Movie Buzzers recently had the pleasure of attending the press conference promoting Paramount’s latest action film, Jack Reacher. Although star Tom Cruise wasn’t in attendance, we got to hear comments from writer/director Christopher McQuarrie, Lee Childs (creator of the Jack Reacher character and author of the novel One Shot in which the film was passed), and stars Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo during the brief (just over a half-hour) press conference. Below is a transcription of two of the most in-depth answers from the cast and crew present.
David Oyelowo has only been in a few big-budget films, but he was adamant that he would not have starred in Jack Reacher if his character, Detective Emerson, was a generic “buddy cop” character. He explained, “Well, one of my first interactions outside of the script with Jack Reacher the film was meeting Chris at a hotel in Los Angeles and one of the things we talked about was exactly that, the fact that, you know, he needed in whoever played Emerson someone who was a genuine counterpoint to Jack Reacher, someone whom there is a world in which this could go on to be Lethal Weapon, this could go on to be these two teaming up and going after the bad guy so to speak, but you know in Chris’ parlance, you know, ‘the movie gets in the way.’ One of the things that was a lot of fun to play was this antagonistic relationships. One of the things I have an allergic reaction to playing, especially as a black actor, is the, you know, the mandatory best-friend-cop-detective type, and you will never see me in that movie. What I loved about this is that he was a genuine counterpoint — he was the, you know… there is an Emerson movie, you know, that is parallel to this in a sense and he’s on his own track, and that was a lot of fun to play.”
Naturally, the question of Tom Cruise’s obvious size difference from the Jack Reacher character came up, and I think McQuarrie fielded the question really well. He answered, “[Producer] Don Granger and I talked very early on before Tom entered into the equation about who would play Jack Reacher in the event that the film got made. When we started to compile the list of six-foot-five, two hundred-fifty pound blond haired, blue-eyed American actors, and discovered that not only were there none there never had been one. And there were none in the pipeline. We knew very early on that fans were going to have a reaction no matter who we cast, and we thought, ‘Well, if they’re gonna be angry, let’s make sure they’re angry before they see the movie not after they see the movie.’ So we knew we were going to make compromises on the physical size of the character — that meant we could not compromise on any other aspect of the character. It’s interesting to listen to those fans who react, and I’m very sensitive to it. I think that anybody whose bought a Reacher novel has bought a share of stock in Jack Reacher and they’re entitled to their opinion, but I listen to those people who speak with such authority about the character and I’m always shocked by how little they know about the character beyond his physical size. That was the thing we concentrated on, and there is a difference between the character and the characteristics. Who Reacher is as a person, how he thinks, how he interacts with other people — to me, that’s all I saw when I read the books, he was the guy I wanted to sit down and have a beer with. I really don’t think about his physical size until it becomes important in the scene, and the other problem was with his physical size was when I was writing the script with no actor in mind his physical size actually became an obstacle for a great many scenes. Somebody who is so big… I suddenly had to take a six-foot-five guy and fill the room with six-foot-eight guys so that I had any sense of tension or suspense as to how he was going to get out of it. So when Tom expressed interest, that was a snap judgment on my part, I just thought, ‘That solves a lot of problems.'”
Lee Child, being the creator of the character, had his own take on the issue, and he said, “First of all, I am extremely grateful that any of my readers feel so passionate about it. That’s the sort of gold-standard metric that I would’ve given my right arm for at the beginning of my career — that people were going to care. But it’s an inevitability, and I think readers just don’t think it through, that you take a choice in a book, it’s going to be a different choice in a movie. I mean, a very trivial example at the far end of the scale would be Silence of the Lambs, which was a great book and a great movie. But in the book, Hannibal Lecter has got six fingers on one hand, and that’s a sort of book-type thing you do because you think you need a 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, so you do a different choice in the movie. 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, and I’m confident that… well, put it this way, I’m confident that ten percent of my fans are going to hate the movie anyway because — you know, this is their possession and its being taken away from them. I absolutely understand that, but ninety percent of them if they go with open minds are gonna come out like I did and think, ‘I want to see it again right now immediately because it was great.'”
You can check out the audio from the whole press conference below. Jack Reacher opens in theaters on December 21.