Christopher McQuarrie talks about working with Tom Cruise, "Mission; Impossible" sequel and why he modeled "Jack Reacher" on paranoid thrillers
Christopher McQuarrie, director and screenwriter of "Jack Reacher," said he endorsed Paramount's decision to cancel the Pittsburgh premiere of his upcoming action movie in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
"Nobody should be celebrating anything 24 hours after a tragic event like that," McQuarrie told TheWrap.
The director said it would be unseemly to be overly concerned with how his film will be received in the midst of the carnage that unfolded last Friday after 20-year-old Adam Lanza allegedly opened fire in an elementary school leaving 26 people dead, 20 of them children.
However, the parallels between the film's plot and the second-deadliest school shooting in United States history are unavoidable. "Jack Reacher" centers on a sniper attack that leaves five people dead.
The film is an adaptation of "One Shot," part of Lee Child's popular mystery novels that follow a brilliant former military police officer, as he brawls and deduces his way through tangled conspiracies. "Jack Reacher" opens Friday.
In a wide ranging interview, McQuarrie also talked about the influence of paranoid thrillers like "All the President's Men" on "Jack Reacher," why he picked the diminutive Tom Cruise for the part of the 6 foot 5 inches sleuth, and what he hopes to do with the "Mission: Impossible" franchise if handed the reins.
Given that this film opens with a mass shooting, are you worried about how "Jack Reacher" will be received in the wake of the Newtown massacre?
It may have an impact, and it may not. I can't concern myself with that, not when other people have so many bigger problems than whatever worries I have about opening a movie I've been working on for two years. It just seems trivial compared to the devastation that people are feeling. Whatever happens, I can't worry about how it effects me personally, because I get to go home to my children, so it just pales in comparison to what others are going through right now.
Did you support Paramount's decision to cancel the movie's premiere in Pittsburgh last Saturday?
Tom and I insisted upon it. Nobody should be celebrating anything 24 hours after a tragic event like that.
We thought long and hard about it. This was not a snap judgment, because we wanted to give back to the city of Pittsburgh, because they were so great to us.
What is Tom Cruise like as a collaborator?
He is great. You're talking about somebody who has worked with best directors of the later half of the 20th century. He comes to work wanting to learn from everybody around him. He's absorbed an enormous amount from people like Scorsese, Spielberg and Kubrick and he brings all of that with him and distils that into a sense of story and story telling.
Still his casting was somewhat controversial, no? In the Lee Child novels, Reacher is blonde and 6 foot, 5 inches. Do you think fan objections were valid?
Anybody who bought the book, bought shares of stock in Jack Reacher, so their opinion matters. But many of the most vocal objectors don’t really understand everything that goes into making a movie. When it comes to his physical size, there was simply not a movie actor like that who exists and who could get this movie made. What's funny is those fans who reacted negatively would offer suggestions who they think would be right and those are quite frankly no different when it comes to the height thing. Clive Owen? He's a great actor, but he's not anymore like the Jack Reacher that is described in the books.
When it came to casting Tom, I'd rather have fans be pissed off before they see the movie rather than after.
With a plot that involves an outsider arriving in town and getting mixed up in a wider conspiracy, "Jack Reacher" reminds me of the Spencer Tracy movie "Bad Day at Black Rock." Was that an influence?
You hit the magic reference. That is probably one of my big favorites. It was an even bigger influence on my first movie "The Way of the Gun."
Were there other films that you were referencing?
"All the President's Men." The films of Alan J. Pakula and Don Siegel. Those were movies that were stripped down to an emphasis on story.
I think ["Jack Reacher"] is a throwback. You develop a palate for watching movies, the same way as food, when you grow up. Those were the movies I grew up watching.
Yet the film is funnier than those movies. There are some laugh out loud moments. Did those come from the books?
Some of the humor comes from the books and some is just my approach to filmmaking. I have a dark gallows sense of humor, and that runs headlong into Tom's sense of humor. He is all about entertaining an audience and never having a movie be punishing.
Your name has been mentioned in connection with the next "Mission: Impossible" movie. Are you interested in directing one of those films?
Interested and intimated all at the same time. I love the idea of working with Tom on a big franchise and it's a big opportunity to get to follow ["Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol"] director Brad Bird.
It's about finding a way to bring what I do to Tom and J.J. Abrams' franchise. What Brad did was he finally discovered the tone that should define the series. Each movie had its own distinct tone, which is natural given that they were done by different directors. There was a certain thrust to the first one, an operatic quality to the second movie and an intensity to the third. Brad found a delicate balance between danger and fun. There's been nothing like "Ghost Protocol" since "Raiders of the Lost Ark." I think it's important to preserve that voice, while taking somebody like me, who is a little darker and more brutal.
Lee Child wrote more than a dozen Jack Reacher adventures. Will there be a sequel?
It's the law of supply and demand. If it works and is a success, there will.
I'd love to see a return to these kind of movies, so there is something in the middle. Right now you have these big giant tentpole movies and these small found footage movies. There's not a place for "Dog Day Afternoon." I hope the success of movies like this opens more doors to those kind of stories.
You've been busy as a screenwriter on films like "Valkyrie" and "The Wolverine," but you waited more than a decade to direct a movie after "The Way of the Gun." Will you wait as long between directing projects this time?
It's not up to me. I would have gladly directed immediately after "The Way of the Gun," but nobody called me. In truth, I developed a bunch of projects for myself that never got made. The business and I had irreconcilable differences for a long time. It took a while for me to work within the system and for the system to understand what I had to offer, but I hope that we can work together better in the future.