Lee Child: “Tom Cruise is a global superstar but he’s also a fine actor”
Ahead of the release of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, we spoke to the author himself.
Lee Child and Tom Cruise The author of Jack Reacher alongside the man playing him on the big screen. Image Getty
Jack Reacher is so much more than your average paperback thriller protagonist.
To an outsider the idea of a Coventry-born novelist – Jim Grant, penned under the name Lee Child – with a background in television production writing about an a rogue ex-military policeman may sound a little out of place.
But, as Lee explains, his protagonist is so much more than that.
“He’s a character that has existed in stories going back thousands of years,” he says.
“That hero that arrives, in the nick of time, to save the day, before disappearing off into the sunset once again. It’s a character societies all across the world dreamt up from the Japanese Ronin to the heroes of the medieval sagas in Europe.”
Speaking ahead of the release of Tom Cruise’s second outing as the titular hero in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, the author of his 21 adventures to date talked to loaded about his plans for the future, TV vs Movies and marijuana.
loaded: A lot of people have questioned the casting of Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher in the past but you’ve always been a keen supporter – what does he bring to the role?
Lee: Tom Cruise brings tremendous intensity and star-power. He knows he doesn’t look like Jack Reacher in the books but then nobody does.
So it became about casting someone who could bring out the inside of Reacher through sheer acting talent and that’s what he’s got. Tom Cruise is a global superstar but he’s also a fine actor. He loves the books and the character and that’s clear from what goes on the screen.
“This movie has got some of the best fist fights I’ve ever seen on film”
loaded: Tom Cruise is 54, yet does the majority of his stunts in this film. His physicality in this film is pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Lee: Yes, but it’s not just Tom in this movie – Cobie Smulders went through the same training regime. This movie has got some of the best fist fights I’ve ever seen on film though and that’s because they are honest and completely real.
There’s no CGI, there’s no stunt doubles, just people doing it and the results are amazing.
loaded: How important was the casting of Cobie Smulders?
Lee: With respect to Tom, for the movie to work, Cobie had to be great and she nailed it. Cobie was also incredibly brave when it came to the physicality of the film.
She took it on off the back of suffering a broken leg not long before filming and had the determination to do it and succeed. The pivot of the movie is Cobie – she makes it work.
loaded: What’s your favourite fight scene from the film?
Lee: My favourite comes when he uses the salt shaker as a knuckle-duster to break the car window. I love that because it’s not actually in the book – that is a scene they invented.
It’s such a Reacher thing to do that I almost found myself thinking ‘why didn’t I put that in the book?’ It was a great stunt but also an indication the filmmakers understood the character.
loaded: Before becoming a novelist you worked on shows like Cracker and Prime Suspect, has that influenced your work with Reacher?
Lee: I wouldn’t say the characters directly – those were gritty, real world shows, whereas while Reacher looks real he’s more of a myth and a legend.
Working in TV teaches you a few things though. Firstly, that the audience comes first and you are their servant. It also teaches you about dialogue; you have to be so brief, so punchy.
loaded: Having seen what Michael Connelly has done with Bosch on Amazon Prime, are you tempted to one day take Reacher to the small screen?
Lee: I’m always talking with TV execs about ideas. I’ve actually got three or four projects in development, though none of them are Reacher stories.
“I don’t find it very efficient to smoke marijuana while I am actually writing”
I’m not sure about Reacher on the TV though, as Amazon might find out. Michael Connelly has done a lot more books than me but TV is a voracious animal that chews up material and you very quickly run out of original stuff.
Then what happens when you start doing stories just for TV is that it’s no longer your invention and instead becomes something very generic. So that’s probably something I wouldn’t want to do, because I know the dangers of TV and how things can go wrong.
loaded: Your most recent Reacher book, Night School, is a prequel. Would you consider making that into a film and casting a younger actor?
Lee: If you look ahead strategically, the only other franchise you could really look to imitate is James Bond and if we ever got up to that number, you wouldn’t necessarily expect Tom Cruise to be Reacher. At that stage, the obvious thing would be to step back with a prequel.
loaded: It’s no secret that your an advocate of marijuana – does it help with the process of writing Jack Reacher?
Lee: Yes, though I don’t find it very efficient to smoke marijuana while I am actually writing because you can get a bit slowed down or you can be doing things you think are fantastic only to find, later, that it’s actually a bit rubbish.
But I am an advocate for it and think it’s beneficial, harmless and better than alcohol. Marijuana helps smooth out all the complexity of putting a story together and allows you to focus more and address any issues.
loaded: You are an Aston Villa fan – do you think Jack Reacher could solve the club’s problems?
Lee: (Laughs) I think he could certainly apply the motivation and discipline but his tactics might end up being a bit naïve. A bit 1970s rather than the current day.
Diner delights The film's opening gambit Image Paramount
loaded: What would you like to see in the next Jack Reacher film?
Lee: Having done two that are urban stories in Pittsburgh and New Orleans, I would like to see one of the truly rural ones. One of the badlands stories from way out west, with that empty landscape and I think the studio is in tune with that.
loaded: Who would you love to see play a Jack Reacher villain?
Lee: I’d love to get Jack Nicholson out of retirement. He’s got that lunatic, unhinged quality to him that would be really great for a Reacher villain.