FILM

James Man­gold talks about di­rect­ing Tom Cruise in Knight and Day

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

IF YOU were mar­ket­ing a Hollywood in­sider ac­tion doll it might look and (pull the string) sound a lit­tle like James Man­gold. Washed and scrubbed, wear­ing a neat black beard, he ra­di­ates the brisk, ef­fi­cient en­ergy you’d ex­pect from a man who knows how to “take a meet­ing”. As this writer en­ters, he turns from his busi­ness man­ager and, with­out blink­ing, points a fin­ger in my di­rec­tion.

“I’ve come across you be­fore. Haven’t I?” he says.

Well, yes. But that was all of seven years ago. We met when he was pro­mot­ing a nifty lit­tle thriller called Iden­tity. At that point, Man­gold was just nudg­ing his way to­wards the top ta­ble. Heavy, his first film as di­rec­tor, had been some­thing of a hit on the fes­ti­val cir­cuit. Cop Land, a mod­est crit­i­cal suc­cess, had brought Robert De Niro face-to-face with Sylvester Stallone. Girl, In­ter­rupted had se­cured An­gelina Jolie an Os­car.

Things re­ally changed for Man­gold with the re­lease of Walk the Line in 2005. He se­cured an Os­car for his take on the Johnny Cash leg­end and, along the way, ate the Ir­ish box of­fice alive. I as­sume – given how or­gan­ised he ap­pears – that some­body in­formed him the film stayed in the Ir­ish top 10 for a stag­ger­ing 11 weeks.

“I did not know that,” he said. “Now, that’s in­ter­est­ing. Be­cause it cer­tainly wasn’t one of the biggest films ever in Bri­tain.” Wheels spin as he stores this fact away. I ex­pect to hear it re­peated when we meet in an­other seven years.

Since the suc­cess of Walk the Line, Man­gold has con­tin­ued to ex­er­cise his ap­par­ent de­sire to make a film within ev­ery sig­nif­i­cant genre.

3:10 to Yuma brought the un­com­pli­cated western – as op­posed to its post­mod­ern, ele­giac cousin – back to main­stream cine­mas. Now, he of­fers us the agree­ably pe­cu­liar Knight and Day. Star­ring Tom Cruise as a se­cret agent and Cameron Diaz as an or­di­nary cit­i­zen caught up in his ad­ven­tures, the film nods to­wards such clas­sic height­ened romps as Cha­rade and North by North­west.

“Yes, sure. There is cer­tainly some­thing of those films here,” he says. “The ex­cite­ment was tak­ing huge ac­tors and plung­ing them into some­thing that was slightly ab­surd –

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