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Jack Reacher - Christopher McQuarrie interview

Jack Reacher

Compiled by Jack Foley

CHRISTOPHER McQuarrie talks about some of the challenges of making Jack Reacher and how he came to cast the film.

He also discusses the film’s car chase, why he felt he would never direct again and why he prefers directing to writing.

Q. You are known to be the master of good twists in Hollywood. Any twist crisis for Jack Reacher?
Christopher McQuarrie: In a funny way, late in the process, we did have a twist crisis. There is a twist in the book. The revelation who the killer is comes really late. And I didn’t really like that. I told the studio I would do the movie if they allow me to reveal the twist 10 minutes into the film. The studio thought it was a strange idea, but I explained to them how it might work. And they agreed with me.

Q. You obviously like your actors to work at night, right?
Christopher McQuarrie: I never set out to do it that way. But you are right; the nightly car chase scene took forever to shoot. It took us three weeks, sometimes 24 hour days. It was very, very long! It was raining, it was cold, everybody was miserable. But we think it was worth it.

Q. How many of those beautiful cars did you guys crash?
Christopher McQuarrie: We started with nine cars, and we ended with one car. The rest were demolished.

Q. There have been many memorable car chases in Hollywood movies. The one in Jack Reacher can hold its own with the best. Did you feel the pressure to create a great car chase scene?
Christopher McQuarrie: Well I knew there were high expectations. But we also knew we were playing with a rigged deck. We had Tom Cruise, and he knows how to drive. Tom is in about 90% of the shots. Every single shot we designed there was a chance that the camera could be wasted. It was pretty edgy stuff.

Q. Was that the biggest challenge to do on this job?
Christopher McQuarrie: No, I live to do this stuff. We were like little kids playing hooky. We did the responsible thing. The challenging stuff is always character. Four people in a room and then trying to make those scenes dynamic. Tom and Rosamund in the diner – that was a very tough scene for me.

Q. Can you talk about casting a little?
Christopher McQuarrie: I had seen Rosamund in An Education. She was great. I was looking for a certain attitude from Helen. And I met with numerous actresses, and Rosamund I couldn’t meet face to face. I met her on Skype. She immediately had me laughing. And I wanted Helen to have that strength and that humor. And it was like that with all the other actors as well. They all brought something to the table. Tom helped me to cast Jai Courtney. I had sent Tom a quick clip of Jai without any comments. And Tom emailed me back immediately with the words “cast him!” I have to admit, having Tom Cruise in a movie is amazing.

Q. Could it be a double-edged sword to cast Tom Cruise though? He’s such a dominant figure on screen. Weren’t you afraid his onscreen presence might take something away from the movie?
Christopher McQuarrie: I look at it that way, when I watch him as Vincent in Collateral he walked in as that guy, and you realize he’s still got it. He can play so many different guys. And the nice thing about Tom is that he’s not sensitive and he’s not precious. He wants to get right to it; he wants you to be honest with him. So, you can have very honest conversations with him.

Q. What was your first conversation with him?
Christopher McQuarrie: I said to him: every character you have ever played has been under intense pressure in pursuit of the object of the plot. Jack Reacher experiences no pressure. And he pursues nothing. I asked him if he was comfortable to play a guy who’s that passive. Who’d rather give up on the villain and not get the girl. It’s just not in his DNA. Tom looked at me and said he loved it. I had very little direction for him in this film.

Q. Is it true that you never thought you’d make another movie again?
Christopher McQuarrie: Yes, that is true. I never thought I’d direct a movie ever again. I had given up on that idea a while ago. When I write a screenplay, I don’t plan beyond that anymore. I try to stay emotionally uninvolved.

Q. Why is that?
Christopher McQuarrie: It’s self-preservation. You are putting in all this effort for a year or longer. And then it’s being passed on to somebody else; it’s given to a substandard director. And ultimately the movie comes out and you don’t recognize it anymore as your work. It’s easier for me now to write a screenplay.

Q. When you are shooting the movie, do you ever think ‘oh, this would be great for the DVD’?
Christopher McQuarrie: I think they are always moments during a shoot that won’t make it into the movie but could be added as an extra to the DVD. The stuff we did during those car chases for example was unreal at times. And we have it all on camera. That would be fun for the audience to explore further. Just for the fact alone that it was just so insane at times.

Q. What do you like better these days, directing or writing?
Christopher McQuarrie: Directing is the greatest job in the world. Writing is the most miserable job in the world. Everybody is waiting for you. You need to wake up in the morning and motivate yourself to start writing. When you are directing you are a thoroughbred animal. You are off to the races. It’s unstoppable. You are naturally motivated to do it. The pressure to write a script on a deadline is miserable. Deadlines in directing are not imaginary, they are very real.

Q. What are you working on next? And is it true that you are working in Top Gun 2?
Christopher McQuarrie: I am currently working on All You Need Is Kill. They needed somebody to work on a script. And they hired me to do it. And no, I am not involved in Top Gun 2. I had one very early meeting with Cruise, and that was it. It’s just a rumour that won’t go away.

Read our review of Jack Reacher