IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Writer recalls truth, fiction of ‘Usual Suspects’

On “Valkyrie,” the writer and director of “The Usual Suspects” reunite for their most substantial project together since their 1995 film.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The story line on “Valkyrie” has focused on the “Tom Cruise-as-Nazi” angle, but it’s also a notable regrouping of the two minds behind one of the most beloved movies of the last 15 years.

On “Valkyrie,” the writer and director of “The Usual Suspects” reunite for their most substantial project together since their 1995 film. Back then, director Bryan Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie crafted a movie that today ranks as the 21st most popular film of all time, according to rankings on

The jaw-dropping ending of “The Usual Suspects” is firmly lodged in movie lore, but on Singer and McQuarrie’s recent collaboration, the ending couldn’t be more predictable. Tom Cruise plays would-be Hitler assassin Col. Claus von Stauffenberg in “Valkyrie,” and, obviously, all plots to kill Hitler failed.

McQuarrie, who co-wrote the script with Nathan Alexander, believes the known ending was the “single biggest asset” to “Valkyrie” because it creates a tragic, foreboding suspense.

“The Usual Suspects” was similarly written so it could entertain those who had already seen the ending, he said.

“It’s not a movie with a twist that hangs on the twist,” said McQuarrie in a recent interview. “We were very careful to engineer that movie for a second viewing.”

In 2006, the Writers Guild voted “The Usual Suspects” the No. 35 greatest screenplay. McQuarrie, 40, went on to write and direct 2000’s “The Way of the Gun,” while Singer has helmed a number of blockbusters, including “X-Men,” “X2” and “Superman Returns.”

But many continue to wonder just how much of “The Usual Suspects” — how much of Verbal Kint’s (Kevin Spacey) story — is true. (True, that is, within the movie’s plot.)

McQuarrie says only after finishing the film and preparing to do press interviews about it did he and Singer realize they both had completely different conceptions about the plot.

“I pulled Bryan aside the night before press began and I said, ‘We need to get our stories straight because people are starting to ask what happened and what didn’t,’” recalls McQuarrie. “And we got into the biggest argument we’ve ever had in our lives.”

He continues: “One of us believed that the story was all lies, peppered with little bits of the truth. And the other one believed it was all true, peppered with tiny, little lies. ... We each thought we were making a movie that was completely different from what the other one thought.”

So who believed what?

With a broad grin, McQuarrie responds: “I’ll never tell.”