Miscasting or genius or …

The Interwebs were abuzz this weekend with the news that Tom Cruise, actor and couch-jumper, had signed to play Jack Reacher, the military-police-officer-turned-drifter in a series of 15 (soon to be 16) books by author Lee Child. Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie will adapt Child’s “One Shot.”

Child’s books fall into the crime novel genre, although Reacher is no standard PI or cop. He’s more like a modern-day Japanese warrior, traveling (usually on foot or by bus) around the US. He carries little more than an ATM card and a toothbrush. He doesn’t believe in the ties that bind. He doesn’t even believe in luggage: Reacher travels with nothing more than the clothes on his back, wearing them for a couple of days then buying new ones that suit whatever his locale is at the time.

Of course, like Lassie and the TV version of the Hulk, Reacher’s travels usually bring him into contact with someone who needs his help or a wrong that needs righting. Sometimes he works with local authorities, sometimes against, always exacting justice. But you always get the feeling that no matter how efficient a killing machine Reacher is, he’d rather just be left alone to travel around the countryside.

I can totally see Cruise – who has become more of a celebrity oddity and less of an admired actor in recent years – playing this type of character. But he can’t play it as a typical Cruise “high beam smile” character. Reacher is as quiet as he is capable.

The casting is odd, however, in that much of Reacher’s character is established by how he looks. To quote Lee Child’s website:

Name: Jack Reacher (no middle name)
Born: October 29th
Measurements: 6’5″, 220-250 lbs., 50″ chest
Hair: Dirty-blond
Eyes: Ice blue
Clothing: 3XLT coat, 95 cm. pants’ inseam

Hmmm. Anybody see any discrepancy there? Possibly the idea that Reacher is supposed to be 8-10 inches taller than Cruise and 100 pounds heavier?

Child is said to be pleased with the casting, and I’m sure he is. Cruise will likely draw a lot of moviegoers. And the fact that we’re already talking about the movie, which hasn’t even begun filming, says a lot.

It’s possible that the millions of people who will see the movie won’t care about the physical differences between the character on the printed page and the actor. And Cruise might just bring it. I hope so.

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