A case in point is DreamWorks and Paramount’s thriller “Collateral,” directed by Michael Mann and starring Tom Cruise which goes into production in early October after many years of twists and turns. Produced by Julie Richardson, its screenplay is by Stuart Beattie and Frank Darabont.
‘Collateral’ was actually the first idea I ever had for a film,” Beattie explained. “I was riding in the back of a cab from the airport in Sydney. I must have been 17 or 18. And I just started chatting with this cabbie. And by the time he dropped me home, we were just talking like best mates. I had one of those weird sicko thoughts like, ‘I could be some homicidal maniac and you don’t know. You’ve got your back to me. You’re talking to me like we’re friends (but) I could be anyone.’ It just occurred to me that cabs are a very unique place in our world where two total strangers get into very close confines with each other and trust each other implicitly. And the driver’s got his back to you. It just seemed ripe for tension and (felt like there was) a great movie in there. That’s really where it came from.”
Even when what evolved into “Collateral” found a home at DreamWorks, there still wasn’t what you could call clear sailing.
“I ended up doing six or seven months of work on it for them,” Beattie noted. “Then, basically that’s it. It’s around on a shelf. Frank did a draft. He did a polish on it that he always wanted to do. I came back on and did another polish, you know, of his polish. It just kind of sat there. It basically became a great writing sample for me. It went all around town and people really responded to it. So I started getting a lot of work off that script. For those three years it was just basically getting me work everywhere. It was one of those scripts where people would just pass it on to each other and say, ‘Hey, you should read this.’ It wasn’t just my agent saying, ‘Read this’ for a job or something.’ It really took on a life of its own.”
Russell Crowe also gave the project a boost when he attached himself to it for about six months, briefly attracting Mann in the process.
“And then Russell bowed out, I think, because it just was taking too long. Michael came back on again. It was pretty much after Russell bowed out that Tom (came aboard). I think it was probably a call from Michael to Tom saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got this thing. Look, we’ve always wanted to work together’ and all that kind of stuff. It’s really when you get such a classy director on like that that things really start to move.”
Cruise has expressed interested at times in playing a villain and he clearly got his wish granted with “Collateral.”
“Yeah, he’s certainly a villain,” Beattie said. “You know, he’s the kind of guy you’d like to have around for dinner if it wasn’t for the fact that he killed people for a living. He’s a nice guy in (that) he’s outgoing and personable. He’s humorous and everything, but unfortunately he kills you. That’s the problem. If you meet him, you’re probably dead. But he’s got a very businesslike approach to life — (with) six billion people on the planet, what’s the difference if you lose one or two people?”