I didn’t mean to do it.
Earlier today, I found myself sitting across from Dwayne Johnson so we could discuss his new film “Faster,” and in the midst of talking about the current landscape of action heroes, I asked him if he’s familiar with the Lee Child novels about Jack Reacher.
Let me back up. If you’re not familiar with Jack Reacher, he’s the hero of fifteen best-selling novels, the most recent of which was published in September. He’s an ex-Military Investigator, a guy who has made a decision to own nothing and live nowhere, a drifter who finds himself embroiled in crazy, difficult situations where his military training, his investigator’s mind, and his ability and willingness to kill entire towns full of bad guys if he has to is what makes Reacher such a compulsively interesting pulp character. Child created a perfect hero for an ongoing series. He’s able to bounce from situation to situation in a way that never limits the type or the scope of the trouble he can get into.
I am no expert on the series. I only recently started reading them. Basically, I finished finally re-reading every one of the John D. McDonald Travis McGee novels recently, and I wanted to find a new series to try. I had heard enough good things about the Reacher books that I picked one up as I was leaving on a set visit. I read “One Shot,” which is the book that Paramount is working to develop as the first Reacher movie.
Josh Olson, Oscar-nominated for “A History Of Violence,” wrote a draft of the film, and then Christopher McQuarrie, Oscar-winner for “The Usual Suspects,” was brought in over the summer to re-write it. Right now, I’m guessing McQuarrie’s main focus is getting “The Wolverine” ready to film, so if he’s still the writer on “One Shot,” it may be on the back burner, or he may have turned it in. Whatever the case, the pedigree of the writers they’ve had working on the film suggests that they take this property seriously.
My question is this: are they thinking of this as a franchise? Because some of what I read about the development of the film is that they were sort of treating “One Shot” as a stand-alone about a homicide detective. If that’s true, that’s a bizarre decision. When you’ve got a franchise character as perfectly realized as Jack Reacher, why wouldn’t you plan for a series of films? Why wouldn’t you intentionally build the series to hook audiences?
I’m not sure where the process is on “One Shot” right now. Evidently, every one of the Reacher books has been optioned for film, although I’m not sure if Paramount owns them all, or just that one, or how that works. Lee Child doesn’t really answer the question of his website, instead just mentioning the writers that have been hired. It suggests McQuarrie might direct the film as well as write it, but does not confirm it. And at the end of the short answer in the FAQ, it says, “If you’re an actor hoping to score the lead role, please have your agent contact Paramount Studios, and, fingers crossed, we’ll see you on the big screen soon!”
Cut to: today, after I’ve explained a bit about the character and the series to Dwayne Johnson, as he replies, “Well, I guess I’ll give Adam Goodman a call.”
Goodman, of course, is the guy in charge at Paramount, and after our interview, Dwayne asked me again for the name of the series. The reason I brought them up in the first place is because of the synchronicity from the other morning, when I was reading one of the books before a screening of “Faster,” and then within the first ten minutes, watching the way Johnson was playing the role, I felt like I was watching a dry run for Reacher. The no-nonsense, no-jokes attitude of the opening of the film really pulled me in, and seeing Johnson in that role right after reading a key scene where Reacher was trying to extract some payback from a deserving piece of human garbage, it just clicked.
And like I said… I didn’t mean to bring it up. But I’ve been interviewing Johnson now for at least 2001, and there’s a side of him that I’ve still never fully seen onscreen in any role. He’s got a real easy charisma and a sharp social intelligence that doesn’t get utilized in some of the broad roles he’s played. He’s a great conversation each and every time, and he genuinely listens when he’s talking to people. He’s not a publicity robot. He can work a room, but he has that politician’s gift of being able to shut out the room around him while he’s talking to someone so they know that they’re not just a blur going by him. That intelligence is a big part of Reacher, who is always described by Child as physically imposing, and the combination of those things… the charm, the intelligence, the physical mass…. not many guys have that whole laundry list.
Just mentioning the idea of Dwayne Johnson as Reacher on Twitter, I got some immediate pushback, some immediate negative reaction, and I also got some people saying how much they liked the idea. One of the reasons it’s always hard to bring a beloved and widely-read property like the Reacher books to the bigscreen is that you’re going to always run up against the expectations and the ideas of the people who love that thing in the first place.
So if you’re a Reacher fan, I put the question to you: who would you cast in the film? And if you’re someone at Paramount, in charge of these rights, then I put a different question to you: when will you finally take the plunge and make one of these, and when you do, will it part of a series?
Only time will tell.