Very few screenwriters burst onto the scene as noisily and promisingly as Chris McQuarrie did in the mid-90’s. The Usual Suspects was the twisty mystery thriller to end them all, and McQuarrie nabbed himself the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Immediately he had reached a level of success screenwriters almost never ever achieve — he was hip, and you could promote a film as being “From the Academy Award winning writer of The Usual Suspects,” and people would care. He was hot shit. Everyone wanted him. Then… basically nothing happened. In 2000 he wrote and directed The Way of the Gun, which has its moments but gloriously tanked at the box office. Then eight years went by with starts and stops and nothing to show until his old buddy Bryan Singer threw him a bone to write the screenplay for Valkyrie, which sucks. McQuarrie’s career has been a headscratcher. Is he A) just a one-hit wonder? A mediocre talent, who happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right filmmaker? Or B) a legit talent whose career has been poisoned by bad luck and circumstance? A talent still waiting to take off running?
Thus far the evidence points very strongly to option A. But soon we may be able to put the debate to rest. McQuarrie is having a bit of career renaissance at the moment. As a writer he has Mission Impossible IV under his belt, along with Jack the Giant Killer and a gig on the next up-in-the-air Wolverine film. More importantly, he’s getting in the director’s chair again. McQuarrie will be bringing author Lee Child’s (né Jim Grant) popular retired Military Policeman character, Jack Reacher, to the big screen in an adaptation of Child’s ninth Reacher story, One Shot. Josh Olson had previously been attached to the project as writer; whether or not he will still be credited on the film, I’m not sure. Tom Cruise had already been attached to the project at that point, and it seems that he still is. The most intriguing news to come out of Paramount’s announcement though, is that director and human white-noise machine Werner Herzog will be playing the villain in the film.
Wikipedia’s summary of the book is thus: In an innocent heartland city, five are shot dead by an expert sniper. The police quickly identify and arrest a suspect, and build a slam-dunk case with iron-clad evidence. But the accused man claims he’s innocent and says “Get Jack Reacher.” Reacher himself sees the news report and turns up in the city. The defense is immensely relieved; but Reacher has come to bury the guy. Shocked at the accused’s request, Reacher sets out to confirm for himself the absolute certainty of the man’s guilt, but comes up with more than he bargained for.
Herzog will be playing a character stupidly named “The Zec,” who is the “more than he bargained for” aspect of the story. This isn’t Herzog’s first acting gig (most recently he appeared in the poker comedy, The Grand), but this will definitely be his largest and highest profile part. Colored me interested. I’m hoping for a David Cronenberg in Nightbreed winning combination here.