James Mangold talks about directing Tom Cruise in Knight and Day
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 –