Lee Grant, better known as Lee Child AKA the creator of the iconic Jack Reacher, has engaged readers worldwide with his daring character and captured the imagination of thousands with the exploits of the fictional retired military police officer.
Jack Reacher has become almost a cult figure, immortalized on screen by actor Tom Cruise, who played the character in its cinematic adaption in 2012 and 2016.
Fast X actor Alan Ritchson stepped in 2022 to helm the Reacher franchise on Amazon Prime Video. Reacher’s first season was based on Child’s first novel, Killing Floor, while the second adapted his 11th book Bad Luck & Trouble.
The 68-year-old author, who is also the executive producer of the series, sat down with HELLO! India for an exclusive chat where he talked about his iconic character, onscreen adaptations of his work, and who is the better Jack Reacher: Tom Cruise or Alan Ritchson? Read on to find out what he has to say…
HELLO!: Reacher 2 is here and we may well have another 24 seasons to go...
Lee Child: “I hope so! Don’t forget while we do those 24 seasons, there will be more books coming out so we can do maybe 20, 30, 40 seasons! Let’s carry on forever! I would love to see dozens more.”
H!: Jack Reacher has emerged as this cult figure, did you ever imagine being this popular?
LC: “I think that comes from the fact that people want that kind of hero and every culture invents the same kind of person that will show up and solve your problem and move on. Every country has that somewhere in its narrative history because people love that, they want that, they crave it. Everybody has a problem of some kind. Some people do have serious problems and wouldn’t it be great if one day a strong, silent person shows up at your door, solves your problem and moves on? People dream about that...”
H!: Tom Cruise immortalised him on screen and Alan Ritchson has become quite the fan favourite on OTT. So, who according to you played the better Reacher?
LC: “The key difference between the movie and the television is the running time. We have so much time to tell the story, it also means that the actor is on the screen for that much longer. Alan Ritchson auditioned via Zoom, which felt weird, except actually, it was a great way to do it since that is how the viewer is going to see the actor on the screen, and we were judging on the same basis. I wanted an actor who would step on the screen and just own it and command it and be Reacher without doing anything or saying anything., Alan Richardson was that person, straightaway he’s very comfortable with not talking which is perfect for Reacher, but very rare for actors and he was very cool with that. When we saw him we said, ‘yes, this is the man we want’, and the viewers agreed too. Tom Cruise is a great actor, and he nailed the internal conflict of the Reacher, which was good. But, physicality is important to the Reacher since one of his characteristic is to be this huge-looking, scary man who makes everybody a little nervous when he steps into the room. And I thought that Alan commanded that much better on the screen.”
H!: You started writing Jack Reacher in 1997, exactly a year after you were laid off from your job as a Broadcast producer. Was it a catharsis of some sort to pour your feelings into creating this hero?
LC: “I think that’s a great word: “feeling”, because a lot of people say to write what you know. And that is really bad advice because nobody knows enough to make an exciting story, virtually nobody has ever done anything that exciting. But you’ve got to write what you feel. What scares you? What excites you? What turns you on? What repels you? So, it depends on feelings. Yes, I was very aware that I could not specify it too much. You can’t make a shopping list of things that you feel you ought to do. You’ve just got to close your eyes and tell the story, and see what comes out. And in my case, Reacher came out, and I was a little worried at first. I thought Is anybody going to like this man because you know he’s homeless, he never changes his clothes? He felt like a strange proposition. But happily, everybody did like him.”
H!: When your work is being adapted, as a writer are you okay to let go? Usually, one tends to get a bit possessive and subconsciously even act as a gatekeeper.
LC: “The possessive thing, you should never feel like that. The whole point of writing a book is to let go of the character, because well before you’ve ever thought about a movie or television you’ve got readers and the reader owns the character by that point. Reacher belongs to the readers. The ownership migrates outward from the author to the reader so you get very used to other people owning the character and having an opinion. And that’s all that the film and or television does. It’s somebody else’s opinion, somebody else’s version, and you’ve already given the character away, so I’m comfortable with it. There are all kinds of changes that have to be made. Some people have an interest in Reacher and others have an ownership stake, and a few others have their view of how to do it. I love watching people do things well, and that’s what we’re celebrating here, a great crew.”
H!: When you started writing, was the character inspired by someone you knew? Because writers usually draw inspiration from their environment. Was there a person or a situation that offset the beginning of this legacy?
LC: “It’s a good question because you would imagine there must be somebody like that, that has affected me. But, I can’t think of anybody in particular. So I think what it is… is a kind of mixture of lots of different people that I’ve met, their characteristics. There was no incident. I knew one guy who was a heavyweight boxer, and not a particularly good one as a matter of fact, not a champion or anything but a big strong man who lived on a different line than the rest of us. Just a different physical type of person. So I think he was probably part of it. And then my dad who had been in the Army in World War Two, you know, the military mindset that I had learned from him. There are probably a dozen different influences that go into Reacher.”
H!: So, where do we go from here? What more adventures lie ahead of Reacher, is there something you have already planned?
LC: “Well, of course, from my point of view, I hope that we do a season every couple of years for the entire rest of history, and there are plenty more books to choose from. If as long as the viewer is happy, then we would love to supply season after season. And it’s our job to keep the viewer happy and create that demand. And so yeah, there’s lots of books to choose from. The hard thing is which book, you know which story is going to be good when it comes out next year.”
Reacher Season 2 premieres on 15 December 2023 on Amazon Prime Video.