In Edge of Tomorrow – the 2014 sleeper that has gradually gained steam ever since its release – director Doug Liman killed Tom Cruise 26 times. As Liman says, “I see the value in killing Tom Cruise.” And he has a point, because it’s so rarely done. Liman shares an anecdote where the two were working on a still never-made script and Liman suggested it might be interesting to kill Cruise’s character. Cruise responded, “Well, not if you want the movie to make any money.”
Liman seems to have a fascination with killing his star. As he says below, he even wanted to kill off Jason Bourne in the first Bourne film, The Bourne Identity. (Obviously, since we are now at five Bourne movies, that never happened.)
Now Liman has reteamed with Cruise for American Made, a movie that is out in theaters as you read this and had just opened nationwide late Thursday night when a weary Liman called me from the set of his new film, Chaos Walking, starring Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland. Actually, Liman says this is probably his last interview for American Made (and, naturally, he seemed pretty happy about that possibility).
The film is based on a true story and Cruise plays Barry Seal, a smiling, fast-talking cuss who loves flying planes, but is pretty bored flying domestic routes for TWA. When approached by the CIA to smuggle arms into South America, it doesn’t take a whole lot to convince Barry that this is a good job opportunity. And when he’s approached by a who’s who of Colombian drug lords, it doesn’t take Barry long to realize that a side job smuggling cocaine might not be the worst idea either. And, somehow, this all culminates, sort of, into the lead-up to the Iran-Contra scandal. And as an added twist, Liman’s father, Arthur Liman, was chief counsel for the Senate’s investigation.
(Since this movie is in theaters and is based on a true story, this is your warning that we get into some heavy spoilers about American Made.)
As we speak American Made is out in theaters. You have to be happy with the response so far…
I am. I mean, especially because my father died 20 years ago and this is the first film I’ve dedicated to him. I dedicated Swingers to my grandmother. So this is my second time dedicating a movie.
Why did you choose this one to dedicate to him?
Because my father [Arthur Liman] ran the Senate investigation into Iran-Contra. But the personal connection to the movie, and to my father, was his sense of humor about these events. As deadly serious as his investigation was – and it almost led to the impeachment of one of the most popular presidents in our country’s history – he often would laugh at the dinner table when he shared the things that he could share that weren’t top secret. You know, nobody wants to tell the boss bad news, but when your boss is the President of the United States, and the bad news is the resistance army that you’ve placed so much faith in to fight the Soviets is actually more interested in smuggling cocaine than fighting a war, it’s the understandable reaction to not want to tell your boss bad news. But when the bad news is the people fighting communism are trafficking in cocaine, you end up in situations like the country did in Iran-Contra.
It’s not like Barry Seal led directly to the Iran-Contra scandal, but you can see the steps.