"People are gonna f**k me in this business. There's no two ways about it. And the first thing you have to realize is that they're very rarely doing it because it's personal. The truth is they're not thinking about you enough. What I want to tell those people that get so frustrated and so bitter about the business is: 'No one knows who you are to care enough to deliberately screw you out of anything. You're not crossing their mind when they're doing whatever destructive thing that they're doing to you. They're thinking about themselves!'"
If you're the kind of person who sees Hollywood as this creativity-destroying, soul-crushing machine where every studio executive is out to stomp on the little guy, you must read Empire editor Nev Pierce's fantastic interview with Christopher McQuarrie, writer-director of Jack Reacher and writer of The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie and more. It's filled with the kind of raw honesty that all too rarely comes out when someone from Hollywood is on the record with the press.
Even better than the honest answers, though, is that you can clearly see that McQuarrie isn't bitter about what Hollywood does to the creative process. He's just a realist. He's learned how to operate within the system, and the insights he shares are a must read for anyone with an interest in what it's like to be a work-for-hire writer or director in Hollywood. We really encourage you to read the entire thing, but we wanted to pull a few highlights to entice you.
On how the Internet meddled in Bryan Singer's X-Men:
"Well, that's the same thing Bryan went through on the first X-Men. They were after him every day. They were handing us pages of notes from Harry Knowles's website. Harry had reviewed the script and they were, 'This is what the fans think of the early drafts of the screenplay.' ... That is what I learned. It's the jujitsu of realizing: this person is handing me these notes not because they're a tyrant, but because they don't know what to do. They're so overwhelmed at how to present this material that is only getting made because the option is running out. And a million other business things that I don't begin to understand are bearing down on them. And they're forced to make this movie. And the odds of them making a hit movie out of the soup that they've been given is astronomical. And so they're questioning everything -- and rightly so. I used to think that it came from a place of total stupidity and I was really frustrated by those people and now I look at them and I think: 'My God, I couldn't do your job.'"
On comparing himself to the filmmakers whose careers he envies:
"There were several movies that came out this year that I think were brilliantly, brilliantly crafted. And as a result were considered brilliant movies... You nodded 'cause one movie popped into your head. I bet everybody will have at least one that does. What I think they would be surprised to discover is an inordinate number get away with it. Now I could be critical of that and say it's a failing, but it isn't, it's my failing. It's my failure as a filmmaker to refuse to bend to what is now what the audience wants. The audience is telling us what they want: it's polished, it's style, gloss and attitude. And the story is not important to them. Continuity is not important to them. Narrative clarity, meaning, none of those things are important. This is not coming from a place of railing against what movies are, but trying to accept that that's what movies have become. And I'm at a crossroads in my career, where I'm looking at it, saying, 'Are you gonna be the guy who sticks to what you believe in and suffers the consequences? Or are you gonna make that leap?' 'Cause, of all the things that I've learned about how to work better with the business, that's the hardest one for me. That's really the hardest one. I could have shot Reacher with long lenses and Steadicams and, you know, I could have made a very different movie that looked like contemporary movies do. And it would have been patently false 'cause it's not a contemporary movie. It's not a contemporary character. And it would have been generic when compared to other movies that I know you can think of."
On working within the chaos of the system:
"Yes. Definitely. None of this is to say that you can't do it and keep your soul. But, God, if I knew differently, if anybody had explained it to me... It's why I do interviews the way I do: I'm trying to send a message in a bottle to whoever was me 20 years ago, to take a different view. Whatever you think the business is, it isn't. And however important you think those early meetings are, they're not. All that's ever really going to matter, the only thing that's ever going to be a commodity, is you and your script. Because if everybody could write screenplays, they would. Everybody thinks they've got a great story to tell. Everybody and their mother. If executives could do away with us, they would. If actors could do away with us, they would. And the writers that I see who are the most frustrated are the writers who cannot revel in the fact that the real pleasure of being a writer is: you'd love to get rid of me and can't. I'm the nerd at the party. But I drove. Nobody's getting home without my car!"
Again, we highly recommend reading the entire interview. It'll refresh your perspective on just how hard it is to work in an industry where millions of people around the globe are judging your work. And please, do check out Jack Reacher On Demand now or when it hits Blu-ray on May 7. It's a really, really good movie -- the kind that should have instantly spawned a franchise, but for forces beyond everyone's control, didn't. Maybe if people embrace it on home video we'll be lucky enough to see that happen.