Despite having clear commercial aspirations for his Jack Reacher series of novels, author Lee Child seems particularly pained that Tom Cruise, a movie star so famous he's practically in his own class, ended up portraying his character for two films that grossed a collective $380 million. Despite playing friendly at the Jack Reacher: Never Go Back premiere in 2016, in recent years Child has taking several shots at Cruise and his appropriateness for the role. His latest salvo: Cruise is just too old for action films.
According to Child, it was his choice to end the current iteration of the movie franchise, and in an interview with The Sunday Times he said Cruise was conflicted about the decision. “Cruise was reluctant," the author said. "He had his own investment in it, he was going to argue against it. It sounds extremely patronizing but I think it’s good for him. He’s too old for this stuff. He’s 57, he needs to move on, transition to being a character actor."
“He could get another 20 years out of it. He has the talent. He’s a terrific guy, very considerate, good fun.”
This is far from the first time Child had picked at Cruise, though in previous interviews he's mostly focused on the fact that Cruise is five feet seven, and not that's he's 57.
In the Reacher books, which now number 24, the title character is quite pointedly described as a six-foot-five-inch man. Cruise, somewhat notoriously, is an entire 10 inches shorter. Of less controversy, but still notable, is that the Reacher character is blond, while Cruise has brown hair.
“Cruise, for all his talent, didn’t have that physicality,” Child said in a 2018 interview with the BBC. “I really enjoyed working with Cruise. He’s a really, really nice guy. We had a lot of fun. But ultimately, the readers are right. The size of Reacher is really, really important, and it’s a big component of who he is…the idea is that when Reacher walks into a room, you’re all a little nervous just for that first minute.”
In case you're wondering what other reasons Child has to be hung up on the insistence that his character is a six-foot-five-inch blond, perhaps its because the author himself is a fair-haired six-foot-four. Child hasn't shied away from suggestions that Reacher is an idealized fictional version of him.
Perhaps Child would also not shy away from the suggestion that he'd like the Reacher character to reach if not the heights of Ian Fleming's James Bond then at least those of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan. Though those characters have transcended the many actors who have played them. Cruise, in his later career, has a habit of turning any film he's in into a "Tom Cruise movie," no matter the source material. The film version of Reacher was bent to Cruise's star power. Child seems like he'd like to bend it back to his original vision in future adaptations.
As for whether Cruise is to old to keep up his action streak in other franchises, well, that's up for debate. Liam Neeson keeps headlining successful action and thriller fare well into his 60s. The Expendables series, chock full of graying action stars, has brought in over $800 million with a fourth in development. Sylvester Stallone is still making Rambo movies. Why can't Cruise keep on doing what he's doing?
While Brad Pitt, Cruise's only competition for top male star of his generation, has won praise (and, for Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, serious Oscar buzz) for his recent turn to more "character actor" roles, that doesn't mean that's the best path for Cruise — no matter how Child feels.
For his part, Cruise seems intent on remaining on his current path. Top Gun: Maverick, a sequel to a film Cruise made 23 years ago, is slated for release next year. Two new Mission: Impossible films will premiere in 2021 and 2022, respectively. A sequel to Cruise's 2014 film Edge of Tomorrow is also reportedly in development.
Child, meanwhile, may get to see his idealized Reacher on screen yet, as he's currently working on a TV series starring the character. Here's hoping he finds someone who can convincingly play a six-foot-five blond.