Adapting a popular book featuring a lead character who’s determined to obtain justice into a visually stunning film is not always an easy task. But the new action crime drama ‘Jack Reacher,’ which is based on ‘One Shot,’ the ninth novel in best-selling British author Lee Child’s ‘Jack Reacher’ book series, naturally embodies the multi-dimensional and iconic nature of the title character. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, the film features the vigilante’s moral viewpoints and captivating stunt work.
‘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 (portrayed by Tom Cruise), an ex-Army military investigator, who prefers to avoid other people. When Jack first arrives in Pittsburgh to help the sniper’s attorney, Helen (played by Rosamund Pike), the daughter of the District Attorney prosecuting the case, Rodin (portrayed 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.
Child, who has written 17 novels in his famous ‘Jack Reacher’ series since its debut in 1997, generously took the time recently to talk about the film adaptation of his 2005 book, ‘One Shot,’ during an exclusive interview in New York City. Among other things, the writer discussed what it was like collaborating with both Cruise and McQuarrie; how Cruise’s acting landed him the role of the title role, even though he doesn’t fit the book’s physical description of the lead character; and how he was impressed with Cruise’s stunt work in the film.
ShockYa (SY): Christopher McQuarrie directed and wrote ‘Jack Reacher.’ How did the process of adapting the book come about-did the studio approach you with the idea to make the film, or were you interested in making a movie based on the Jack Reacher character?
Lee Child (LC): I love the movies. Obviously, as an author, there’s no automatic way to make your book into a movie, but you have the possibility of doing that. So, initially someone comes along and says, do you want to do a deal? The answer is either yes or no, and I said yes, because I hoped it would happen, and eventually it did happen. I’m pleased about it.
SY: ‘Jack Reacher’ was shot on location in Pittsburgh, and had an industrial feel to it. Do you think the cinematography helped enhance the story and the character of Jack Reacher overall?
LC: Yeah. I think that even though the fictional city in the book was not Pittsburgh, it had the same feeling, with the river, the wet streets and the brick buildings. I think it captured the mood of the book very well. The mood and the tone of the book are very largely created by the environment they’re set in.
I think not only (Chris) McQuarrie, but Caleb Deschanel, the DP (Director of Photographer), and all the designers really got that. They dressed the film well, and it looks like the book to me.
SY: Another impressive aspect of the film was the stunt work, particularly the car chase sequence. Did you collaborate with Chris at all on the stunts, and offer him any ideas?
LC: Well, we knew for the fighting we didn’t want any fancy stuff. We didn’t want Kung Fu or Martial arts. Reacher is the guy who fights simply and brutally and directly. They got that very well, but then it was the question of choreographing it in a way that was extremely precise. These are fast and brutal fights, and they’re over in a flash. There’s a lot of content in there, but delivered at high speeds. So it was all about the rehearsal for that.
SY: Since Tom Cruise played Jack Reacher in the film, did he have any say in the stunts he would be performing in the film?
LC: Oh, sure. Cruise is basically his own stuntman. So therefore, when you talk about what would be good, what would be possible, he’s the guy who judicated, because he’s the guy that did it.
What really impressed me about him was that the car chase was fantastic in the movie. He did all the driving himself. But yet, Reacher is a bad driver. The character of Reacher in the books is not a good driver. So Cruise was prepared to drive worse than he can, in order to build the character. He wasn’t showing off; he was prepared to make the same mistakes that Reacher would have made. That’s a surprising lack of ego for a guy that can do it so well, to pretend to do it not quite as well. It shows his commitment to the character, rather than himself.
SY: The car chase sequence involving Jack and the police was supposed to be shorter, but Tom offered suggestions on how to make it longer. Do you think that that benefited the character arc overall?
LC: Yeah, I think so. I think along wit everything else, Cruise has a really good sense of story. You just don’t make the films he’s made over the years, and be in the business, unless you have an innate grasp of story. He understood what the rhythm, the timing and beats need.
So does McQuarrie, so to have a conversation amongst the two of them, you know something good’s going to come out of it, because they’re both experts at it. They talk about refining it, and the end result is going to be better than originally planned.
SY: In your novels, you describe Jack Reacher as being 6′ 5″ tall, and weighing between 210 and 250 pounds, so there was some questioning about Tom Cruise’s casting in the role. After seeing his acting in the film, do you agree with Christopher’s decision to hire Tom?
LC: Yeah, I really do. If there had been someone with Cruise’s talent and technique, who happened to be an exact physical replica of Jack Reacher, than yeah, we could have had a legitimate debate. But that person doesn’t exist. So therefore, you go with the guy who can do the work that you need done, to the best of his ability, so Cruise is that guy.
There was no way we were going to get the outside image of Reacher, because that’s a book thing; it doesn’t exist in the real world. So we needed to get the inside of Reacher, and that was a tough acting job. Reacher is silent a lot of the time, and that’s not an easy thing for an actor to do. Reacher is kind of wearily patient, and waiting for the world to catch up with him, which is not an easy vibe to portray. So we knew the technical ability of the actor was going to be vital. So it was always coming back to Cruise. he’s the guy that has that ability.
SY: Have you had public screenings of the film, and what has the reaction been like among fans of the books?
LC: Yeah, there’s been a bunch of screenings. Paramount set up a lot of screenings in different cities, where fans of the books could come check it out. Pretty much unanimously, but I won’t say 100 percent, because there are always people who are unhappy when their favorite book is turned into a movie, but people have been positive about it.
I feel justified in that I’ve been waiting anxiously for other people to see it, because I felt it would be alright. But I understand that before someone else sees it, they won’t be convinced. But now they have seen it, and I think they are convinced.
SY: How closely did you work with Christopher and Tom while they were filming ‘Jack Reacher?’ Did you offer him any suggestions on the story and/or character development while they were making the movie?
LC: I was thoroughly prepared to, but they didn’t need any. They read the books and understand the books. They talked about it excessively. The producer, Don Granger, knows more about Reacher than I do now. But the Reacher Creatures are all fanatics.
I said right at the beginning, I don’t want to be looking over your shoulder. I don’t want you worried about me. This is your project; do it, and don’t worry about what I think. Naturally, they all relaxed, and turned in a great product. Therefore, that was a smart thing for me to do. Allowing them to relax and focus produced a great movie.
SY: Christopher previously wrote and/or produced several of Tom’s previous films, including ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ and ‘Valkyrie.’ Do you think their previous collaborations together helped build the story and character developments in the film?
LC: I do. That’s part of the reason why they have such a good relationship, and why Tom is respectful of writers. He understands that stories have to be written by somebody, and therefore he was respectful of McQuarrie. That’s why they get along so well.
It’s not a coincidence that Tom and the screenwriters get along so well. Cruise likes screenwriters, and understands people who are as obsessed with the story as himself. So that’s why they get along. You’ve got two people there who live and breathe story; that’s all they’re interested in. Therefore the chances were good that the results would be great.
SY: Christopher hasn’t directed a film since 2000’s ‘The Way of the Gun.’ Were you worried about that at all when you heard he was going to direct ‘Jack Reacher,’ or do you approve with what he did with the film overall?
LC: Well, in one sense I was very glad, because the script is great. But it’s not enough to have a great script; you have to have a great script that makes it onto the screen. There are a lot of problems in making a movie; a lot of things go wrong. There’s a time pressure and a lot of things conspiring against you everyday.
It’s very easy to let the script suffer. You have to cut things here and there to cut corners. You have to cut corners, and it’s very easy to take it out on the script.
But the fact that the director was also the writer, I was really happy about that. It meant that the script would automatically be defended. He was not going to screw up his own script. So I thought that was a major plus for the movie.
This is the second movie he’s ever directed. Was that a concern of mine? Not really. I thought it would produce one thing or the other. He was so motivated that it would probably come out really good. But then there was the chance that it could have been a total disaster. But it was one or the other; it was going to be really good, or not. I felt like, let’s gamble.
I didn’t think that it would be that difficult. When you’re writing, I noticed from experience, you are directing. You’re directing an imaginative movie in your head. So it wasn’t a huge leap for him, mentally, to direct a real movie in the flesh. I must say, given that the stakes were so high for him, he looked very relaxed and composed on the set. He was keeping it all under control. But he must have been aware that the stakes were high for him. But I think the stakes should be high for people, that’s where you get the best work.
SY: You have published at least one novel in the ‘Jack Reacher’ series every year since it debuted in 1997. Do you have any interest in adapting any of the other novels in the series for the screen in the future?
LC: Yeah, I do. I’d love to do all of them, and as soon as possible.
Written by: Karen Benardello