'Jack Reacher' Author Lee Child Spills on the Upcoming Sequel, 'Never Go Back'

Here's what he really thinks of Tom Cruise.
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(Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images)

(Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images)

The upcoming Jack Reacher sequel, ironically titled Never Go Back, is a thrilling change-up to the usual Reacher formula.

Based on the 18th novel in the series, the film trails the titular former U.S. Army Military Police Corps officer, played somewhat controversially by Tom Cruise, as he goes on the lam after unravelling a government conspiracy involving the killings of U.S. troops (you know... the usual Reacher stuff). But this time, the lone wolf mercenary is joined by two equally hardboiled characters, Maj. Susan Turner, in a lethal turn by How I Met Your Mother star Cobie Smulders, and his potentially long-lost daughter Samantha, in a star-making performance by 18-year-old Danika Yarosh.

With all there is to unpack this go-around (new actors, a new setting and even a new director), who better to crowbar some light on the franchise than creator Lee Child, writer of the bestselling 20 novels on which the films are based.

Maxim recently spoke to the prolific British author about creating the ultimate American hero, Cobie Smulders's knockout performance, his favorite stunt from the film, whether there's a franchise without Tom Cruise, and if he's ever toyed with the idea of killing off Reacher.

Why did you originally envision Jack Reacher as American rather than English?

Oh, because I'm bored with England. I've lived there all my life, and I wanted to escape, literally and fictionally. And of course, because of the immense landscape of America, you can tell any story here. It's the wide-open spaces where you can imagine there are these secret little towns. It's a very mythic landscape, especially in the West. Britain is a very tightly populated and small country, and that limits the stories you can tell.

Jack Reacher usually operates solo, but he's in league with two other strong characters for this installment. How did that change the dynamic?

That was certainly the plan I had when I was writing the book. All of these three characters are really lone wolves; they're alpha characters that are used to being in charge of their own lives. Then they're thrown together into this crisis, and they have to learn to work together. It takes them a long time because why would one defer to the other? They're all used to being the boss.

Was it an intentional choice to make these characters female?

It was intentional in the sense that it reflects real life. Women are plenty strong, and women are in charge, especially in the military. It was the first to really integrate racially, and now in terms of gender. We've got women graduating the Ranger courses, women in combat and plenty of senior female officers so it reflects real life. And it certainly makes a great story in this movie because where is the tension [between Jack and Susan]? Is it a romantic tension? Is it a question of authority? Or is it both? And I think actually it is both.

You must have been thrilled with the performance Cobie Smulders gave.

Absolutely. The Cobie role was really the crucial part of that puzzle. If she turned in a great performance then the movie was going to be great, and if not then not. And happily, she totally nailed it. I've never seen an actress more committed to doing something slightly outside her realm of experience and comfort zone.

Aside from the performances, was there a scene or action sequence you wrote that you particularly enjoyed seeing on the big screen?

There's a scene early on where Reacher uses a saltshaker from IHOP to smash through the car window, and I love that scene because it is actually not in the book. They invented that scene, and it is so Reacher and so spot-on that I was annoyed. I thought, "My God! That should have been in the book. I might put that in the book." It was a great stunt, but it was also a kind of message from Ed Zwick and Tom saying, "See! We got this."

Is there anyone you think could play Jack Reacher if Tom ever stepped down?

I think if Tom ever stepped down, I assume that by that point the franchise would be established enough to carry the weight of a new discovery. If you look back at James Bond, Sean Connery, who is very iconic now, was completely unknown.

What's next for Jack Reacher? I know the 21st entry, Night School, is set to be released soon.

It's a prequel. It's set 20 years ago in 1996 when Reacher was still in the army. An intelligence operation uncovers a single sentence that has been overheard: "The American one for $100 million." It's a period of history where we didn't really understand security threats yet, and so therefore everything was a bit frantic and unstructured. No one knows what American, for what or who’s going to pay. And it's one of Reacher’s final cases in uniform so there's a little bit of origin in there as well. I'll keep revealing a little bit more about him each time.

Which novel would you like to see adapted next?

It's really a question of which feel should be next. The first one was in Pittsburgh, which is a very urban feeling and very gritty. The second one is mostly in New Orleans, which is very urban in a slightly different flavor. So maybe what we should do is go for one of the rural ones.

Lastly, have you ever considered killing off Reacher?

At one point, I thought that would be the proper way to end it because he's a noble old warhorse, and he deserves a spectacular, definitive end. But over the years, I've come to realize people love this guy, and so to kill him would be gratuitously cruel. He's kind of invincible at this point, but he's a big, tough guy, and he can rule the world for a long time to come.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back premieres nationwide on Oct. 21.