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Cruise drew director to ‘Knight and Day’

Director James Mangold spoke about “Knight and Day,” starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. He said he was only willing to take the project if Cruise was attached and was interested in the potential chemistry of both actors. Mangold is best known for directing “3:10 to Yuma,” “Girl Interrupted” and “Walk the Line.”TODAYshow.com: The first thing I noticed about “Knight and Day” i
/ Source: TODAY.com

Director James Mangold spoke about “Knight and Day,” starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. He said he was only willing to take the project if Cruise was attached and was interested in the potential chemistry of both actors. Mangold is best known for directing “3:10 to Yuma,” “Girl Interrupted” and “Walk the Line.”

TODAYshow.com: The first thing I noticed about “Knight and Day” is that your cast seemed to have such a great chemistry.

JM: It is possible to fake it. It’s not possible to fake it and be a great performer. The point to me is that it is really important despite the money and the pressure and the expectations on the project the way it’s really going to work is a really good sports team — if everyone’s really alive to the style and rhythms of the other.

TODAYshow.com: So how did the project come to you?

JM: They sent me the script. FOX sent me the script and said that Cameron was attached, and Tom Cruise read it and was curious about it, and that when I read the comic idea of the movie, it really turned me on, the idea I might be doing it with these two actors.

TODAYshow.com: Another thing, Tom Cruise. There doesn’t seem to be another actor these days with that vibe that could play his role in the movie.

JM: I wouldn’t have done the movie if I didn’t get him. My thing is that I saw the potential combination of him and Cameron as so electric. And for me, that thing you are discussing. There’s so few people that could pull off that combinations of serious gravity and also charisma and charm.

TODAYshow.com: He was quirky, funny — yet completely the leading man.

JM: What’s so funny is that confidence in front of the camera. I mean Tom is, he does carry both the edge and physicality of modern movie stars, but also the gallantry and poise and frankly glamour of old movie stars. I think they both work together. There’s not many people who can do it.

TODAYshow.com: And Cameron, she’s so bubbly. When she’s on screen she seems like a person you want to know.

JM: I think that’s a very good perception about her. She’s a really wonderful human being, really great friend and great to everyone around her. Considers it really wonderful to have the life she’s having. A really wonderful person.

TODAYshow.com: What was it like working with the two actors on set?

JM: Well they became family to me. We spent six, seven, eight months working on this movie together. That really happens: You become so close to one another, you’ve lived together. Cathy Konrad, the producer of the film, she’s my wife as well as being a producer of a whole bunch of movies, and she would travel with myself and Tom and Kate and Cameron, and our kids and Tom’s kids they were all kind of going around the world together. And, you actually just have a great time. The reality is there’s tough days and there’s good days, but the one thing that happens with the whole thing is you just get very close together working so closely.

TODAYshow.com: So, it really was a family affair!

JM: Sure. I mean, we were in Jamaica. We were all swimming together and having a great time. Unless every dislikes each other the reality is it’s kind of unavoidable. You’ve got a bunch of people who really love each other and work together and are traveling together for almost three quarters of a year. Either that story is going to end badly or well. And, it ended very well.

TODAYshow.com: A lot of times people won’t shoot on location, but you actually went to these areas. Why did you choose to do that?

JM: Well I felt that there is a certain wish fulfillment that the movie plays out in terms of Cameron’s character in that she’s never really been anywhere ... she’s never really been to the places she dreams about. It didn’t make sense to me if the movie didn’t take the audience to these places.

TODAYshow.com: Tell me more about the memorable moments on set.

JM: It’s the vamping off each other, the improvisation that was going on. There was a lot of great energy between the actors all playing, listening and working with each other. On a daily basis, I think that Tom and Cameron would go through drills learning the dialogue, make sure they had it quick off of spaces. Part of what makes movies like this work is the sense of effervescence and dialogue that doesn’t feel labored or sat upon. It seems to go back and forth with these.

TODAYshow.com: The movie ends open ended. Were you planning on doing a sequel or is it a self-contained movie?

JM: Well, neither. I mean I certainly wouldn’t be angry if someone wanted to make a sequel. At the same time, when you make romantic films about couples coming together, one of the things that is almost innate is that the movie ends with the sense that the story is going to go on. To be frank, you have the same feeling when “Walk the Line” ends. The reality is that when couples come together it’s both a culmination of a courting process, but it’s also a new beginning. It always is. 

TODAYshow.com: Do you have any idea where you want to go next?

JM: I honestly don’t know what my next movie is. That’s a good question.

TODAYshow.com: But, you must be nervous going against “Toy Story 3.” Is that why you changed the release date?

JM: The only thing is we backed out of the way of “Twilight,” and I think that was the first move. The other one was just backing up a little earlier, because they did a little testing. They realized the more the movie plays, the more people see it, the more they want to see it because everyone leaves recommending the film to their friends.

TODAYshow.com: Would you work with Tom and Cameron either alone or together again?

JM: Oh in a heartbeat! Of course! It was a great experience. Speaking of Cruise, I consider him one of the greatest actors of the last 50 years. I mean I think his success has been so huge that I think sometimes it keeps people from recognizing his creative achievements. From “Rain Man” to “Born of the Fourth of July” to “Magnolia” to “Jerry Maguire” to “Risky Business” to “Top Gun” — I mean it’s an amazing run of movies. ... You’ll take a picture like “Collateral” which is a phenomenal movie by Michael Mann, and Tom’s playing a really dark, dangerous villain in that picture. And, I can’t think of any leading men at the top of their game who without hesitation will play these really, really bold and interesting roles.