|Lee Child: Webchat Transcript|
The Jack Reacher author talks Tom Cruise, Werner Herzog and his favourite sandwich...
His huge, hulking hero Jack Reacher is beloved around the world, one of the most popular characters in modern fiction, and he's about to hit the screen in the slightly-smaller form of Tom Cruise. So now seemed like a good time to talk to Lee Child about his creation, its cinematic future and his favourite sandwiches. Don't worry; he talks more than Reacher, and he's funnier...
RobD: I would like to know where the inspiration for Jack Reacher came from.
Ancient history. The medieval sagas, the Anglo-Saxon poems, Scandinavian legends, all the way up through the Westerns, it's all the same character.
Nar: Will Reacher ever be killed off? Are there any other characters you want to franchise for?
No other characters, but yeah. Instead of letting the series fizzle out, he will die gruesomely in the last installment.
bbc: You must have known after the successful reception and growing fan base that at some point your books were going to be made into films. Did it impact or change the way you wrote and structured them?
No, because my instinct was that you've either got to do one thing or the other, or you get a bad screenplay and a bad book.
Timon: Lee, what did you make of the Clive Cussler/Crusader Entertainment/Paramount debacle and ensuing lawsuit? Was Cussler right to demand it be done his way or should an author sit down and shut up when he's being paid for his works?
The longish answer? You've got to think carefully before you sign on the dotted line, which is what Clive should have done. Once the production's underway, you've just got to sit there and take it. He was unwise to turn to lawyers. Better just to close his eyes and shut up.
Rgirvan44: How involved were you in the script writing process, and how did you find the Hollywood machine when it came to adapting your work?
I didn't want to be involved at all, because I've done it for other pieces of work, and you need a kind of callous brutality that you can't do to yourself. I found McQuarrie's screenplay to be excellent. He’s obviously subtracted things from the book, but he's added nothing that wasn't there.
Gareth: Did Lee have a particular real life person in mind when first imagining Reacher's physical appearance, or indeed his personality?
No. An amalgam of a thousand different snippets of influence. His physical appearance, I would think, is closest to Lawrence Dallaglio.
Rhys: My girlfriend is hoping Jack will settle down, get married and give up drifting. Please tell her this won't happen.
OK. This will not happen.
Nar: I read the short story, 'The Bodyguard'. Do you enjoy creating new characters or does Reacher signify the pinnacle of coolness for you?
Short stories are always a welcome break; there's nothing at stake, no upside, no downside, so we can relax. But Reacher will always be the main man.
Quentin_Cappucino: There's an almost forensic level of detail to the fight scenes in your novels. Did you have to do a lot of research into the human anatomy, or did you know that stuff already?
I remember it from primary school.
Rhys: Would you ever do a Stephen King and sell the short story rights for $1?
I just did. The short story Second Son, I took a one dollar advance. It was an experiment and it went quite well. If I do it again, I'll take more than a buck.
Mr E: Which has been your favourite Reacher novel to write?
The third one, Trip Wire. I was still full of energy, but I'd figured out how to do it.
RobD: Do you really think that Tom Cruise is a good pick for playing Jack Reacher and how is the book going to translate to the film? Reacher doesn't say much, will you be involved in any capacity?
They're very generous and inclusive, and I'm full included if not involved. From what I've seen so far, Tom will do a fine job. The early rehearsals and the read-through have been stunning.
Dan: Reacher's head clock - love it! Can people actually do that or is it just a brilliant device to cut down on the things he carries with him?
No, I can do it. It comes from 18 years in live television, where time was all we had. I know the time of day, and I can also do durations to the second.
Rama: What are the five other authors you'd recommend to fans of your books?
Gosh. I would say Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, Joseph Kanon, Tess Gerritsen and Dennis Lehane.
Poodle: Is there any chance you're a Jason Statham fan? What movie action heroes do you admire?
I like Jason, yeah, and I thought it was very cool he had that tiny cameo in Collateral. I'm an old guy, so I would go back to the Harry Callahan Clint Eastwood era, and I loved Gran Torino, because although it wasn't explicit that was Harry Callahan in retirement.
Nar: Sad to hear about the gruesome death. My dad thinks you should keep the legacy going with Reacher offspring. I think that's awesome! You?
Yeah, my American publisher wants Reacher to discover an illegitimate daughter from one of the women in the earlier books. I'm thinking maybe the 20th book should have 19 illegitimate children from all the previous episodes.
Sam Palmer: Hi Lee, on the casting of Tom Cruise, you've said that "Reacher's build and height is metaphorical" or words to that effect: does this mean that for any future movies you could recast Reacher's role, for a different representation of the character?
OK, great question. At the moment, it's possibly a three or four movie Cruise franchise, but if it were to go the James Bond route, there could be four or five of those franchises with different actors, which would be very interesting. It's a great point you make, and would indeed be really interesting to do it that way.
Poodle: Do you listen to music as you write? If so, what are your favourite writing-to-tunes?
No, I don't, because I would find it imposes a rhythm that I don't necessarily want to come through. And certainly if it had lyrics they would get in the way. But in the evening afterward I always relax with music. For the closest parallel to how I would want to write, I like Money by Pink Floyd. Not because of the money, but because of the time signature change at the guitar solo that in my mind is like an action scene.
Gareth: Being a Brit yourself, have you considered finding a reason for Reacher to come to the UK in a future book?
He came for half of a book called The Hard Way. The problem is that if he comes back, then all the other 40 countries where he's published will want him to visit too, and then the series will turn into a naff travelogue.
bbc: Given the huge success of the books were you in a relative position of power when it came to selling the film rights? Some authors seem to really get shafted or end up desperately unhappy with the results.
Well, this particular film deal was done 7 years ago, when I wasn't in the position that I'm in now. But having said that, it's an excellent deal and I'm being treated like royalty. We'll have to wait and see about the results, but I think I'll be happy.
Nar: How do you know so much about the military internal stuff? Aren't they famously secretive?
I make it all up!
Quentin_Cappucino: There's a pretty full-on sex scene in The Affair. Are they difficult to write, without it coming off as laughable or cringey?
Totally. The hardest thing of all to write. But I used a device to help me through... read on and find out what it is.
SonOfTotti: Do you ever get 'author envy'?
Yeah, that's the mark of a great book or movie for me. Like the movie Seven, I wish I'd written that.
Andrew Tom: When you're writing a book, how do you do it? Do you have a page count in your mind or is it specific amount of hours? Do you lock yourself in the study?
I start in September, and just work through till it's finished, usually about March. And yeah, I aim for a word count of about 120,000.
RobD: Recently Killing Floor was in the top 10 favorites for World Book day, when you had finished writing it did you know it was going to be as big as it is?
I had no idea. I dreamed of it, but you could never expect that sort of popularity.
Mr E: There's a point in the series where Reacher is left a house and settles down for a book or two. Were you considering domesticating him for a while or was it always the plan to put him back on the road?
No, he had to go back on the road, but I just wanted to shake it up, and see him making that choice.
Dan: Now that Reacher's moved into film, can you see him finding a home in other mediums? Comics, TV etc?
Not TV, because I know too much about TV. Comics, yeah, comics would be great. And there is a Polish heavy metal band who made an album of 12 songs, each song being one of the books. I have no idea if it was good; it was in Polish.
melspur: How difficult was is it to write 61 Hours in such a short space of time?
Well, it was no faster to write. The interesting thing about 61 Hours was that no other number but 61 would do for me, and it came out almost to the minute. I just thought it was a nice sounding, nice looking number. 62 would have been crap, 59 would have been crap.
Phil: In the Affair we are taken back to Reacher as an MP, is that it for Reacher stories in the present day?
No, the next one will be in the present day. The prequels will always be the rarities.
Nar: Loved Second Son - especially the relationship between Reacher and his parents. Please can we have some more?
Yeah, maybe. We might well do the same thing next summer.
Lundbye: What is your favorite movie of all time?
I'm going to have to be a real nerdy kid of the '50s, and say Reach For The Sky.
THEMICKISHERE: When the prospect of a film adaptation of the Reacher novels came up, who did you imagine in the role of Jack?
Anyone with an SAG card.
Joe Reacher: Who would make a great Joe Reacher, in your opinion?
Congratulations! You have asked a question I have never been asked before. I would say, if he weren’t dead, Christopher Reeve.
Douglas: How do you have your office set up? What are the little knick-knacks on your writing desk?
I have three desks. One empty for paperwork, one for the internet and email, and one for the writing computer. On the writing desk is a little electric thing to keep my coffee cup warm, a bust of Winston Churchill and an ashtray, and a miniature typewriter with a miniature piece of paper in it that says, "Reacher said nothing."
Rhys: Do you ever want to take a year or two off writing? I could do with some time to catch up, I'm only on book number 7.
I think if I took a year off I would never get back to it, so it's probably safer just to keep ploughing on. You'll just have to read faster.
Nar: Do you every get star-struck? Was it weird meeting Cruise for the first time, or anyone else that your talent has allowed you to meet?
I was broken in early. I started at Granada when I was barely 23, and in my first week had a picnic lunch with Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Alec Guinness and Ralph Richardson. Plain sailing after that. Cruise was just a guy to me. We hung out privately for an hour before dinner and we had a lot of fun.
Joe Reacher: As an Aston Villa fan, I've noticed references to Villa cropping up constantly in your work. Any plans to shoehorn in Martin O'Neill as a sidekick for Reacher?
No, but possibly as a parsimonious villain. I find it hard coming up with names so I use Villa all the time. There was a town in Worth Dying For called Hogg Parrish, which is a real test for Villa nerds because Hogg and Parrish were both in the reserve team.
WHISKY!: How does it feel, bring a Brit living in the US? Are you treated noticeably differently because you're English, do you think?
The accent gets me 20 unearned IQ points everywhere, but there are plenty of Englishmen in New York. Sting even wrote a song about us.
Quentin_Cappucino: I love how you open the first Reacher novel: "I was arrested in Eno's Diner. At twelve o'clock. I was eating eggs and drinking coffee." Do you have a favourite first line of a novel?
Yeah. Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read. The first line goes like this: "Some people can be happy anywhere. I am not one of them."
dawnhirst1: How do you feel about your fans’ disagreement with Tom Cruise as Reacher?
I understand it completely. But they're living in an ideal world if you think you can just nominate or somehow find an actor that resembles Reacher. There are no such actors, and investing and financial realities mean it would be impossible anyway. I know we'll all find the first five minutes strange, but the test of this movie will be the next 95.
Loz8023: Who are your greatest Influences as a writer and have you ever (or will you) pay homage to them in some way?
Alistair Maclean, and John D. McDonald. I paid tribute to Maclean by ripping off his set-up for the start of Persuader.
Drew Calo: I bet you're a big Michael Mann fan.
SozWeLost_yourname: How much of you is in Jack Reacher?
It's almost entirely autobiographical. I keep the mental processes exactly the same as mine, but I tone down the violence to make it plausible in a book.
CJenkins: when did you come up with Reacher as a character?
It was a slow evolution between the end of 1988 and when I started writing at the end of 1994.
Jameson: What's the weirdest thing a fan has said to you?
"Why are you so thin?" I said, "Because I limit myself to two food groups only: caffeine and nicotine."
DS2011: I think I read that you were going to stop at 20 Reacher novels. Is that still true? I hope not!
It was 21. As a tribute to John D. McDonald (see above). But I never make plans. It could be less, it could be more.
Nar: I first discovered your books when I picked up One Shot from a Book-Crossing box (www.bookcrossing.com). Do you support those guys? What do you think about books travelling the globe at the whim of people who pick them up?
I think it's terrific, and it's always happened that way on a casual basis. I've discovered writers by reading books left in airplane seats and weird hotels. I think it's a wonderful idea.
starwarsphil: Are we likely to see more stories involving Neagley and/or the other special investigators?
I don't think so. Neagley is a great character but she succeeds because she's largely unexplained. To pay her more attention might destroy her appeal.
Drew Calo: Is there an over-arching thing going on in the recent books? Reacher seems to be pissing off a lot of big mean people in other continents. What are the chances of an end of franchise trilogy or something like that? Will you ever write something without Reacher in it?
I would say well spotted! I think 61 Hours, Worth Dying For and at least a book or two after The Affair will turn out to be a kind of real-time odyssey instead of these separated, disconnected stories we've had before. I won't write anything without Reacher in it. And Reacher pisses people off on EVERY continent, probably including Antarctica.
Jameson: Reacher spends a lot of time with a lot of ladies. Who's your favourite female character that you've created?
I like Summer from The Enemy. I pictured her like Halle Berry.
Rgirvan44: The casting of Werner Herzog has really made me excited about the film. A real out of left field choice. Have you met the man, and have you seen any of his performance yet?
I did meet him 10 days ago. He was very keen to do the part, and McQuarrie was very keen to work with him. Judging by what I've seen so far, he will steal every scene he gets within a mile of.
Nar: ooh, what about the casting of Neagley?
Andrew Tom: What do you do to relax?
I would say read Times Two today, there's a clue.
jason: If One Shot is a successful film, which book from the series would you like to be adapted for the screen next?
They're talking about that now. They don't want to jinx the success of the first one by talking too much, but they want Bad Luck And Trouble as the third (with Neagley in it) because they feel, by then, we'll be ready for an ensemble piece. They haven't decided about the second. They would kind of like 61 Hours, but creating a thousand square miles of snow is difficult. So it's wait and see.
Ray: Jack Reacher must be, what, in his early-to-mid forties by now? How will the character's increasing age affect future novels?
Technically, he is 50 now, and about to start attacking people with his zimmer frame.
BatmanFan: What made you decide to do a prequel to Killing Floor, and at the same time why did you decide to return to the first person, something you haven't done since Gone Tomorrow?
It was to go back to when he was young enough to have credible sex scenes. And I always prefer the first person if I can get away with it plot-wise, which is actually the minority of situations.
shanek1980: How was your time working on Cracker?
It was lovely, mostly because Robbie Coltrane was a really nice man. It was at a time when the industry was changing, and he took great pains to stand up for decent conditions for the whole crew.
robd: How do you start writing a new Reacher Novel? Do you start with the situation he stumbles upon, the people he comes up against? Or do you simply start from the beginning?
I try to think of a good first line, and an intriguing first paragraph in terms of set-up, and then it's off to the races, see what happens next. I plan it out one sentence at a time.
Ass In A Sling: Love the cool, punchy titles of your books. Have you got a notepad somewhere with dozens written down, ready to go, or do you come up with them as you're working on each book?
I wish I had a notebook with dozens! Feel free to send 'em in. If anybody suggests a title that I use, I will use their name as a character in the book.
Flying Duck: What celebrity fans have revealed their love of your books to you?
Bill Clinton, Antonia Fraser, lots of others.
Helen: What’s your favourite sandwich?
Pret’s Chicken and bacon.
Gareth: Are we keeping you from writing now?
Yes. Next year's book will be three-quarters of a page short because of this!
Thanks, goodbye and get those title suggestions coming!