I appreciate having friends who can introduce me to new things that they think I'd be interested in. I've got buddies like Pete Michaels, Vivian Chew and Bruce Jones who turn me on to all kinds of music, Mike Horton who keeps me up with the inner workings of James Bond and Bruce Lee, Joe Arancio, who introduced me to the world of the UFC, Robert Baruc who's provided me with a deeper appreciation of the sixties (not to mention how to talk your way into almost anything), Marc Sternberg, who's enriched my understanding of the mechanics of the film industry and a number of others.
My foremost resource for great books is my favorite curmudgeon, Howard Chaykin. Howard, a legendary comic book artist/writer, television writer and world class raconteur, seems to read five books at a time, and finishes them with blinding speed and comprehension.
When we first became acquainted about a decade ago, we found we had a love of books in common. We compared notes on some of our favorite authors, but when he mentioned 'Lee Child' and I gave him the blankest of stares, he took pity on me (after berating me mercilessly) and told me that I had to read 'Killing Floor', the first book in the Jack Reacher series.
I started reading the story of former military policeman, Jack Reacher, a blonde, 6'5", 250 lb. slab of muscle and smarts, who wandered the country with only a toothbrush. No home, no baggage, no restrictions. I was immediately drawn into author Child's ability to write spare dialogue that was colorful, yet to the point. Most importantly, Reacher's calm under fire and very low tolerance for BS made him a classic American hero.
I called Howard and cursed him, because I was up until late that night trying to finish the book. By the time I read the final page, I had ordered the whole series. A new fan was born.
Child is a transplanted Englishman living New York these days. He delivers a new Reacher novel every year like clockwork. Some adventure are huge, some not so much, but all provide this ass kicking drifter another opportunity to remind one and all what a real tough guy really is.
With the books constantly landing on the New York Times Bestseller list, the inevitable question had to come up: Who'll play Jack Reacher in the movie? I always thought that even though Reacher is described almost like a modern day viking: Big, white and blonde; that Dwayne Johnson would have been a great Jack Reacher. He's got the size and intelligence, he was the right age, and he projected a cool calmness without strain. In fact, when I met him several years ago, I gave him a copy of 'Killing Floor', but I doubt he ever read it.
A couple of years ago I heard that Tom Cruise was circling Jack Reacher. I was horrified. But when I thought about it, I assumed he'd get if for his production company and he'd produce it, letting someone else star. Then it went quiet for awhile, and there was no more talk of a filmic Reacher outside of the forum on Lee Child's website.
Last year it was announced that Cruise had got the rights to 'One Shot' from the Reacher series and had signed to star as Big Jack. I was stunned. Nor were any of my friends who enjoy the Reacher series pleased to hear this unsettling news. As you can imagine, the internet was on fire almost immediately with fans of Child's books, affectionately known as 'Reacher's Creatures', bashing Cruise for taking the role and accused Child of selling out.
I couldn't blame Child for cashing in. He should get whatever he feels is fair. After all, it is his creation. Whatever Paramount and Cruise do in the film world of Jack Reacher, good or bad, doesn't eliminate the availability of the original source material to interested readers. I met Child a few years ago and found him to be a down to earth guy who talked straight, so I wish him well.
The Cruise thing is another matter. Unlike my fellows and a lot of movie goers, I like Cruise. Met him twice, talked with him at length, and I gave him thumbs up both times. He may have his issues, but he can be a really solid actor, has generally made good choices and always works hard. I can't think of many actors who could have delivered the physical performance he did in last year's mammoth 'Mission Impossible 4', with minimal stuntmen stand-ins. The guy never phones it in.
I've tried to keep an open mind about Cruise as Reacher, but it's tough, particularly when Child always makes a point of talking about both Reacher's size and his calm. Cruise is said to be 5'6", but I'd put him closer to 5'8" or 5'9". The photo below is from the audio commentary session for 'Jerry Maguire'. While we look nearly the same height, Cruise was standing on a platform that was about 6 inches from the floor. Even if he was wearing boots (which I don't remember), that would still put him at an average guy's height.
I read the script several months ago, when it was originally titled 'One Shot', before being changed to 'Jack Reacher'. I was impressed with how well Christopher McQuarrie transferred the muscular narrative of Child's novel into a workable screenplay. That gave me a bit of hope. Then the first photo was released.
Wasn't bad, Cruise looked serious and ready to do damage, so I thought, 'ok, after MI4, you've earned the right to ask me to have an open mind'. And I've been trying. But when I saw the first teaser, I didn't feel hopeful. For some reason, Cruise seemed smaller than usual; not a good thing.
Jack Reacher- teaser trailer
But I asked myself, 'how you can readily accept Daniel Craig as James Bond, when he's almost as physically the opposite of the book James Bond as Cruise is of the book version of Reacher?' I still have no answer. But I'm going to pull for Cruise to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, because I'd like to have a great 'Jack Reacher' on the screen that did what 'Casino Royale' did, unanimously convert the naysayers and deliver a wholly satisfying movie. Here's the second trailer, adding more story points and a better idea of how Reacher rolls.
'Jack Reacher'- trailer 2
But I have a theoretical plan B that bears review. If 'Jack Reacher' doesn't work and there's no sequel, hopefully Paramount will let it stew for a few years and be ready for a reboot in four or five years, at which point, Chris (Thor) Hemsworth with be older and seasoned enough to step in and re-introduce a more platable version of this modern day Shane.
But until then, I'll be at the Arclight on December 21st with my fingers crossed.
Take care of your whole self and have a hopeful week!