t understand! Just hire the guy!'”
Q: What was Werner’s first rehearsal like with the rest of the cast, and his on-set dynamic with the rest of the cast?
CM: We had about 90 minutes put aside for us to rehearse some of the scenes, towards the end of the movie. The first three hours of that 90-minute meeting were Werner Herzog telling stories about (his character’s) experiences in an African prison. That was kind of what the relationship was.
He would never leave the set. He would lust hang out with the crew, he would hang out with the other actors. He’s still very much a student of film, and was always there constantly observing and constantly learning.
Q: Chris, Tom Cruise’s casting is causing controversy among the fans of the novel series, since he doesn’t fit Lee’s description of the character. Why did you decide to hire him?
CM: (Producer) Don Granger and I talked very early on, before Tom entered into the equation, about who would play Jack Reacher. When we started to compile the list of six-foot-five, 250-pound blond-hair, blue-eyed American actors, and discovered that not only were there none, there had never been one.
We knew very early on that fans were going to have a reaction no matter who we cast. So we knew we were going to make compromises on the physical size of the character, and that meant we weren’t going to make compromises on any other aspect of the character. I think that anybody who has bought a Reacher novel has bought a share of stock in Jack Reacher, and they’re entitled to their opinion.
Q: Lee, what’s your view on the variations between the way you wrote Jack Reacher, and the way he’s presented in the film?
LC: It’s an inevitability. You take a choice in a book and it’s going to be a different choice in the movie. A very trivial example at the far end of the scale would be ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ In the book, Hannibal Lecter has six fingers on one hand, and that’s a sort of book-type thing you do because you think you need the sort of grotesquery there on the blank page. You don’t need it on the screen because Anthony Hopkins is on the screen already looking grotesque.
Now, Reacher’s size is a lot more than six fingers on a hand, but it’s the same thing essentially. It was necessary for the book, it’s not absolutely necessary for the film.
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.
Q: Chris, what was the process like creating the film’s main car chase sequence, particularly working with Tom, who’s a professional driver?
CM: The scene as it’s written in the script is very short: He (Reacher) drives away from the hotel, he very promptly crashes the car and runs away. Tom of course read those pages and had a vision. He said, ‘Look, I think this could be the set piece, this could be the central sequence of the movie.’
When I sat down with Paul Jennings, the stunt coordinator/second unit director, we sat in my office just watching all the old car chases that we really loved. Paul pointed out that in all of those car chases, if the camera wasn’t in danger the shot wasn’t worth doing. The other mandate that grew out of this was, you have a guy who is a professional driver-he should be in every shot that he can.
So we then went back to Tom with this car chase and design-and Cliff Lanning, the assistant director, worked out looking at all the boards. He managed to isolate probably 20 percent of those in which Tom would explicitly be on camera. So Cliff said, ‘OK, here’s the plan, Tom: You’ll be in all of these shots and then we’ll go off and shoot with second unit the rest of these shots,’ and Tom said, ‘No, I’m going to be in all of these shots.'”
Q: Chris, how did you approached the logistics of the chase scene with Tom doing his own stunts?
CM: We realized we could break away from the older-school car chase. The challenge of car chases is you’re trying to hide the fact that it’s not the actor really driving the car. Now we were challenged to find ways to prove that the actor was driving the car. That kind of became the fun of that sequence.
So we were constantly re-inventing it as we were going, and Tom was able to very quickly make those adjustments because of his experience driving that car. He became very familiar with it-he was driving two or three hours a day. There were four different cars that he was driving. Since everything was so rehearsed, we were able to have actors free-driving in stunt sequences where we were essentially improvising the action. We would come up with some of those stunts 30 minutes before we’d shoot them, and a half an hour later we were moving on to the next thing.
Written by: Karen Benardello