Nonetheless, the actor's Paramount-based Cruise/Wagner Productions got the ball rolling on the production, attempting to enlist the actor's frequent screenwriting collaborator Christopher McQuarrie in 2010. The Oscar-winner (for "The Usual Suspects") wrote and produced Cruise's 2008 Nazi assassination thriller "Valkyrie" and co-wrote "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol."
But McQuarrie had reservations about adapting Child's book for the screen. Before he took the job, he insisted upon being installed on the Reacher project as director in addition to writing its script — despite boasting only a single directing credit, the 2000 box-office disappointment "The Way of the Gun."
"I was very very skeptical that it was ever going to happen," McQuarrie admitted by phone from London days before the movie's premiere. "I didn't assume where I was in my career that Tom was going to be in a movie with me directing. You throw out any three names he's worked with and put my name on the list, which one of these things is not like the other?"
But as the old saying goes, movies get made because someone forgets to say no. Cruise surprised McQuarrie with his blessing and after meeting with Paramount's production president, Marc Evans, so did the studio. Once McQuarrie delivered a solid shooting script, only two critically unresolved matters stood between the movie getting the green light: Who would play Jack Reacher and how much would it cost?
Process of elimination
Realizing Hollywood is basically bereft of blond-haired, blue-eyed, 6-foot-5 actors who carry enough star power to "open" a movie, McQuarrie and Granger decided to table the question of Reacher's height. Then they created a graph of the industry's leading men, grading them on the character's other core attributes: charm, eloquence, physicality and gravitas.
Gradually the field shrank until only one name remained: Cruise.
Once McQuarrie and Granger convinced their producer he was the right star after all, Cruise refused to sign on unless he landed Lee Child's blessing. Granger and McQuarrie met the author for dinner anticipating a lengthy discussion to explain their rationale for casting the "Top Gun" lead. "We wanted to walk him through it," McQuarrie recalled, "but he said, 'Look guys, it's Tom Cruise. Why wouldn't I want the biggest star in the world to play my character?'"
Even with "Reacher's" bankability in question, Cruise, the filmmakers and the studio hope to create a second franchise for the "Mission: Impossible" star, who owns the rights to all 17 of Child's Jack Reacher books.
"Supply is ready," McQuarrie said. "We are just waiting on demand."