By James Hayman
Before I started writing novels, I wrote, produced and cast about a zillion TV commercials for clients like Ford, the US Army, Merrill Lynch and a bunch of other less glamorous clients including Tide detergent. I always believed a lot of the success of an ad campaign depended on casting the right actor in the right role. I’ve always believed the same thing about a movie or, for that matter, a TV series.
So when I read this morning that someone had decided to cast Tom Cruise in the Jack Reacher role in the movie version of Lee Child’s One Shot, I had a hard time believing it.
Reacher is everything Cruise isn’t. And vice versa. In fact, I find it difficult to think of a an actor who would be a worse choice to play Jack Reacher than Tom Cruise with the only possible exception being Danny DeVito. And DeVito, at least, would be more fun to watch in the role.
I have to admit I like the Reacher books. I’ve read most, if not all of the fifteen or sixteen thrillers in the series, and while some are better than others, I almost always enjoy them. Over the years I think I’ve gotten to know the hero pretty well.
Here are some of the things all Lee Child fans know about Jack Reacher.
He’s tall. Six-foot-five (Cruise is five-foot-seven).
He’s tough. He can usually beat the crap out of half a dozen oversized baddies with one hand tied behind is back.
He’s taciturn. He doesn’t blather on for the sake of hearing himself talk. Nor does he constantly grin at the reader (or the camera).
Unlike Cruise, Reacher doesn’t give a damn about looking cool, chic or fashionable. He generally buys the cheapest possible clothes at someplace like Wal-Mart or Goodwill and then throws them away when they get dirty instead of washing them. (Obviously, casting Reacher as a spokesperson in a Tide commercial would be nearly as bad a choice as casting Cruise as Reacher).
On top of that Reacher can be a seriously nice guy who really wants to help those in trouble (a trait that usually gets him into even worse trouble , the getting out of which constitutes the main plot line of most of the books).
Tom Cruise is none of these things.
You may or may not like Tom Cruise as an actor. I have to admit he’s not one of my favorites. In fact, the last Tom Cruise character I actually liked was Maverick in Tony Scott’s Top Gun and that movie was made twenty-five years ago back in 1986.
So far, nobody’s offered to make a movie of either of my books, so you may legitimately ask, who am I to judge? If they asked Tom Cruise to play the role of my hero, Mike McCabe, I’d probably just smile nicely and say, “Gee. What a great idea.”
Maybe I’m nuts. Maybe Tom Cruise will make a fabulous Jack Reacher. But somehow I don’t think so. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments and perhaps suggestions on who should be playing the part.