We recently got to talk to Oyelowo about what it was like making "Jack Reacher" (including shooting that bad-ass car chase), being a part of "Lincoln," what his favorite movie of the year was, whether or not he'd be in the next "Mission: Impossible" and what we can expect from Lee Daniels' upcoming historical drama "The Butler."
My first encounter with it was the script. I knew that it had been written by Chris McQuarrie, who had written "The Usual Suspects," which is one of my favorite films. And to my mind anyway, this was every bit as full of intrigue and the McQuarrie-isms I loved so much from "The Usual Suspects" were all present. Then you factor in Tom Cruise and you factor in these best-selling novels. And you factor in that the character of Emerson, who I play in the film, is cut from the same cloth as Jack Reacher; another very intense investigator who is very single-minded. It literally ticks all of my boxes, really.
What did you think about the casting uproar around Tom?
In all honesty, I never really pay attention to that. If you're going to watch the film of a book, you have to either get on board or get on the train, that it's going to be very, very different. They're just different mediums. And of course what you're wanting is a film that does as much justice to a great book as possible. For me, how many 6'5", 250 pound actors with the amount of intelligence that Jack Reacher exhibits in the book and yet the ability to drive a car the way that we have in the movie, the ability to do those action scenes in a wide shot? How many actors, truly, on planet Earth, can do that? And how many movie stars can get a film of this size green lit? The list becomes miniscule. In fact, it boils down to one individual, who is playing Jack Reacher in the movie. I would rather the 90% of people who appreciate the film excusive to the book. But the Reacher Creatures are welcome to the book.
What was it like working with Chris McQuarrie?
We talked a lot. That's one of the things I loved about the film – the collaborative element of it. I talked about the car chase. We referenced films like "The French Connection," "Bullitt," "Seven-Ups." In the relationship between Tom and Rosamund Pike, we referenced "Notorious," "North by Northwest." There's a little bit of "All the President's Men" in there. We talked about the tone, the look, the films from the seventies. We wanted, for instance, in the car chase, that it not be very cutty, where you can't tell what is going on but it's somehow exciting. The narrative is still being driven forward in that eight minutes of car chase, and that's very old school. We didn't want to patronize the audience. We wanted them to feel like they were right alongside Jack Reacher trying to figure the whole thing out.
"All the President's Men" is a favorite film of mine anyway. In Redford and Hoffman, they're not detectives but they are on a trail, they are fastidious, they are on a hunt for information. That was a film that I certainly referenced. The thing about our film is that Chris so got the tone of the book right. This isn't usually the case – usually the book is so different from the film that it becomes counterproductive to read the book. But in this, the book became a very good resource for me in terms of film.
Was there anything about "Jack Reacher" that surprised you?
You know, what surprised me was, you hear all these rumors and legends of Tom Cruise doing his own stunts. And in the past I was always like, "Yeah right that's a publicity stunt." But anybody who sees this film and sees this car chase – he is in every frame of any driving and he is driving that car. And because he is driving that car it meant that I had to be driving my car chasing him. We wanted to shoot it in a way that didn't feel cutty and made you feel like you were right there in the car with us. Audiences are very savvy these days, they can tell when we do a cut, because they will notice it's a stunt driver. But we are doing all the driving in that scene and that really surprised me. I did not think that, when I saw it on the page, I anticipated a lot more time with me sitting in the trailer while my stunt driver did the driving. But I was there the whole time. That was a pleasant surprise.