A/V Room









War of the Worlds - Tom Cruise interview

Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q: Why War of the Worlds?
It’s just a visceral feeling that I have where I go ‘I’m interested in this…’ It’s a picture that Steven and I developed based on the War of the Worlds story.
There are elements of the book but now it’s a modern story which we created with David Koepp [writer]. You look at something and go, ‘I want to go on this journey..’ That’s where it hits me.

Q: But the book has been around for 107 years, why now?
I just thought it would be great, very exciting. And as a film fan I wanted to see what Steven is going to do with it. I want to see Spielberg direct that movie and create his own vision and I wanted to be part of that story.
I remember when we had finished Minority Report and he was shooting Catch Me If You Can and I was bringing him trailers and TV spots out to him (for Minority Report) in the back of the car.
And we sat there and it was like ‘what are we going to do next?’ And he mentioned three movies and War of the Worlds was the third one and we both looked at each other and realised that was it.

Q: How did it develop?
Steven and I had kind of worked out together what we wanted from the story and then David came in and sat down. And David is very fast – both Steven and I have worked with him before (Cruise on Mission Impossible and Spielberg on The Lost World: Jurassic Park). And he was like a man on fire.
He blazed out that first draft and it was the best first draft I’ve ever read. It just flew. David does the research, he looks at other things, and then it’s just coming out of him. The script was economical and engrossing with a tremendous amount of life. It was like ‘we have to make this movie now!”

Q: What sort of input did you have into the story?
There were different things that Steven and I both worked on. For me, having the guy be a deadbeat father, wanting to make the picture about a personal journey about a parent with his children and what that journey would be like, you know, if that weekend the world is coming to an end or the world is suddenly at war.
And this man who is ill equipped, irresponsible, a bigger child than the real kids, you know how is he gonna cope with this? That’s an interesting story to me.
Those are the things that Steven and I really talked about. I wanted to make it a film that I could dedicate to my children, which is about how much I love my children. It’s actually a very intimate story about the family.
I wanted to play a father in a movie and be a character like the blue collar worker this guy is. I lived in Jersey twice and David really rolled with that.

Q: It’s one of the hallmarks of a Spielberg film that he can deal with an epic, sweeping story and yet make it personal and human…
Yes, you get to understand that the whole world is under attack but it’s all from the point of view of Ray Ferrier. Steven does that with his movies and it brings you right into those characters and their stories and you really care what they are going through.

Q: You obviously enjoy the creative process with Steven…
Right at the beginning we sat down and said ‘OK, how are we going to shoot this movie?’
And we kind of explored different ways to do it. And I said ‘this story is about a family..’ Steven and I we feed off each other and you know, he’s very inspiring to be around. And the two of us, it’s just this creative combustion that occurs. And when you have the opportunity to create with Steven Spielberg, it’s very exciting.

Q: Were you first aware of War of the Worlds as a book or as a radio play?
Actually the first thing I had heard about was the Orson Welles radio play. I used to love listening to radio plays – I’d sneak in and listen to plays at night when everyone was asleep. I remember hearing of that incredible Orson Welles broadcast.

Q: The book was published in 1898 and yet it has managed to to stay relevant to different audiences at different times..
Yes, when Orson Welles did his radio broadcast in 1938 it was to the backdrop of the Nazis invading Poland, the threat of war. Then in the 1950s it was the Cold War. Great science fiction has tremendous characters and is still relevant. It’s dealing with universal themes; you know, what would happen? What is man’s enemy? Right now, it’s man on man, forever it’s been man fighting man.
Man killing man for territory, for beliefs, no believing. Man trying to dominate man. But man really doesn’t recognise the common enemy, you know?
Whether it’s drug addiction, illiteracy, criminality, immorality. Those things that are rotting our societies at the core. That’s what we all have in common. And that’s what H.G Wells did with his book. He looked at what happens when man recognises a common enemy. I re-read the book a couple of years ago and first of all, he’s a great writer, the prose is wonderful, and you just marvel at the imagination.

Q: Some of the great science fiction writers, like Wells, were quite prophetic..
You know, often when we look at technology today, it’s often always some artist who has thought of it beforehand – like Leonardo Da Vinci and the helicopter. Look at Steven Spielberg, the idea of the screen with the hands at the beginning of Minority Report – that was right out of Steven’s mind. We called it scrubbing the image. About a year, six months before we shot the picture he brought me in and showed me this idea. Now, in the newspapers a couple of weeks ago, I saw that they had actually developed that. So when you look at great science fiction it does have relevance, political relevance.

Q: And working with a director like Steven is to work with a man very much in control of his medium…
Yes. I enjoy movies where I can get emotionally involved and with Steven Spielberg’s films you care about the characters, understand those characters and the story. Look at Close Encounters for instance.
That’s about a guy who goes insane. He leaves his family and you think he is going insane but really he’s the sane one because ultimately this is what is happening to him and it’s outside other people’s reality. But you go with it, somehow you are right there with this character. I love how Steven looks into families, men and women, and how that reveals itself in his stories.

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