Lee Child's Badass Hero

By Kaplan, Janice | Newsweek, September 10, 2012 | Go to article overview

Lee Child's Badass Hero


Kaplan, Janice, Newsweek


Byline: Janice Kaplan

The author on Jack Reacher's return and Cruise's new role.

Early in author Lee Child's newest thriller, A Wanted Man, hero Jack Reacher stands hitchhiking by the side of the road. A former tough-guy Army cop who has no home and no job, Reacher is described as 6-foot-5 and ugly. The image doesn't quite fit the actor who will be playing him in the movies: Tom Cruise.

"I'm amazed that so many people have an opinion," says Child about complaints that Cruise doesn't have the stature for the role. "It means people have read the books and internalized the character. But the reality is only about a half-dozen actors in the world could carry a movie like this. Cruise is the most talented, the hardest working, and he thinks more than anybody. Most actors are small, anyway--at least compared to me."

A tall, lanky Englishman, Child wrote his first Reacher novel in 1997, shortly after he was fired from his longtime job as a television director. "I got my second chance through Reacher, and he got his through me," jokes Child. "I was in TV, he was in the Army, and then we were both out. A lot of people feel that same worry and dislocation and they love to see Reacher deal with it."

Seductive writing and irresistible plot twists keep Child's books from feeling like they were written on autopilot, and the latest is subtle and nuanced. Another constant appeal is Reacher's moral code. "He'll do whatever is right, no matter what the consequences. He doesn't want help from anybody, and he walks the walk. He's not the guy who wants to be self-sufficient while taking a hundred grand in farm subsidies."

Child has no doubt which presidential candidate is more in tune with his hero. "Obama, definitely. Reacher would not be that interested in money-guy Romney. …

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