Jack Reacher: Tom Cruise in the title role

Jack Reacher is written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, and stars Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike and Richard Jenkins. The film is being released by Paramount on December 21st.

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?’” director Christopher 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.

A Unique Force of Nature

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.

Jack Reacher: The Comfortable Loner

“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.”

Past Collaborators

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 ‘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.