If it’s Thursday, this must be the mailbag.
Q: Author Lee Child writes novels featuring his character Jack Reacher, described as “six-five, heavily built, close to two hundred and fifty pounds.” There’s talk of a movie to be made starring Tom Cruise. Which Hollywood rocket scientist decided to cast 5’7” inch Tom Cruise as Reacher?
A: First of all, there’s more than talk. The movie — based on the novel One Shot — is coming in December, and there’s already a trailer circulating. To be sure, fans of the books have complained about casting Cruise (who is reportedly 5-foot-8). According to the Wall Street Journal, Child at one time suggested Russell Crowe (who is reportedly not quite 6 feet tall) or former football star Howie Long (who is 6-5). But he also wanted a good movie, and an actor who could pull off the part, When the decision was made to stop trying to match Reacher physically, Child told the Journal, “That was liberating. It was an epiphany. Tom Cruise was always interested in playing Reacher, and he has the acting skills to pull it off. ... With another actor, you might get 100 percent of the height but only 90 percent of Reacher. With Tom, you’ll get 100 percent of Reacher with 90 percent of the height.”
This is hardly the first time that Hollywood has changed a print character. Several characters who were white in books were then played onscreen by African-Americans; indeed, Man of Steel, the next Superman movie, has cast Laurence Fishburne as Perry White. The reboot of Battlestar Galactica turned a male character from the original series into a woman in the updating. Some changes reflect our more diverse times. Others have a commercial underpinning.
Cruise in an action movie can make a lot of money for people; his Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol took in almost $700 million in theaters worldwide. Similarly, Alan Ladd was a successful leading man — and reportedly shorter than Cruise; screen adjustments included his often working opposite the petite Veronica Lake.
Q: I am looking for a DVD of the movie “Union Pacific” with Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea. I have seen VHS copies but no DVD. It came out in 1939.
A: While I do not know of an authorized release of the Cecil B. DeMille epic as an individual DVD, it is included in a set called The Cecil B. DeMille Collection along with Sign of the Cross (1932), Four Frightened People (1934), the 1934 version of Cleopatra (with Claudette Colbert in the title role) and The Crusades (1935). If your local retailer cannot get it, online sellers include Turner Classic Movies’ website (www.tcm.com) and Amazon.com.
Q: I remember seeing a Danny Kaye movie set during World War II about a Jewish refugee’s interaction with a German army officer. I am not sure of its name or if it is available for purchase. Can you help?
A: Most likely you are remembering Me and the Colonel, a 1958 film with Kaye as a Jewish refugee from Poland whose attempts to escape the Nazis find him in an awkward partnership with a Polish officer (played by Curt Jurgens). It has been released on VHS but not on an authorized, U.S.-format DVD.
Q: I was wondering if you know the real reason why “Wordy” from “Flashpoint” was essentially written off the show. Does he really have Parkinson’s or was that just part of the story?
A: According to TV Guide Canada, giving Wordy Parkinson’s was a creative decision by the show; I have not found any indication that Michael Cram, who played Wordy, actually has Parkinson’s. Mark Ellis, the show’s co-creator, told the publication that “we wanted to explore what happens when a team member can’t be perfect. What effect that has on his team. And the choices he has to make to do right by the two families he loves.”
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Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and in the HeldenFiles Online blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Twitter (as @rheldenfels) and Facebook.