On January 31st, Paramount Home Media will release ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ in a variety of formats. Tom Cruise returns to play the character, this time with his Last Samurai director Edward Zwick, and a strong cast of supporting actors. This Jack Reacher edition is more of an old-school action film, relying very little on any CGI and very much on the actors and action sequences they must perform in. Cruise’s long-standing stunt coordinator (and also the 2nd Unit Director) Wade Eastwood was on hand last week to talk candidly about the mechanics of creating a film like ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’. That interview follows here.
The ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ Blu-ray / DVD / Digital HD package comes with an exclusive Jack Reacher Illustrated Short Story and an assortment of featurettes breaking down the character development and action sequences captured within the film.
Your body of work is just insane Wade. I was so blown away when I had a look at it. (Have a look for yourselves RIGHT HERE)
Eastwood: Thank you.
How would you describe a film like ‘Jack Reacher Never Go Back’? To me, as a layman, it seemed like a very physical film. I didn’t see a lot of noticeable CGI in it.
Eastwood: No. There’s not a lot at all. It’s a very raw and very real film. This sort of film, in this day and age in Hollywood, they don’t come around often. It has that sort of eighties feel: When movies were fun and physical. Everything today is such a massive visual show. It’s very rare to get a film where the characters are so raw and real – and you can take people back to where they are watching live cinema. With character-driven action. Not visual-driven action.
So, what are your first steps as a stunt coordinator after you get approached with a project like Jack Reacher, Wade? Do you have a formula or a check-list that you try to adhere to?
Eastwood: The biggest thing for me, and the reason I’ve been working with Tom (Cruise) for so long, is that we both very much enjoy character-based action and sticking with the tone of the film. I’ve always been very strong minded on character-based fights and character-based action. If you take the character out of the action and you just shoot it as an action sequence, the audience starts to lose connection. On the Jack Reacher films and with Tom, we just try and keep everything with the character. You really feel the emotion in his driving; you feel the emotion in his fighting. In the film, he’s fighting for a reason, you know? He doesn’t want to, but he has to (fight). He’s emotionally driven to get to a place to rescue his (said) daughter, and you feel all of his drive and emotion throughout the whole film. With everything he does, really. That’s when I think you get attracted to the character, and you stay gripped to the storyline.
What is your margin of error like on a close quarter fight scene? A hallway or something where you really can’t move the camera around much?
Eastwood: We design those fights as best we can. Obviously, we are working on sets for a lot of them, so we can float the wall out here and there or a ceiling if we need to position the camera in a better place. We always design the fights with camera in mind. I’ll always shoot the fights with a preview before we show the director the final product. We always shoot with the camera in mind and not little iPhone cameras. We shoot them for large camera allowance to be able to film them.
You mentioned that you’d done many films with Tom Cruise. Is that how it goes in your field? You develop a rapport with a director or an actor and you continue on with them on their respective films?
Eastwood: Yeah, it does happen a lot, you know? There are a few teams out there, and I know a few people out there who have done that. I think I’m the longest survivor with Tom. We’ve done 5 or 6 now together. Yeah, we’ve developed a very good working relationship. We are of the same mindset when it comes to making movies. We strive to be professional and to push oneself always to do a better job.
I’m curious about something as a simple movie fan. There must be numerous examples of scenes in films where you’ve put work into the scene, and it would be utterly transparent to someone like me. Is there an example of a scene like that that you might be able to pull from ‘Jack Reacher NGB’? Some stunt work you did that I might not have caught?
Eastwood: Hmm. Anything action-wise, we are behind it 100% so you would have seen it in the visual. The worst thing that can happen is when you have gone weeks and months into elaborate sequences and the storyline of the film changes and you find out they don’t need it. Sometimes you don’t shoot those sequences, or they have been shot and then get edited out of the sequence you’ve shot gets changed and needs to be redone. That can be hard. It’s not heartbreaking, but you do tend to think, “Och, all that work and effort.” But that’s filming, you know? You put all of these modular things into the pot, and sometimes they don’t all get used. To get it perfectly sometimes you’ve got to deal with the storyline changing or a character changing for the better, and you slightly take the movie down a different avenue. And an action sequence might not suit that avenue – it might be a talking head sequence. That’s filming. You pitch up, give your all, and see what the outcome is.
Check out the Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Official Trailer
There is a great fight scene in this new Jack Reacher film where four bad guys surround Tom Cruise in a warehouse. I’m curious how long that sequence took to realize. From storyboarding and planning, to filming, to final product.
Eastwood: That was actually a late in the day fight. There was an early screening of the film, and we felt like there needed to be one more fight in the film. It was too clean. So that was added sort of last minute, and done very quickly. Whereas when you’ve got this kind of larger rig shots like Tom jumping down onto a guy or the car sequences and stuff, you know they are slightly more planned. There’s more rigging and more things that get involved. Whereas some of the ground fights like this one, they are rawer. We don’t have as much pre-thought that goes into it. A lot of the time you get some very organic stuff. It can look fresh and un-rehearsed. Everything is rehearsed of course, but it can look un-rehearsed.
What for you is the gauge of a successful film, Wade? It can be anything that you’ve done. I’m curious of have a marker for success that maybe differs from an actor, director or studio?
Eastwood: Well, there’s the box office. If a movie makes money, then it’s a success. For me, if I actually like the movie, that’s success. I’m so critical, especially of the movies I do. If the movie flows and I buy it, that’s important. Beyond it working, if I buy the character, especially if I’m close to the character. I know Tom personally now. After all of these years, I still get sucked into the character, and look at him as not Tom the guy I go for a steak with, but Tom – the character that he is playing. I always get taken to the character, and not to the guy. That says something for the film and the way that he portrays the character in the film.
This may not apply, but I’m going to ask it and see. What do you feel has been the biggest advancement in your field (of doing stunts) over the past twenty years, Wade?
Eastwood: I think the camera improvements have been pretty significant. And the fact that we can put these cameras on many different types of rigs now. The MoVI rig, for example, is phenomenal. Because we had steady cam around for so many years, and now they have developed this MoVI rig which allows you to do so much more. I use it a lot. The more we can put the camera in a better place, the more we can take the audience on a more extreme journey with that character.
What would you say was your biggest challenge in making ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’?
Eastwood: Training up all of the actors. This is always the challenge with a new cast. Not every actor is a Tom Cruise. They are not all used to doing big action movies and doing sliding bikes and cars and fights. So you’ve got to take actors who have maybe not done that kind of stuff and get them through some proper training first. I use this get-set body program top do the sort of core Pilates motor-based work, which is more injury prevention training. Get them really strong. Get a report back on their weaknesses. And then we start their fight training. And then movement training to get up to action hero status. The last thing you want is an injured actor. That, or having to use a stuntman too much. The way that you have cut the film, you can take the audience out of the action if it becomes evident that there is a stunt double doing it rather than the actor. We’d rather stay with the character and the story point behind the fight, rather than cutting to a wide angle of the fight.
Imagine a world where you didn’t get into stunt work. What might you be doing now?
Eastwood: I’d most likely be a (pauses) well, I’d LOVE to be a Formula One Driver. If that’s realistic? (laughs) I’d most likely be a helicopter pilot, or I’d own a really cool surf hotel somewhere on a beach.
Lastly, I’d love to know what you did on the TV show Revolution. It’s on your IMDB profile. I loved that show.
Eastwood: Oh, I did a sword fight on that show. On a stairway in Atlanta. It was so long ago, but there was a great team of guys on that show. They had a lot of fun doing it. I didn’t ever really get to watch the show, to tell the truth.
Thanks for your time. I loved what you did on the latest Jack Reacher film. Look forward to watching your next one.