I know that I have always been very publicly in favor of novel to film adaptations that throw out the notion of extreme fidelity to the source. So I don’t really have a leg to stand on in this argument. But if you’re casting Jack Reacher, a French/American ex-military cop who stands 6’5″ and often breezes into any given burg looking like a giant disheveled blond bum, then Tom Cruise is the opposite of the man you should be looking for. And yet that’s what could happen.

Can’t say I’m surprised, though. Several of Lee Child‘s Jack Reacher novels have been optioned, and all have taken their sweet time to the screen in large part because finding the real Jack Reacher is a difficult task. In the novels, almost all of which fall distinctly above the ‘average’ line for pulp thrillers and many of which are damn good, Reacher is written as slightly unbelievable. So casting dis difficult. (The Rock is often mentioned.) But Christopher McQuarrie‘s adaptation of One Shot, which is set up at Paramount, could be the first to hit the screen, in part because of the writer/director’s relationship with Tom Cruise.

Deadline reports that Cruise is in talks for the part, and that he was part of the option process years ago. It isn’t even his stature that makes him wrong for the part; it is that the common mode in which Tom Cruise works, the very personality that his defined his career as a movie star, is exactly the opposite of what this character is. You don’t hire Tom Cruise to play a hulking but patient and sensitive man who overcomes enemies with quiet confidence backed up with intellect and force.

One Shot is part detective story, part thriller, part action tale. There’s a heavy police procedural aspect to the book, as Reacher and a young lawyer investigate a cluster of murders committed by a sniper one afternoon in a mid-sized Indiana town. It’s easy to get too focused on Reacher’s size, especially as Lee Child writes with that physical factor firmly in mind. Part of his utter lack of fear of most adversaries is due to the fact that they’re no physical match for him. But the flipside is a big deal — when someone comes around who does seem dangerous, it is because they might be smarter and more bloodthirsty. And that makes the villains actually a bit imposing.

Going back to my opening, I’ll quote a tweet from the esteemed Jeremy Smith of AICN, who said: “No reason to be unfaithful with those books. They’re ready-made movies. Just require a little streamlining.” That’s it exactly. The movie quality of the Reacher books is no doubt part of their appeal. You can see them play out perfectly as the pages turn. (Which isn’t to say the print versions are unsatisfying.) The notion of changing anything outside of a few nips and tucks and allowing a few minor cosmetic changes to Reacher is alien to these stories.

But with Tom Cruise as a motivating factor for the project’s development at Paramount, and given his history with Christopher McQuarrie, who helped the first stage of his pseudo-comeback with Valkyrie, this may be inevitable. The question will be when One Shot might shoot: before or after Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion. The plan is to shoot before Oblivion, with much of the shoot taking place in Pittsburgh, but that could change.

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