Published Date: 07/08/2017
Guns. Drugs. Money laundering. Based on an unbelievable true story, Tom Cruise stars as Barry Seal, a pilot who works covertly for the CIA while smuggling drugs.
American Made reunites Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman, who last collaborated on Edge of Tomorrow and were looking for their next project together. The pair knew they had found their next film when Oscar winning producer Brian Glazer (A Beautiful Mind, American Gangster), who was similarly intrigued by Barry’s life and times, handed them the screenplay.
Grazer had been sent the project by producer Doug Davison who was searching for ideas to develop when he met with then relatively unknown writer Gary Spinelli. The screenwriter had stumbled upon the story of a man called Barry Seal, a fascinating character in recent American history - one whose devilish swagger and zest for life affected all he met.
Davison recalled Spinelli telling him the “basics of Barry’s story, as well as the beats of his life adventure. Barry wasn’t just a drug smuggler, but a family man who was deeply in love with his wife while leading a double life…now that was a story I wanted to tell!”
Liman, who refers to the film as “a fun lie based on a true story,” offers that he has long appreciated stories of improbable heroes working against the system. “Barry Seal took the government, and our country, for an unbelievable ride,” reveals the filmmaker. “Interpreting his story has the makings for an entertaining film that is equal parts satire, suspense and comedy - and always surprising.”
The quintessential American success story, Seal was recruited for surveillance activities on communist activities in Central America, and ultimately to deliver weapons to rebels in that area who were fighting communists. The U.S. war on drugs and the war on communism had two fronts, and Seal knew them equally well. “He was a real opportunist, and he had an empty airplane on the way back,” continues the director. “If it absolutely had to be there overnight and it was illegal, Barry Seal was your guy. Since he was conducting illegal operations with the CIA’s help, he could get in and out of the country undetected. Well, there was no point flying back with an empty airplane, so Barry thought he might as well bring drugs back with it. So he ended up working for both the U.S. government and for the Colombian drug cartel at the same time, and unbeknownst to the other. He played both sides, and became fabulously wealthy while he was doing it. Still, it was never about the money for Barry. It was about the excitement, the challenge and all about the flying.”
Cruise admits that he gravitated toward this wild story because he’d never met a character like this one. He shares: “Mark Twain’s one of my favourite writers, and I think he informed the tone of Gary’s writing. Barry Seal lived in a very unique time that we’ll never have again in aviation, or in history. He had this incredibly adventurous life, and one that is just beyond belief. He was a character walking through history. It was just too outrageous to believe, and in this day and age, it’s something that will never happen again.”
Not only was Cruise fascinated by Seal’s pioneering spirit, but also to the many sides of the man. “Barry was a great pilot, and a man who loved his family,” he states. “Still, he’s very much an antihero who wanted an adventurous life. I don’t condone the things he did, but you can’t help but see that he had this wish fulfillment. He was someone who lived beyond the rules in a way that was unique to that time period in aviation. Today, everything’s very controlled and corporate, and air spaces are contained. The things that he and his other pilots were able to do were outrageous.”
As the production unfolded, the producers were gobsmacked by the efforts of their star and director. Davison raves: “The energy between Tom and Doug is amazing. It’s fun and moves very fast. Doug said from the beginning he wanted this movie experience for the crew working on it to be an adventure, and he delivered.”
For Cruise, this long-time labour of love wouldn’t have been possible without the support of all on the production. Of his director, he reflects: “Doug brings a unique humanity to his films. He comes up with ideas as we’re working, and the friendship that we have allows us to trust one another - where we’re willing to try anything. We push each other, and he’s someone who wants to make great films and to entertain an audience. I also don’t make a movie just to make a movie.”
Cruise, who does all of his own flying in the movie, continues. “What interests me is the passion of cinema and storytelling, that’s when it gets very exciting. It’s not just a job; I love this too much and want to push myself and surround myself with people who have that same sensibility and sense of exploration to make movies.”
The release of a new Tom Cruise film is always an exciting event for us at Showcase and we anticipate another rip-roaring cinematic adventure when American Made hits our screens.
American Made is at Showcase from August 25
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