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The Journey from Page to Screen

Global bestselling author Lee Child did not set out to be a bestselling author. After attending law school in his native Great Britain, Child signed on with the U.K.'s Granada Television, and spent the next 18 years working as a presentation director on some of the most respected shows and series during what some critics term "the golden age" of British television. But a corporate restructuring left Child without a job in 1995, and so he sat down to write a book, eventually titled KILLING FLOOR. Published in 1997, his debut novel featured a central character named Jack Reacher, who immediately captivated readers. 17 Reacher novels later, Child's (and the readers') affinity for the character has not lessened.

Child comments, "When I considered the question of Reacher's origins, looking back now I see that he came from all the reading I'd done over the years. He's a very legendary, myth-based character…the Robin Hood, the hero in the western. He shows up in every period of history-the mysterious stranger, the noble loner-the 'knight errant' is what they called him in literary criticism terms. He's the guy who's relatively high-principled, but for some reason is banished to wander the land and do good deeds."

It is not only the character's mythic qualities, the author reasons, that has led to his immense (and still growing) popularity:

"In my opinion he is a metaphor for what we all secretly desire, which is justice. And that's the big appeal of Reacher, both for men and women. Women especially, I think, are very offended by injustice. And here is Reacher, who will find a situation that's wrong and he will set it right. He will do whatever it takes, with no qualms whatsoever. And sure, there's a lot of violence in the books, very uncompromising. But I think secretly, deep down, we want that. We want to see things set right, and we want to see bad guys punished," Child says.

For someone to actually embody such a multi-dimensional, iconic character as Reacher, it would take a certain brand of fearlessness -- not just literally (Reacher gets into scrapes regularly, which would require intense stunt work), but in the grander sense. Reacher cares little for what people think of him, an idiosyncratic hero, a character who is tricky to play, especially for fans of the book with their own vision of who and what Reacher is. So it is not surprising that it took roughly seven years from Child's initial meeting with producer Don Granger for his book to become a movie. Child views this lengthy gestation as positive, however.

"At this point, I have to say that I'm glad it happened that way. I'm very excited about the movie and honestly I was never worried. I sold it to the right people and they have done a great job. I took so long because the team was so committed to getting it right. Waiting so long has paid off in the sense that this is a massive, gold-plated, A-list project, from absolute bottom to top," Child says.

JACK REACHER is based on ONE-SHOT, the ninth in the series of Reacher novels, so why begin in the middle, as it were? Producer Granger says, "ONE SHOT is perhaps the most cinematic of all of the books. Within the novel are presented several elements that we thought were important in a first movie. First, I think it's got one of the very best introductions for Reacher -- it's a great way to bring him into the plot that's already in motion. But secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, there's a moral dilemma for him. He comes into the story believing one thing, and then has to realize that the facts are perhaps pointing in a different direction. He then has to decide whether to take the easy way out of this, or the tougher way, and in that decision, we get to realize why Jack Reacher's different from any other movie hero."

To take such a hero and transfer him to the screen would also require both a writer and a director comfortable with both action and enigma, with complex, detailed set pieces, big and small, and characters whose loyalties and motivations are suspect at best. In filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie, it became a case of one-stop shopping.

McQuarrie had to get much of the narrative out of his head without losing Reacher's unique worldview. "It was about finding an interesting way to visualize his unique perspective so that it wasn't always Reacher telling you exactly what he was thinking. Lee was so fantastic and so supportive throughout. If it worked, I think it's largely because Lee and I really clicked on what we thought was most important to highlight about Reacher's thought processes and outlook and how to translate that in a visual way," McQuarrie says.

Child notes, "In Hollywood terms, I think Reacher had two challenges. Number one is that a lot of the appeal of the book is internal -- Reacher's thoughts, eccentricities, his unusual take on things. Challenge number two is that, unlike practically any other story, there is no character arc within a Reacher story -- he doesn't go on a journey, he doesn't learn anything, he's not different at the end. So what the film needed was, quite simply, people that got it. And McQuarrie totally did. We were just in agreement. When it came to the screenplay, I didn't say anything to Chris. I remember when he sent me the script, it was a very trepidatious moment. I was about to read the screenplay that somebody had developed from my book. And I read it…and I then immediately re-read it, just for the pleasure of it -- it was so good. I've never read anything back-to-back twice. It was literally perfect in my opinion. And so, from that point on, I knew it would work."

Granger remembers, "I spoke to Lee right after he first read the screenplay. And he said that now there were two people in the world who could write Jack Reacher: him and Chris McQuarrie."

The movie, of course, is anchored by the title character, played by Tom Cruise.

"We really wanted to focus on an actor who could bring the gravitas the skill and the talent to make this a memorable role. And more importantly, someone who could bring out Reacher's personality, which is very specific. When we told Lee who we were thinking about casting as Reacher and how we'd come to that conclusion, he was great about it. He said, 'Why wouldn't I want the biggest movie star who ever lived to play the character I created?'" McQuarrie says.

For Cruise, Child's stamp of approval was key. "Firstly, I'm very sensitive to it. This is Lee's book and Lee's character. His blessing was crucial to me. If he hadn't, I wouldn't have done it," says Cruise.

Cruise was thrilled, of course, to play Reacher, an incredibly rich, compelling and unique force of nature with such an archetypal code of honor. "Reacher is such a great character. He doesn't have a cell phone, he doesn't have email. He's an analog guy in a digital age. He's off the grid. He pays for things in cash. People look at things through the prism of the colors of their life, but Jack Reacher does things the way we want to sometimes. In that sense, he's sort of a Dirty Harry, a James Bond, a Josey Wales," Cruise says.

While Cruise does not resemble Reacher as described in the books, Child says that Cruise captured Reacher's ethos and that was more important than any physical likeness.

"Cruise, at his core, is a character actor in the most literal sense. He really gets into a role. He understood Jack Reacher. He projected his vibe. But the only real answer to that is, go see the movie. I guarantee you will come out of it, thinking, 'What was I worried about?'" Child sums up.

Moreover, McQuarrie notes, the physical attributes described in the book are nearly impossible to find in any performer. Recalls McQuarrie: "We were never going to find an actor who fit the rather extreme physical characteristics as are described in the books, so we decided first thing that could not be our primary concern."

More important, McQuarrie says, were the unique characteristics that make Reacher so captivating that he knew would resonate with Cruise on a personal level. Reacher is a man comfortable in his own skin, a quality that intrigued McQuarrie and especially appealed to him in terms of how Cruise might inhabit that.

"What I really like about Reacher is he's a completely confident and centered individual, and a very comfortable loner. More than anything, he's self-assured and very in tune with his environment," MrQuarrie explains. "Most of the characters Tom is accustomed to playing in movies -- he's usually a man under intense pressure, and driven by the pursuit of the object of the plot. Reacher is somebody who never experiences pressure, who lets the entire story come to him. When you spend any time with Tom you realize that, as a person, he's a lot more like Reacher."

Which is not to say that Cruise is a vigilante or loner -- rather, Cruise shares Reacher's personable side. Even in the most stressful situations, Reacher displays a dry wit combined with a genuine concern. Reacher is not bombastic -- he is thoughtful, deliberate and also, when he's not under attack from bad guys, good company.

"What was really exciting to me," McQuarrie continues, "was to be able to put Tom in a role where he's playing somebody closer to himself, someone who's a lot cooler, a lot more relaxed, a lot more amiable. What we were going for with Reacher is not really an intensity, but more a matter-of-factness. He seems to understand how everything is going to happen around him, and is just waiting for it to occur. Even down to his first big fight with the townies -- he basically tells the guys, 'This is the way the fight's going to go,' and that's how it goes. He gives them every opportunity to walk away, and they don't do it."

It helped to have a willing and supportive partner in Cruise, who also serves as producer. McQuarrie and Cruise worked together on VALKYRIE and found they shared a similar cinematic sensibility and passion for films; they have engaged in an ongoing conversation about movies ever since. They also share a similar enthusiasm for classic cars -- at their first meeting, McQuarrie drove up in "… this old Cadillac that I've had since I was a young single guy. My car was in the shop so it was either my wife's minivan or this 1964 Cadillac convertible. Tom asked if he could look at the motor and pointed out that there was a wire that needed some work…we chatted all afternoon…" McQuarrie recalls.

"Yeah, he had this GREAT car," Cruise confirms. "I had been a fan of his since THE USUAL SUSPECTS and we just started talking about cars and films, about cinematography, performance and structure. We just hit it off. Chris has such a love of movies and an understanding of structure and editing. You can actually see the film as you're reading it. His writing is amazing, he writes lines that as an actor you just want to say, you want to be a part of that world," Cruise says. Their shared love of certain films -- and even muscle cars -- found their way into the fabric of JACK REACHER.

"It has elements of a thriller and a suspense film, along with a very strong romantic streak running under it. What we're trying to do is a little bit of a throwback, in style and tone, to the movies that Tom and I grew up on, the movies we really love. We were really trying to avoid a lot of the modern conceits of the genre. It has a feeling of Americana that has somewhat disappeared, and it's something that our character is looking for," McQuarrie notes.

The material, Cruise adds, seemed to contain all the elements that are uniquely suited to a Christopher McQuarrie Film -- whether or not Cruise starred in it.

"It's an incredible character and story, my favorite kind of movie and it has a very McQuarrie-esque voice -- adventure, wit, twists and turns and humor. I said, 'If you're interested in the project, I'd like to play it, but it's your decision. Regardless, I think you'd be the perfect director and I'd love to play the part but, otherwise, I'll just produce it.'

Fortunately, JACK REACHER proved to be the perfect project for McQuarrie and Cruise, with Cruise in roles both in front of and behind the camera.

The next big concern was the critical casting of Helen Rodin, the public defender who takes on the comatose alleged sniper as a client. They found their Helen in Rosamund Pike.

Because of logistical obstacles, McQuarrie and Pike first met over Skype. Their scheduled 20-minute chat ended two hours later and McQuarrie knew he had found his leading lady. Pike seemed to innately understand and embody her intelligence, vulnerability and capable defiance.

Pike was likewise eager to tackle the role, particularly after her lengthy discussion with the writer/director. She notes, "I really wasn't interested in portraying a stereotypical lawyer that's popular now in a lot of Hollywood fare. We've sort of come to expect a type of law portrayed on film that has become somewhat perfect, groomed, manicured, hard-edged and slightly cold. I was interested in finding the humanity of this woman, someone who's actually trying to present a polished front but is, in fact, struggling to hold it all together. We both were looking for some cracks to appear."

In the development of her character, Pike and McQuarrie sought to raise the stakes. "In the novel, Helen's firm was strongly opposed to her taking on the James Barr case. I wanted to feel that Helen was out on a limb, without means or funds to build a strong case. Her client is in a coma and she doesn't have the financial backing from her firm to hire a private investigator. I wanted the audience to see a different side of the law, a lawyer who is winging it rather than in full control of her game. Her hiring of Reacher is a gamble, one that at one point seems likely to backfire, as Helen starts to wonder if she has hired a conspiracy theorist, a violent lunatic who doesn't care about proof."

Pike appreciated the latitude McQuarrie afforded his cast to use each camera take as an opportunity to explore other possibilities within the scene. Pike continues, "Chris McQuarrie was greatly influenced by Hitchcock in the creation of suspense. He has an innate sense of rhythm which is the essence of his writing and also his film-making. Once you catch on to this sense of timing, working with the camera moves and allowing yourself to trust his instincts can be great fun. You feel a thread of tension and suspense: you have one end of it, and it goes straight through the camera to the audience. McQuarrie balances the buildup of tension with his trademark subversive humor. He also makes sure the dialogue moves at a lick. He really admires the machine gun rattle of the dialogue in films such as "His Girl Friday" and Tom and I both used this as reference for pace in certain scenes."

Pike's approach to the emotional and intellectual layers of Helen impressed Cruise; her poised performance reminded him of classic actresses.

"... like Faye Dunaway or Grace Kelly. Like them, she's beautiful and brings a complexity and intelligence and charm to the character. We had a lot of tricky scenes together, 15 pages of dialogue and so many story points and subtleties to their relationship. It's romantic but not overtly so, there's an elegance and surprise to it. So much is conveyed by what is not said between them. She's incredibly dynamic, enormously talented and I had a great time working with her," Cruise says. In fact, McQuarrie's favorite scene in the movie reveals the nuance and texture of the relationship between Reacher and Helen.

"My favorite scene is a phone call between Tom and Rosamund," McQuarrie confesses. "It's after a huge car chase. Reacher has been framed for murder and knows that what the villains want him to do is run. And he calls Helen at her apartment when she's being interviewed by the police who are looking for Reacher, and she has to make the decision, whose side am I on? Am I going to turn him in to the police, who I am talking to, or am I going to put my faith in this guy who I'm really starting to believe is crazy. And overwhelming evidence is now indicating that he's murdered someone and she has to make a choice. It's a situation in which all of the character dynamics that we've been building up in the course of the story have coalesced into this one scene. Tom's performance, Rosamund caught in the middle dynamic and what she decides to do and how she does, it's the stuff of great movies that I love. Everyone working together really pulled it off beautifully and I'm really proud of it," McQuarrie says.

Pike's public defender naturally crosses paths with the district attorney, whom she doesn't entirely trust, a relationship made more complicated because he is her father, played by Richard Jenkins.

The filmmakers note that Jenkins was their first and only choice to play District Attorney Rodin. Both McQuarrie and Granger are fans of Jenkins' considerable body of work. His scenes are vital in establishing the gradations of doubt and double-cross inherent to the case his daughter is investigating. Moreover, the filmmakers knew that Jenkins could communicate all of the levels of the complex relationship he has with his daughter; love, disappointment, old scars, fear for her well-being.

"We knew he could play the gray in the soul. When we watched him filming certain scenes, it was fascinating to watch what was going on behind his eyes -- exactly what is he feeling for Helen? Is he with her, or against her? This makes their relationship endlessly captivating," Granger says.

Jenkins adds that he was fascinated by the fraught, complicated relationship between father and daughter.

"I find the dynamic between the two characters very believable. I would love to know how they got there. There's almost another movie in that. We both have our ideas, but they aren't openly explored in the course of the film. But the viewer doesn't need that -- the only important thing is that they are there. There's a great butting of heads, and it's a tricky father/child relationship Lee and Christopher have fashioned," he says.

Beyond that, Jenkins appreciates the 'carnival ride' offered in JACK REACHER.

He continues, "The story kind of takes the viewer by the nose, saying, 'I'm taking you here.' And you say, 'I know, I know.' 'Ah, but no you don't,' the story retorts. It's just great storytelling and really good writing. Chris has found ways to reveal each character in a different way. He does it with my character. Police investigator Emerson is standing there, showing pictures of the crime scene to James Barr, who supposedly pulled the trigger. And Emerson says, 'We've got all the evidence we need. You're done.' Then he sits down and points to this character --me --leaning on the wall and says, 'This is the D.A.' So I've been standing there the whole time. You don't see me until he sits - and Chris loads this movie with little touches like that."

To play the pivotal part of Cash, a former military man who now runs a shooting range, filmmakers cast the venerable and Oscar-winning Robert Duvall -- who previously collaborated with Cruise on DAYS OF THUNDER, nearly 22 years ago. Their reunion was eagerly anticipated by the entire company.

Granger says, "These are actors of their generation. To watch them play off of each other is like watching master chess or tennis players. Despite the years since they've worked together, they quickly established a rhythm, like they had just come off the THUNDER set last week. Actually, they both have the same quality -- between every take they step back, close their eyes. They themselves are looking, along with Chris as he directs, for a different choice, inflection or way to play the character. Watching them work together is thrilling."

For Duvall, a link is forged with every acting partner, no matter how far in the past. He observes, "It's a funny business. You work with people for eight or ten weeks, then you go away and you never see those people. It's fickle, in a way, but yet the ties are there when you see somebody you've worked with after a number of years. There were a lot of laughs, hugs, joking around, and it was good. We picked up right where we left off. We've been through different passageways and different transformations, but to come back together…he's a fine actor. When you talk and listen, and listen and talk, that is the beginning and the end of the whole process of acting, and he's right there with you every time. People think it's easy to play a character but everyone should try it. It's not that simple to stay relaxed and plug into the moment," Duvall notes.

While Cash is wary of Reacher at first, the two eventually join forces and their unusual alliance provides some of the most entertaining moments in the film. Cruise was likewise thrilled to reunite with Duvall and agrees that when they saw each other again on set, it was like no time at all had passed.

"To be honest, it was like we never left. There was a real ease between us and he's such an interesting man and great to work with. I mean, he's an icon. He's given some of the greatest performances in cinema and he's a true actor's actor. I was so happy when he said he would do it. I love when you're watching a movie and you think you know where it's going and then suddenly this treasure appears and that's Duvall, an extraordinary actor who plays this wonderful character. And I love how the relationship evolves between the two of them - the stuff between them was so witty and fun, it was exciting to play every day he was there," Cruise says.

Another venerated actor appears in the movie, as the shadowy, morally bankrupt character called The Zec -- Werner Herzog. The enthusiasm, work ethic and pedigree of the legendary filmmaker impressed and humbled Cruise.

"He's an extraordinary filmmaker in his own right and he was so excited to come in and make this movie. He just dug right in and was incredibly supportive, interested and generous. Specifically, we were shooting at night in January and I was cold and wet, soaked to the bone, but he was right there with me, giving everything to the scenes 100%," Cruise says.

Herzog particularly appreciated McQuarrie's helming style and especially his open attitude towards the actors' contributions to the script.

"It was very easy with him, and you could always feel the clear guidance. He was always flexible to change slight meanings of dialogue to make things more evident. I adapted to it quickly. I always appreciate having someone who is both writer and director -- you know that changing half a sentence of dialogue won't result in a boardroom meeting at a studio," Herzog says.

Another key character in the story of JACK REACHER is police detective Emerson. Granger notes that there are points in the story where the audience might actually begin to believe that Emerson and Reacher will join forces. Granger describes Det. Emerson as "a stalwart, straight, compassionate detective, possessing a fierce morality and intellect, with the inherent capacity to save the day."

Enter David Oyelowo, who recalls, "When I first sat down with Chris, something he felt very strongly about was that Emerson feel sort of like the yang to the yin of Reacher. There's always the possibility of them teaming up -- but the fact is that when they're together in the same room, there's a slight rivalry. Both have an investigative mind, and they both understand information gathering with a view toward tracking down a criminal. Part of the tension comes from a level of competition, with both trying to apprehend their man, as opposed to butting heads because of their differences."

Off-screen, Oyelowo has nothing but admiration for Cruise, both as an actor and as a producer.

"I don't believe I've ever worked with an actor with his level of commitment, enthusiasm and can-do attitude. We have a car chase in this movie, and some pretty insane things go on, and that's largely because Tom sets the bar so high as to what he wants to accomplish with stunts. As a producer on the movie as well, he cares so much about the project - it was very inspiring to be around him," he says.

Oyelowo's not the only one who feels this way about Cruise and his genuine love of movies -- producer Don Granger recalls a day on set "... where I had that sort of furrowed brow producer look, because there's always some issue that's causing producer's headaches. And Tom asked if I was okay, and I said the typical, 'Yeah, just some problems we're dealing with.' He looked at me dead in the eye and said, 'Problems? You're making a movie. There are no problems. We're lucky.' And he's absolutely right. Tom's a guy who doesn't go to his trailer, he just hangs out on the set, because he loves the process. He loves setting up the shot as much as actually getting in front of the camera and doing it. He loves everything about making movies, everything about the technical craft, and there's no other place he'd rather be. And that's infectious for everybody and it makes us all better at what we do."

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