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Christopher McQuarrie Expands His Reach with <i>Jack Reacher</i>

A superstar in the world of crime fiction, the new action film Jack Reacher introduces moviegoers to the titular soldier-turned-nomadic-investigator, who stars in a best-selling series of crime novels by British author Lee Child. Written and directed by The Usual Suspects scribe Christopher McQuarrie, Reacher stars Tom Cruise as Child's creation and dispatches him to Pittsburgh, where he helps an in-over-her-head lawyer (Rosamund Pike) attempt to save a man from Death Row -- a case that pits him against morally ambiguous cops (David Oyelowo) and shadowy villains (Werner Herzog). In addition to trying on the outfit of an anti-hero, Jack Reacher also affords Cruise the chance to show off his behind-the-wheel skills, as he did all his own driving for the big car chase that comes midway through the movie. McQuarrie touched on that scene -- as well as the hotly contested decision to cast Cruise as Reacher -- during a recent press visit to New York, where he was accompanied by Child, Pike and Oyelowo.

Christopher McQuarrie on How Jack Reacher Sprung Him From Director Jail
Don Granger, one of the producers of the movie, originally brought me the book. He'd been working on it for a few years and asked me to adapt it. We had worked together on Valkyrie and when he offered me the book, I said "I'd love to do it, but I'm not going to help you get it made." I had been in director jail for about 12 years [ever since 2000's The Way of the Gun] and was tired about asking permission to make movies. So I told Don that if he could get the studio to offer me the movie to direct, than I would read the book. I thought he'd never do it, but the next week he came back with the offer from the studio. So I did an adaptation and because Lee is a very cinematic writer, it's a fairly straightforward adaptation. We gave it to Tom Cruise in his capacity as a producer because I never thought that Tom would be in a movie directed by someone who had been in director jail for 12 years. But he read the script and said, "I don't know who you have in mind to play this guy, but I'd love to do it." Usually it's not a simple thing, but in this case, it was.

Lee Child On the Book-to-Screen Translation
My personal theory is that if you write a book with one eye on its eventual screen adaptation, you're going to write a bad book and a bad screenplay. What I do is I write the books and throw in whatever I like and then when it comes to the movie, it's somebody else's problem -- in this case, Chris's. There's the running time issue, of course; we had to shed at least six-sevenths of the novel, which Chris did very well. And there were certain things where there's no room for a character's full story, but elements still had to be preserved. Rosamund got the short straw in that respect. In the book, Helen has three internal conflicts going on in her head, which aren't in the film. But I love talent and technique and seeing things done well and that's what I saw during the making of the movie. It was inspiring and made me feel like I need to work a little bit harder.

Rosamund Pike on Playing the Dr. Watson to Jack Reacher's Sherlock Holmes
Jack Reacher's just a guy who walks into town and does things differently from everyone else, so Helen is startled by his mode of operation. What interested me about her is that she's an accomplished lawyer, but she hasn't got the brilliance of Reacher and that drives her mad. It's like she's the girl who is good at math and then she meets a mathematician; they're two very different creatures. I think so often when we see lawyers on screen, it's someone who is always in control and doesn't have any chinks in their armor. And drama only comes when you get the chinks. I know Chris agreed that we wanted to see a lawyer out of her depth, which was fun because it shows you a different side of the law. And Chris is such a good writer that he manages to give you all the satisfaction of a romance without Reacher and Helen ever having touched. We go through almost every beat of a romance: the attraction, the frustration and even the break-up scene without having to have a sex scene. Tom and I had a very easy chemistry -- it wasn't anything we had to work on. In a way, I almost think a sex scene is what you add when there isn't any chemistry.

David Oyelowo on Butting Heads With Reacher
When I first met with Chris, one of the things we talked about was that my character, Emerson, needed to be a genuine counterpoint to Jack Reacher -- someone who it seems like there could be a Lethal Weapon situation where the two team up to get the bad guy, but then the movie gets in the way. I enjoyed the antagonistic relationship between Emerson and Reacher. There is an Emerson movie that is parallel to this in a sense. He's on his own track and that was a lot of fun.

McQuarrie on Casting Director Werner Herzog as the Bad Guy
That was entirely the doing of my casting director, Mindy Marin. When we sat down to talk about the role, I gave her my criteria -- the main ones being that I wanted someone European and unknown to a wider audience. I thought the character would be a lot more intimidating if the actor was someone unfamiliar. And the first name she thought of was Werner Herzog, which I thought was an inspired idea, but we would obviously never get him. And then a week later I was on the phone with him and he was actually very excited about playing the role, but suddenly I had huge doubts about it. I had seen other things he had done and knew he could do it, but I was concerned that he was too unfamiliar and would start to feel like a documentary character in a Tom Cruise movie. So I vacillated on it for quite a while and then I was talking to Tom and he said, "It's Werner Herzog man. Just hire the guy!" So I did and when we put them in the room together, it was great. In our first rehearsal, we had 90 minutes put aside and the first three hours of that 90-minute meeting was Herzog telling stories about his experiences in an African prison. [Laughs]

McQuarrie and Child on the Physical Difference Between Cruise and the Character of Jack Reacher
McQuarrie: Don Grazer and I talked very early on -- before Tom entered into the equation -- about who would play Jack Reacher if the movie got made. But when we started to compile the list of 6'5", 250 lbs., blonde-haired, blue-eyed American actors, we discovered that not only were there none -- they had never been one and there were none in the pipeline. So we knew early on that 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 rather than after." We knew we were going to compromise on the physical aspect of the character and that meant we could not compromise on any other aspect of the character. The thing that I concentrated on in the adaptation was who Reacher is as a person and how he thinks and interacts with other people, because that's all I saw when I read the books. I really didn't think about his physical size until it became important in the scene.
Child: First of all, I'm extremely grateful my readers are so passionate about it. That's the metric I would have given my right arm for at the beginning of my career -- that people would care that much. But I think readers just don't think it through that you make a choice in the book and there's going to be a different choice in the movie. A trivial example at the far end of the spectrum is The Silence of the Lambs. It's a great book and a great movie, but in the book, Hannibal Lecter has got six fingers on one hand. That's the sort of thing a novelist does because you think you need a grotesquerie on the blank page. But you don't need it on the screen because you already have Anthony Hopkins up there looking grotesque. Now, Reacher's size is a lot more than six fingers on a hand, but it's the same thing. It was necessary for the book, it's not so necessary for the film. I'm confident that 10 percent of my fans will hate the movie anyway because this is their possession that's being taken away from them. But 90 percent of them -- if they go in with open minds -- are going to come out and think "I want to see it again right now," like I did.

McQuarrie on Designing the Movie's Central Car Chase
The scene as its written in the script is very short; Reacher drives away from the hotel, then he promptly crashes the car and runs away. Tom read those pages and had a vision. He said, "I think this can be the set-piece, the central sequence of the movie. Tell me what you want to do and we can figure out a way to do it." So I sat down with the second unit director and we watched all the movie car chases we really loved. Surprisingly, that did not include a lot of car chases made in the last ten years or so; that wasn't by choice, we just noticed there was a ceiling to our suggestions. He pointed out that in all of those chases, if the camera wasn't in danger than the shot wasn't worth doing. Quite often in those older movies, you were seeing instances where the camera probably got wiped out on the next take. The other mandate that grew out of this was that we had to have a guy who is a professional driver and he should be in every shot he possibly can. We worked out the individual shots and isolated the 20 percent that Tom would have to be in. But then Tom said, "I'm going to be in all the shots." Usually, the challenge of car chases is to hide the fact that it's not the actor driving the car; here we were finding ways to prove it was the actor driving the car.

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