JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK

Tom Cruise re­turns as Lee Child’s hero in a piece that doesn’t men­tion the height thing once.

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS -

TOM CRUISE HAS A RULE: UN­LESS

it’s Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble, he doesn’t do se­quels. Through­out his 35-year ca­reer, with­out fail he has left ev­ery iconic role be­hind ex­cept su­per-spy Ethan Hunt. There is no Jerry Maguire 2. No Born

On The Fifth Of July. No Rain Men. That changes next month with Jack Reacher:

Never Go Back, in which Cruise once more fills the shoes of Lee Child’s no­madic hero, last seen in 2012’s no-frills thriller Jack Reacher. So how did this char­ac­ter, an ex-mil­i­tary po­lice­man who wan­ders across Amer­ica, right­ing wrongs with his fists and smarts, suc­ceed where the likes of Cole Trickle, John An­der­ton or even Les Gross­man failed, by bur­row­ing into Cruise’s sub­con­scious and de­mand­ing to be taken for a sec­ond spin?

“He’s such a fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ter to me,” says Cruise, talk­ing to Empire from Paris af­ter a long day film­ing his new movie, The Mummy (Cruise ap­praisal: “It’s fun and scary as hell”). “Reacher’s not some­one who has a Black­berry or an iphone, or any elec­tronic de­vice. He’s not on the in­ter­net. He has a unique per­spec­tive on hu­man­ity and on so­ci­ety. In some ways he’s a wish ful­fil­ment for peo­ple.”

Maybe for Cruise, too. Af­ter all, this is a man who prob­a­bly hasn’t gone a day in years with­out be­ing ha­rassed for a selfie. Reacher’s anony­mous life­style must seem like an ex­otic dream. Yet play­ing Reacher also al­lows the 54-year-old to go places he usually can’t. Reacher is the ar­che­typal guy with noth­ing to lose, who doesn’t think twice about threat­en­ing to drink a bad guy’s “blood from a boot” (as he did in the last movie) or shoot­ing a pen­sioner in the head (ditto). “Reacher is brutal,” laughs Cruise. “He’s that guy whose eye­line you don’t want to be in. If you did some­thing wrong and he’s got his eye on you, you’re gonna lose.”

ON ONE LEVEL, THE AR­RIVAL OF

a new Jack Reacher movie shouldn’t sur­prise. Af­ter all, Lee Child does do se­quels. Nine­teen of them so far, in fact, at a steady pace since 1997’s

Killing Floor, in which Reacher is ar­rested for a crime he didn’t com­mit, and ends up shoot­ing a whole lot of peo­ple for crimes they did. So there’s no short­age of ma­te­rial for future movies.

Yet on an­other level, a sec­ond Reacher movie is some­thing of a sur­prise. Jack Reacher grossed $218 mil­lion glob­ally. A more than re­spectable amount, par­tic­u­larly for a movie bud­geted at just $50 mil­lion, and Paramount was happy enough to give direc­tor Christo­pher Mc­quar­rie the nod to work with Cruise again in Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble

— Rogue Na­tion. It wasn’t, though, the sort of take that usually trig­gers a fol­low-up. When he and Mc­quar­rie moved onto Rogue Na­tion, it ap­peared their shot at fos­ter­ing a new fran­chise had died. Then, as hap­pened with Austin Pow­ers and The Ter­mi­na­tor, to name but two, home view­ers changed the film’s for­tunes and there­fore the future. “It was un­be­liev­ably suc­cess­ful in all its re­lease plat­forms af­ter theatri­cal,” says pro­ducer Don Granger, the per­suader who saw the po­ten­tial of Child’s cre­ation back in 2001 then spent the best part of a decade try­ing to make it hap­pen. With that home-en­ter­tain­ment boost, Paramount an­nounced in De­cem­ber 2013 that the next movie in the se­ries would be based on the

18th novel, Never Go Back, which Child had just pub­lished. Never Go Back was se­lected af­ter a long dis­cus­sion between Cruise, Granger and Mc­quar­rie, who was then po­ten­tially re­turn­ing as direc­tor. “I brought over a box of the books and we lined them up,” says Granger. “We took One Shot [the book that be­came Jack Reacher], put it back in the box and then lit­er­ally talked about the mer­its of ev­ery book.” Af­ter hours of leaf­ing through pa­per­backs, the trio made their choice. The book that screamed, “Make me!” was Never Go Back. “It had the best of ev­ery­thing,” says Granger. “At the time it was the best­selling Reacher book, the best re­viewed of them all, and it had a sur­pris­ing emo­tional con­nec­tion to the story.” English poet John Donne once wrote, “No man is an is­land.” He might have re­vised that opin­ion had he lived an­other 400 years and read a Reacher book. Child’s cre­ation had spent 17 books as an im­pla­ca­ble, un­know­able, walk­ing is­land, iso­lated from the rest of hu­man­ity — here to­day, gone to­mor­row. Each book is a sep­a­rate adventure, with sup­port­ing char­ac­ters very sel­dom pop­ping up in more than one story.

Never Go Back tied Reacher more firmly to not one but two women. First, there’s Su­san Turner (Co­bie Smul­ders), a ma­jor who has taken charge of Reacher’s old com­mand in the 110th MP. And this time it’s per­sonal, as Reacher is told he fi­nally has some­thing worth dy­ing for: a 15year-old daugh­ter he never knew he had, Sa­man­tha Day­ton (Danika Yarosh). “We thought be­cause of the re­la­tion­ship with Su­san and Sa­man­tha, it would be a nice fol­low-up to the last one,” says Cruise. “He’s in­trigued by this woman who has his old job. And how would Reacher deal with a 15-year-old girl? It’s the char­ac­ters around him who bring out dif­fer­ent as­pects of his per­son­al­ity.”

The two strands in­ter­twine when Reacher heads to West Vir­ginia to meet Turner af­ter a phone flir­ta­tion. The vis­i­tor finds that Turner has been ar­rested, while he is drafted back into the army on a trumped-up charge. Not one to take it ly­ing down, Reacher breaks Turner out

of jail and heads across coun­try, a wanted man, in an at­tempt to un­ravel a deadly con­spir­acy. Along the way, the tena­cious, wily, tough-as-nails Sa­man­tha joins the af­fair. “There are dif­fer­ent dy­nam­ics here,” says Smul­ders. “It’s not just Reacher get­ting shit done by him­self. He is part­nered with a woman who is just as in­tel­li­gent, just as ca­pa­ble, and he has to re­con­fig­ure his brain around that. Also, we’re cou­pled with this young teenager, and the three of us are this weird fam­ily.”

With Rogue Na­tion tak­ing up most of Cruise’s 2015, film­ing didn’t start on Never Go Back un­til Oc­to­ber of that year, al­most two years af­ter it was first an­nounced. Within that time, it be­came clear that Mc­quar­rie wouldn’t be able to direct both films on ac­count of not be­ing su­per­hu­man. Some­thing had to give, and that was Reacher. Mc­quar­rie would stay on as pro­ducer, but a new direc­tor was needed. Cruise promptly flipped open his trusty Rolodex and went right to Z.

“Tom called and said, ‘What are you do­ing?’” re­calls Ed­ward Zwick, who last di­rected Cruise in 2003’s The Last Sa­mu­rai. “I said, ‘I’m try­ing to get movies go­ing. And, as you know, these days to get in­ter­est­ing movies done with stu­dios is much more of a chal­lenge than it ever was.’ He said, ‘Well, read this book.’” Zwick’s fil­mog­ra­phy is a var­ied, many-gar­landed thing, com­pris­ing se­ri­ous, square-jawed epics such as Glory and Le­gends Of The Fall as well as adult ro­mances such as About Last Night... and Love & Other Drugs. What his CV lacks, by his own ad­mis­sion, is a piece of pulp. “I have avoided movies like this,” he ad­mits. “But I could sit here and talk to you all day about Ray­mond Chan­dler and Dashiell Ham­mett and George Pele­canos and Michael Con­nelly. I love this stuff. So why haven’t I done any? What in­hi­bi­tion of se­ri­ous­ness might be hold­ing me back? Do I al­ways need to have a big sub­ject?”

Zwick is too re­fined to come out and say it, but he also needs, af­ter a run of un­der-per­form­ing films in­clud­ing De­fi­ance and Pawn Sac­ri­fice, a solid hit. A Jack Reacher film star­ring Tom Cruise should be just that. But it’s not quite that sim­ple. AC­TION-THRILLERS RULED THE roost in the 1990s. Back then, it seemed ev­ery week brought a new John Gr­isham movie, or some­thing where Tommy Lee Jones chased Ash­ley Judd or vice versa. But by 2012, the mar­ket for mid-bud­get thrillers like Jack Reacher and The Lin­coln Lawyer (based on the Michael Con­nelly novel) was shrink­ing fast. Four years on, there’s a chance it may not ex­ist at all, some­thing Zwick has learned the hard way. “I couldn’t do

Courage Un­der Fire now. I couldn’t do Blood Di­a­mond,” he says. “That just isn’t go­ing to hap­pen. Do peo­ple still go to the movies for this kind of story? They’re find­ing that they don’t go to them for ro­man­tic come­dies. They’re not see­ing so­cial-is­sue stu­dio movies. Will they be in­ter­ested in see­ing this type of char­ac­ter-driven ac­tion film?”

Nowa­days, it seems if you’re not a giant $250 mil­lion block­buster that’s ei­ther based on a comic book, a Star War or has the prospect of Tom Cruise cling­ing to the side of a plane, it’s harder than ever to get bums on seats. “You’re not go­ing to try to com­pete with a film like that,” says Cruise of the enemy. “I’m not even try­ing to com­pete with Mis­sion. But with a film like this, it doesn’t have to make as much money to make its money back and have ev­ery­one do well, so I can go out and do it again. That’s been my rule for my ca­reer.” All that seems like an echo burn­ing from the past, but Granger re­futes the idea that ap­petite has shrunk for movies like his. “It’s harder to get movies made like this be­cause per­cep­tion be­comes re­al­ity,” he says. “The en­ter­tain­ment press keeps writ­ing that mid-level movies are dis­ap­pear­ing, and I think that makes peo­ple fall into the trap of be­liev­ing it.” Oops. Our bad. But it’s un­de­ni­able the rise of stream­ing ser­vices such as Net­flix and Amazon in the last few years — com­pa­nies pre­pared to lav­ish hun­dreds of mil­lions on top-tier tal­ent — has also shifted the par­a­digm. In a way, episodic tele­vi­sion, un­hur­ried and with no need for re­liance on Cgi-heavy spec­ta­cle, feels like the nat­u­ral home for char­ac­ters like Reacher. “The Harry Bosch char­ac­ter now ex­ists on Amazon,” says Zwick of Michael Con­nelly’s Bosch. “That could be where Jack Reacher gets con­signed if this doesn’t work.” In a way, Never Go Back is the flag­bearer for a breed of movie in danger of ex­tinc­tion. The mes­sage seems clear: suc­ceed or die try­ing. If there’s a sense from Team Reacher that a lot is rid­ing on how it’s re­ceived, they’re not show­ing it. In­deed, Cruise is al­ready pre­par­ing for the next Reacher. “Once you do two of them, you can as­sess what the au­di­ence is grav­i­tat­ing to­wards with the movies,” he says. “It’s a re­ally fun thing to try to fig­ure out. It took me a lit­tle bit to fig­ure out the groove for Mis­sion. If you look at 1, 2 and 3 of Mis­sion, it’s me ex­per­i­ment­ing in dif­fer­ent ways. I looked at the first Reacher as a plat­form. Now this one is to see the po­ten­tial of it and for the third one, we’ll eval­u­ate from there.”

That eval­u­a­tion may have to con­tinue with­out Zwick, who reck­ons the Reacher se­ries should be an an­thol­ogy, with a new direc­tor tak­ing the reins ev­ery time, and the only con­stant be­ing Cruise. “When Humphrey Bog­art was in

The Mal­tese Fal­con and The Big Sleep, it was es­sen­tially the same char­ac­ter go­ing into an­other story, so there’s a tra­di­tion of that,” Zwick says.

If there is a third Reacher film, it’s a fair bet the source novel has al­ready been iden­ti­fied. “I know what book I want to do,” says Granger. “There are 21 choices and only two are off the ta­ble. There’s one that’s par­tic­u­larly de­li­cious.”

The trip­wire for that film will pre­sum­ably be a box of­fice gross equiv­a­lent to or bet­ter than that of the orig­i­nal film, so un­der­stand­ably Cruise won’t be drawn on what the cho­sen book might be just yet. “I’d like to take it to the bad­lands,” he says. “I think that would be an amaz­ing-look­ing movie — very stark, and a dif­fer­ent kind of Reacher. There’s so many dif­fer­ent places we can go with him, ge­o­graph­i­cally.”

Then Cruise, the con­sum­mate pro­ducer, takes the op­por­tu­nity to con­duct some im­promptu mar­ket re­search. “You tell me which one should be next,” he tells Empire. “I’m se­ri­ous.” We throw a cou­ple of names at him — 61 Hours, the one set in a bl­iz­zard-be­sieged town that ends on an ‘Is Reacher dead?’ cliffhanger (spoiler: he is not), or

Bad Luck And Trou­ble, where Reacher teams up with old army pals, aka the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tors, to do some spe­cial in­ves­ti­gat­ing. Cruise laughs. “Bad Luck And Trou­ble is good. That is some­thing we’re think­ing of. That’s one of them.” We’ll ex­pect a finder’s fee if ei­ther of those come to pass. And they just might — now that Tom Cruise has bro­ken his rule, any­thing’s pos­si­ble. JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK is in cin­e­mas from 21 oc­to­ber

Left: Ja­son Dou­glas’ sher­iff with a roughed-up Reacher (Tom Cruise). Be­low: Cruise, Co­bie Smul­ders and Ed Zwick. Bot­tom: Man on a mis­sion.

Reacher, back in com­mand. right: With Su­san Turner (Smul­ders) and daugh­ter Sa­man­tha (Danika Yarosh). be­low left: Part-time con­duc­tor?

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