EXCLUSIVE: Before we get back to the cynical world we live in, how about a sentimental reminiscence with Cameron Crowe on the making of his touchstone romantic comedy Jerry Maguire? The film was released December 13, 1996, but Sony/TriStar marks the film’s 20th anniversary tomorrow by issuing a remastered version that includes a new making-of documentary that Crowe and his Vinyl Films cohorts put together. Over the holiday, Crowe took Deadline through all the twists and turns in the nearly half decade it took to mount his seminal film.
DEADLINE: You grew up writing about the music business for Rolling Stone; you then became a filmmaker good enough to get hit on by agents. You know both these worlds, so why make Jerry Maguire a sports agent?
CAMERON CROWE: It started with a photograph. James L. Brooks handed me this photo from New York Magazine of a sports agent, Gary Wichard, and the Boz, Brian Bosworth, who was then a hot property in the NFL. It was just a fun picture of these two guys; one clearly the business, and the other, the brawn. He said, look at this relationship between these guys. What do you think about that kind of a story in this world?
DEADLINE: Why did you bond with Brooks?
CROWE: Our relationship goes back to Jim’s love of journalism and his interest in the life of the journalist. A mutual friend hooked me up with Jim when he was collecting stories from journalists for Broadcast News. He knew my stuff from Rolling Stone. We had wonderful conversations, where you get high from his references to movies you’ve seen or haven’t seen. He and Richard Sakai ask, do I have any ideas for a movie? Say Anything grew out of that. When we had a hard time finding a director, Jim said, ‘if you can’t top yourself, you should direct it.’ I said, that was never part of my grand dream.
DEADLINE: Why not?
CROWE: I was just happy to have a story on the cover of Rolling Stone. He said, ‘I’m going to make Broadcast News. Why don’t you look at my dailies?’ I had this amazing experience of being able to go into a screening room at Fox and watch Jim direct Broadcast News, through his dailies.
DEADLINE: What was that like?
CROWE: I remember watching the dailies of the scene where Holly Hunter and William Hurt are in those rolling chairs, and it’s kind of a great romantic moment where they come together, and he gets close to her. I watched Jim build this scene out of behavior and dialogue, and I was just…high. I realized, I really want to do this. So I began studying all the films, everything I possibly could. That experience really made Say Anything fun, the beginning of a journey. Then I made Singles, and Jim said, let’s do another. He was getting ready to do As Good as It Gets, and we went and had lunch at Delmonico’s on Pico. And that began a whole period of journalistic research, of trailing after characters, building drafts. The first draft of Jerry Maguire was this basic, long, vomit draft. I remember Jim saying, ‘I’ve never read so much story with so little plot.’
CROWE: It was 140 pages, but filled with the passion of the story. Jim is all about the process. So rather than accenting the problems, he said, ‘let’s embrace structure.’ Out of that came the odd but ultimately satisfying structure of Jerry Maguire, which begins with an ‘all hope is lost’ moment that usually happens at the end of the second act or towards the end of the movie. We started with Jerry’s descent. It was really exhilarating to find that starting point.
DEADLINE: How helpful were Hollywood agents, informing these characters?
CROWE: There were a lot of agents, particularly guys from CAA like Jay Moloney, and also Tracey Jacobs; they were great sources. There were universal things that would pop up from sports and the entertainment and music agents. The holidays are always a tender time; people are very vulnerable over money, and thinking about the year ahead. So the agents would also say, like, I had to get an extra sense of territory and nurturing going over the holiday. The other thing in particular that the sports agents said was, they deal with a lot of young athletes. Their thing was, get into the living room. Get with the parents, to the source of who’s making the decisions. Often, that’s going to be in the home. That informed the Jerry Maguire/Beau Bridges part of the story. The thing of losing a client and fighting to get him back was universal, through all the conversations I had with the agents. We plucked a lot of stuff from real life. There’s a lot of journalism in the movie.
DEADLINE: Several sports agents would later claim they were Jerry Maguire.
CROWE: Who most informed his values? I got to say that character came from the pitching room with Jim, me, and Richard Sakai. We built Jerry from our combined experiences, and then I made it a personal story, masquerading as a mainstream movie. Jerry came from a lot of different fictional places, but we got elements and spice from guys like Leigh Steinberg. He helped me a lot, and opened a lot of doors. Another guy was his somewhat nemesis, Drew Rosenhaus. He was kind of like a Bob Sugar, but the whole idea of putting a focus on personal attention to your clients, that came from conversations with Jim. We talked about what would be the most embarrassing thing that could happen to a shark in the middle of the night, drilled on coffee and bad pizza, and finding a conscience he didn’t know he had? What would he say that would really get him in trouble? And that’s where we came up with the more personal attention thing. Fewer clients. Less money. Some of the sports agents that I pitched that idea to looked at me like, are you crazy? We would never say anything like that. That’s when I knew we were on the right track.
DEADLINE: Even when they claimed it wasn’t what they would have said?
CROWE: When somebody’s trailing you around to write for a movie, you view it as more a documentary than the process really is. When those guys would think about the real reality of an agent doing that, they were slightly horrified. But the gift of the movie, that it reached those people is, a lot of them raised their hands later to say I’m Jerry, or I’m Bob Sugar, or I’m this guy, or I’m that guy. And that was the dream.
DEADLINE: You wrote this for Tom Hanks to play Jerry Maguire. It is hard to imagine him as the shark we see when the film opens. Why him, and why didn’t it happen?
CROWE: Here’s what happened. Tom Hanks wanted to do another movie with Jim [who produced Big]. He liked my stuff and we had a couple conversations after Say Anything. The idea was, let’s not be slaves to writing this as a Tom Hanks in capital letters movie, but let’s have Tom Hanks on our minds as a guy who would play Jerry Maguire. So we were kind of developing it for him, based on us knowing he really wanted to do something with us. But as Hanks got more and more into that white hot heat of super stardom, I always did think, well, if Tom Hanks doesn’t do this, who would be the dream Jerry Maguire? More and more over time, that was Tom Cruise. I really felt that in my gut. So when the time came to finally show the script to Tom Hanks, I had a great meeting in New York with him. Just fooling around, he read the scene where he tried to get the mission statement back from the clerk downstairs in the lobby. And so I did hear Tom Hanks say the words, ‘this is Jerry Maguire.’ And of course, he was great.
DEADLINE: So what happened?
CROWE: I went home from New York and finished the script. Then he read it, and there was a conversation where he was torn. He wanted to do That Thing You Do, but was incredibly positive about this script. Was really interested in the fact that the marriage happens late in the story. So he was keyed in on the structure of it. We had a really great conversation, and hung up. Everybody was in Jim’s office, waiting to hear. Was Tom Hanks in or out? I walked in, said I had the greatest conversation with Tom Hanks. So, in? I say, no. Which means the Tom Hanks elixir was so strong I didn’t even realize he passed until after I’d hung up, basically.
DEADLINE: Then what?
CROWE: We talked about other ideas, but I was on my own little mission for Tom. We sent the script to him, and he reacted immediately. He was excited about the sports angle, the idea of playing an agent. I had never worked with anybody in that stratosphere, and friends of mine would say, watch out, they change your stuff. They’re really demanding. But my first conversation with Tom after he read the script, he said, I’ll fly out there. I’ll sit down. I’ll read for you. You tell me if you think I’m right for the part. He asked to audition. He came out, we sat and talked, and he said, well, let’s read this thing. He read the script out loud with Jim and me.
DEADLINE: Did you know Cruise?
CROWE: I met him when we were doing Fast Times at Ridgemont High because the actors, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sean Penn, all talked about this charismatic friend of theirs who actually had his own movie going in Chicago. He was the star of a movie and not part of some youth ensemble. Towards the end of Fast Times, Tom was back in town and came to our cast party. He walked in, and the room just tilted to this guy, immediately. The charisma was palpable, and I was like, oh, this is the guy you’ve been talking about. After Say Anything, he called and said, I love this movie and I would love to do something with you. I was just one of the great calls. I wanted to take him up on his offer.
DEADLINE: That Chicago movie was Risky Business, which launched his star?
DEADLINE: By the time you got him, he was as big a star as Hanks. What about his audition convinced you he was Jerry Maguire?
CROWE: Well, he came in looking casual. Then our costume designer, Betsy Heimann, put Tom in that suit that he wears in the opening sequence of the movie. We were like, holy shit, that’s a shark. Tom had me at the first line, because the guy is so good at voice overs. If you think about Risky Business, early on, he was wielding that weapon of being able to do voice overs in such a warm, intimate, personal way. The first line of the script is like, ‘so this is the world and there are how many people on it.’ As he was saying that, I got a chill. Then later we did it again when I was playing Magic Bus by The Who. I was like, please, let’s never do this again until we’re making the movie. We had scheduling stuff to work out, but it was a fairly smooth path. He was just finishing Mission: Impossible. And after the last day of filming, which was Cuba doing his side of the show me the money conversation, Tom went right to London to start his odyssey with Stanley Kubrick on Eyes Wide Shut.
DEADLINE: What surprised you most about him?
CROWE: Tom really is a personable guy; he knows all the crew members, everybody who was in our Jerry Maguire womb. I remember Mission: Impossible came out while we were filming and did like $75 million dollars over the weekend, which was amazing. He walks in that Monday to work, and people just started applauding. He says, ‘thank you, you guys. Now let’s get down to Jerry. Let’s make our movie.’ The guy could pivot, right and left, to this intimate, romantic comedy side of him that I couldn’t wait for people to see. We all knew he was building a character but it was a generous performance; everybody got to shine around him. He would always be there for the off-camera part. He knew everybody’s lines. So the thing they say, where the vibe of the movie often flows from the first guy on the call sheet, that was very apparent on Jerry Maguire.
DEADLINE: You mentioned Hanks questioned that Jerry’s marriage takes place late in the script. It’s your script and you’re the director, but big stars come with opinions. What changes did Tom Cruise ask for?
CROWE: There was only one, very smart note that he had. When Cuba Gooding does his end zone dance after getting up from the near concussion on the playing field, Tom said, ‘where is Jerry Maguire? I just want to be invested in that moment so that I can build on it towards the end of the movie.’ His concern was basic; geographically, how do you get my character in that sequence, because I’m not sure it was spelled out in the script. Of course he was right, and I built it in for Jerry to be on the sidelines. This is the thing I got from Leigh Steinberg. When your guy goes down, your first instinct is to get to him, but you can’t. Jerry Maguire has a moment where he can’t get to his guy until later, in the hallway, and so that increased that later scene later where he does get to Cuba, when all the press is around, and Glenn Frey has his moment. It became, how to craft Cuba’s dance, for both of them. It was smart because I would’ve been in the editing room going, wait, where’s Jerry Maguire? I’m sure you’ve heard this from other directors and writers. Tom says, ’I am able to see the movie from every angle while I’m making it, except I can’t judge myself. So, I put myself happily in your hands. You tell me what you want, and I will give it to you, and you be the judge. I’m here to serve you. I trust you.’ It was an amazing thing to hear from your actor, and it makes you want to deliver for him even more because he’s saying, with this handshake, I give you the wheel.
DEADLINE: The conscience of the movie is Jerry’s mentor, Dicky Fox, who delivers sporadic moral lessons. Why were you so fixated on getting Billy Wilder to play him?
CROWE: I fell in love with the movie The Apartment while we were developing Jerry Maguire. Two of the movies that we talked about a lot were The Apartment and Best Years of Our Lives, just because of the warmth between all the characters in American stories told from the heart. The Apartment had these great characters, and we loved Fran Kubelik, played by Shirley MacLaine, with whom Jim Brooks has his own wonderful history. We would talk about Billy Wilder, and William Wyler, but we’d always come back to Billy. I feasted on all his movies, and I knew he worked in an office in Beverly Hills. I got this first-edition poster of The Apartment, and I wanted to get it signed. Bob Bookman, my agent at CAA at the time said, I know Billy. I’ll call and get you a meeting with Billy, get him to sign your poster.
DEADLINE: You were after more than a signature, though.
CROWE: I started thinking, Billy Wilder could be so wonderful doing that Dicky Fox character. I built up a whole mythology about how it might work. The appointment is set. I knock on his office door in Beverly Hills. No Billy. An hour goes by. No Billy. Hour and a half, no Billy. Finally I’m getting ready to leave, and I see him walking across the street. He has no idea about a meeting with me, does not recall anything with CAA. He says, why is CAA sending me a poster and not a job? Who is this poster for? I said it’s for me. I’m a director. I realize he thought I was a messenger. So he says, come on in, I’ll sign your poster, and he starts telling these magical stories. And then I tell him about this movie I wanted him to act in.
DEADLINE: How did he respond?
CROWE: He said, ‘I’m not an actor.’ In retrospect, I think he was just trying to get rid of me. But I got him cigars and brought them as a gift and I got so excited that he might be in the movie that I told Tom Cruise and Bonnie Hunt: Dicky Fox is going to be played by Billy Wilder! So now the rehearsals are happening, and it was a rainy day, and some Dicky Fox stuff came up. They’re going, ‘well, where’s Billy Wilder?’ I said, let me call him. He picks up his phone. Doesn’t really remember me, and really doesn’t remember saying he would be in the movie. He says, ‘I am sorry, but I have to piss ice water on you right now and say I am not an actor. Goodbye.’ And he hangs up. I look over at Tom Cruise, and tell him what just happened. Cruise says, let’s go talk him into it. We drive to Billy Wilder’s office. Billy is there, and he lights up when he sees that it’s Tom Cruise. He invites us in. He tells Tom these stories about Cary Grant, and Sunset Boulevard. He’s just magnificent. And I realize he is in full Hollywood director, getting-ready-to-make-another-picture-as-soon-as-possible mode, and he’s got Tom Cruise in his office. And I’m virtually invisible at this point, as that romance is happening. So I say, ‘let’s talk about this part,’ and Tom says, ‘you got to play this.’ Billy Wilder says, no, and he continues to say no in so many different ways. It occurs to me, sitting there, that I don’t think Tom Cruise has heard the word ‘no’ this often, in a really long time.
DEADLINE: How does Cruise respond?
CROWE: This is just making Tom dig in more. Finally we’re saying, come on, Billy, do it. He goes, tell me the story of the movie. They both look at me, and I start telling the story of Jerry Maguire. I could see Wilder is not really buying it, and I realize something as I’m doing this: he’s now going to steal Tom Cruise from me and destroy Jerry Maguire in one move; he was being crafty here. Maybe he wasn’t, but I could see Billy was firing on all his cylinders. So he interrupts, and Billy Wilder says, ‘why would we feel sympathy for such a character as this sports agent?’ And that was a little bit of a stumper because at that point, I’d flapped my wings trying to explain it, that we built in issues that made you care for him, that the kid at the beginning [the son of the hockey player with the concussion] had said fuck you, and the ensuing crisis showed there was a heart inside Jerry Maguire. Billy says, ‘I’m still worried that Jack Lemmon is not sympathetic enough in The Apartment. You know, I wanted to give him a limp. You have to make sure these characters are relate-able. Anyway, he said no, and then he looks at me and says, ‘good to meet you.’ And he leans in to Tom and goes, ‘especially good to meet you.’ He did say, you must hire an actor. The irony is we ended up casting Jared Jussim, who the head of business affairs at Tri-Star.
DEADLINE: Did Wilder see the movie?
CROWE: I did not hear from Billy Wilder again until right after the movie came out. He called me, and he said, ‘I’ve seen your picture. I like it very much. Who’s this guy who took my part?’ Well, he’s not an actor, I said. Billy said he was good and that if I wanted to come over and interview him for a column, he was available. Of course, I had no column, but I went right over. That began these meetings with Billy Wilder that became the book Conversations with Wilder.
DEADLINE: How did Tom Cruise process rejection?
CROWE: He loved it. He loved Billy Wilder and we talked about him, constantly. Tom wrote notes to Billy, and they developed a little bit of a friendship. When Billy passed away, Tom came to the memorial and really let everybody know how much he loved Billy. I think Tom got a big kick out of Wilder. How could you not?
DEADLINE: By the time Billy Wilder was in that room pitching Cruise, he had been “retired” for over a decade. Despite making some of the great American movies of that century, it sounded like all he wanted was the next job. I think about the enormity of what you accomplished so early, with Jerry Maguire and Say Anything finding these Zeitgeist themes and…here’s the question: when filmmakers like you or Wilder play back these memories of triumphs that elude most movie makers, are they just golden memories, or ghosts you chase as you continue your careers and hope to replicate?
CROWE: What I got from spending time with Billy at that moment in his life was, there might not necessarily be a voluntary retirement. There comes a time when you’re a player/coach, and then a coach. I don’t think Billy ever thought he was done playing. That was a lesson for me. I’ve read Quentin Tarantino say that a director has a sweet spot in his career, and that’s the time you should be vital and productive, and don’t linger. And Billy himself would say, ‘end with your strongest scene, and out!’ I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. I think directing is a lifetime craft. There are rhythms in every career. There are people who felt Bob Dylan had taken the most beautiful ride in popular music, and enough already. And the next winter, he came out with Blood on the Tracks. So you go, don’t give up. Honor your muse and curiosity and that was what I got from Billy. I wanted him to work. I even pitched him to direct a Soundgarden video, which I thought would have been the coolest thing in music. I think the song was Black Hole Sun. There was a moment it looked like it was going to happen. I think he would have been amazing.
There are different schools of thought, but one of the great lessons I got from Billy was, stay forever curious. Curiosity leads you to wonderful creative journeys. As much as I love Quentin for putting a time limit on the juiciest part of a director’s career, I think we don’t know enough to call any creative period finite. One thing Billy said was, ‘a writer must never give up. You’re always one good idea away from your best work.’
DEADLINE: Sounds like something Dicky Fox would say if he was a director instead of a fictional sports agent…
CROWE: I really believe what Billy said. It was one of Jim’s lessons to me, also. There were points on Jerry Maguire where it was marinating so long; it wasn’t an overnight situation. At one point he said, ‘look, we love what we do, so let’s trust ourselves. We’re going to come up with something that we like.’ It was so simple, and true. We kept at it and he was right.
DEADLINE: How long did you work on that script with Brooks?
CROWE: Almost five years. Singles was before, so I did no movies during that time. This project was the main thing, and the Billy Wilder book followed.
DEADLINE: What is that boot camp like, with an accomplished filmmaker like Brooks? Did you ever grow resentful and think, we’re two years in and we’ve got a script I can direct, but he keeps asking for more? Five years is a long time.
CROWE: No. This to me was film school. I’d had a life as a journalist, been a contributing and associate editor at Rolling Stone. This to me was an unexpected chapter. It was a dream, really. I always loved movies, but here I learned to love movies the way I loved music. Mike Nichols, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Room 222. Jim was the author of so many things that were the favorite stuff of my family, growing up. Terms of Endearment was the best script I ever read. A friend sent it to me before I even met Jim and said, check this out. Jim was film school and the bonus was to write that book with Billy Wilder. That was a period of learning. I was also working on Almost Famous, which had different titles and approaches before I figured it out. All of this was a big lesson in process, and learning that things don’t often come easily. It was much different than deadline journalism. One of the byproducts of taking the time was, it allowed us to get Janusz Kaminski for our cinematographer. Larry Mark had worked with him and knew he would approach it in a way that would not feel like a romantic comedy of the time, and that his genius might give it that extra sparkle and bring out the darker humanistic elements of Jerry’s journey. We waited for him, and he delivered.
DEADLINE: I spent some time with Cuba Gooding Jr recently at the Napa Valley Film Festival, and when I started spouting lines from Jerry Maguire, he mentioned the running dialogue he has when he sees Jamie Foxx. Jamie always asks about the Oscar that should have been his for Jerry Maguire, and Cuba rides him about getting the Django Unchained role that Gooding wanted badly enough that he shot his own screen test for Tarantino, showing his prowess riding quarter horses. Brashness and enthusiasm aside, Gooding is shorter than the prototypical NFL wide receiver. What convinced you to give him that career-defining role?
CROWE: Well, that answer is in your question. Nobody had the pure intoxicating exuberance of Cuba. Part of it was his hunger for another shot after Boyz n the Hood, but he was also was just so excited by the part. He careened into the first reading, like something that dropped out of the sky. He infused every reading with this explosive optimism, the character’s dedication to his marriage and to…fun. He loved pushing Tom Cruise around in that part, and he’s actually pushing him out of frame in a couple scenes. Tom just loved what that exuberance did for the part. I saw guys who read that part as very angry, which was interesting. As good as Jamie and those other guys were who came in for Rod Tidwell, unbeknownst to them, they were all shadowboxing with this performance that Cuba had already given. They had it tougher than they knew, because of what Cuba had walked in with. Cuba just dared to be comical and yet full of nobility, and we were hungry for that. And he basically played Tidwell from the first moment at that first read-through, through the Oscars.
DEADLINE: Did you write that Oscar speech for him?
CROWE: No. I think he surprised everybody, including himself, with that one.
DEADLINE: Once Cruise signed on, the role of Dorothy Boyd had to be catnip for every young actress. Rather than casting a name, you replicated what Wilder did with Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment, launching Renee Zellweger’s career. Why?
CROWE: We read a lot of people, and I had an idea for who might be able to play the part. There were many great actresses that came up and read both with Tom and before Tom showed up. Gail Levin, who Larry Mark introduced me to, is a casting director. Halfway through this process, she said, there’s this girl from Texas that I want you to meet. Her name is Renee Zellweger. She hasn’t done much, but she’s got… something. She may not be right for this, but you’re going to want to work with her. Renee came in and was wonderful. We brought her back in immediately, so Jim could see her too. She was sad that day; I think her dog was sick. It was a good reading, but I remember she left the room, and somebody took a call, and the subject changed. And we never really talked about Renee. It was good, but it didn’t light the fire that I think we thought it might. Renee knew it, too. She was sad, and so we continued our search.
Mira Sorvino was wonderful. She did the first reading. Gwyneth Paltrow came in and did a reading with Tom that was like watching a scene from Annie Hall. There were a lot of great turns on Dorothy, but we kept kind of saying to each other, ‘who’s our blue-collar Fran Kubelik? She doesn’t even have to be a star, and maybe it’s better if she isn’t. She has to dive in with Jerry Maguire, knowing she’s messing with her health insurance. Who is that girl?’ And then we said, ‘what happened to Renee?’ She came in and met Tom. We have video of that because I was filming, and you just see something happen when Tom sees her. He lights up. The two of them together have a very particular chemistry. It brought out more of the story of the movie and less of the movie in the movie. As Jerry discovers Dorothy, we discover Renee. That was a very personal thing for me and the way I feel about movies.
DEADLINE: What do you mean?
CROWE: I really wanted to get across this idea that when you were really down, you are surprised at who’s there and who isn’t. Often, the people you really believed would always be there if you were down, down, down, are not there. But somebody else shows up that you didn’t expect, with loyalty toward you, and that becomes your life and the way you look at the world. Renee fit that piece of the puzzle perfectly. She did a screen test. Connie Britton was one of the others who screen tested, and came really close. But there was just that extra little bit of magic with Renee that happened with Tom. You can see it in the doc footage [in the 20th anniversary edition]. There were many nights making the movie, when they were breaking down the equipment, and Renee would just say, ‘I can’t believe I’m making this movie. I haven’t done that much, you know? Look at that truck. That truck alone is bigger than the whole set of the movie I just did.’ She was very Dorothy, all along.
DEADLINE: You’ve always populated your films with music industry people. Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains is the Kinko’s guy. Jann Wenner is the head of the sports agency. But the big surprise was Eagles front man Glenn Frey, who played the Cardinals owner sparring with Maguire over Rod Tidwell’s contract extension. Frey was among many iconic musicians who passed away in 2016, but it feels like he was a more formative influence for you than perhaps anyone else, going back to when you were the teenage Rolling Stone reporter we met in Almost Famous.
CROWE: I always felt Glenn was an incredibly special guy. I never had an older brother, and he was probably closest to that. Meeting him when I was 15, and hearing his tale of coming out from Detroit, and how he wanted to stay a fan, but yet build this band into something. He would give me tips on girlfriends that were rejecting me, stuff like that. Some of that landed in Fast Times. You know, ‘she can’t smell your qualifications, move on.’ That was Glenn. So I always knew Glenn was this big personality. As we were trying to find somebody for that part, I just started to fixate on him. Glenn is a big sports guy and would always talk sports in such a flowing, fun way. I had met Jim Irsay, who was working with the Colts, and he reminded me a little bit of Glenn, too. So we brought Glenn in, and immediately, he really took to the part. It was fun for me because it tied the Rolling Stone experience as a journalist on the beat with The Eagles to this directing thing I was now attempting.
DEADLINE: Why was that important?
CROWE: It was during Jerry Maguire that I really started to feel a rhythm of directing, like, this is my style, I want to build on this. That happened in the kitchen scene with Dorothy, and Ray, and Jerry coming to take her out on a date. We were playing Secret Garden. Renee, in the Audrey Hepburn dress, was looking at him hug Ray, and I just felt like, oh, I just want to do this forever. But Glenn was like a wonderful kind of holding hands with the past. Glenn was so successful that he was a big dog in his world, and Cruise, obviously, was a big dog in his acting world. The two of them together bumped against each other in a really fun way. So when Glenn would say, ‘you’re reaching, Jerry,’ and would really beat up on Jerry, Tom would take me aside and say, ‘this guy’s really hammering me. How much is he worth? I mean, he’s like a big time guy, right? I said, yeah, but this is new to him. Then, Glenn would pull me aside and say, ‘Tom is such a serious dude. How much is he worth?’ I felt like these guys are born to be sparring partners in the movie. Another thing about Glenn is his nose for the hook. I said, you should do some music for us. I mentioned this acoustic song he wrote that I knew he had never recorded. He said, ‘no, no, no, no, no. I got a better idea for you.’ A couple days later, he called me into his trailer, and he played me this eight-minute funk track called Show Me the Money, and that was the first time where I felt like, wow, people are really responding to this phrase, show me the money, and Glenn went right for it. So I just loved him in the part, I loved the way he holds his ground and begrudgingly gives a little love to Jerry at the end. But for me, the best part is when Jerry is on the ropes and begging, and Glenn just smoothly slaps him down. ‘You’re reaching, Jerry.’ It’s very Glenn. He had done something for Michael Mann, and he had the acting bug already.
DEADLINE: Miami Vice, right?
CROWE: That’s right, Miami Vice. The idea was to populate the movie with people that you wouldn’t expect to see with Tom, so it would take the kind of big star-ness off of the casting of Tom and bring up the character side. If you’re seeing him with Jerry Cantrell, you’re not going to see that in Mission:Impossible, or with the nanny, Chad. All these people allowed you to believe that Jerry Maguire was a living, breathing guy who just happened to be played by Tom.
DEADLINE: So who was worth more in the mid-’90s, Glenn Frey or Tom Cruise?
CROWE: [Laughs]. Tie.
DEADLINE: Jay Mohr read for the golden boy quarterback Cush that Jerry Maguire loses. How long did it take for you to see him as Maguire’s oily protégé Bob Sugar?
CROWE: We really liked Jay. I remembered him from SNL. We were like, where do we put this guy? And then when he stepped into the part of Sugar, I mean, he was just improvising, and wasn’t intimidated. He licked his chops in a perfect way as he took Jerry Maguire down. We were just howling in the room. Jay had long hair and he didn’t really look like an agent when he read, but he was the guy. He was Sugar. Once again, the piece of the puzzle fit, because he was a guy that you would think had been mentored by Jerry, the one he’d never expect to be sitting across the table, taking him out. And then Jay did this insane eight-minute run of improv, taking calls from Donal Logue and fighting for all his clients and telling you why Jerry’s a terrible agent [see the clip]. That’s just a tour de force clip in our Blu-ray doc. Like Cuba, he was hungry to play it, and you could just feel it.
DEADLINE: How hard was it to find that adorable kid Jonathan Lipnicki?
CROWE: Good story. We saw a lot of people, and I fell in love with a young actor from Seattle who reminded me of some real kids I’d known. My one thing I told Gail Levin was, we can’t have a McDonald’s commercial kid in this part. I need a real kid who is suffering without a father, who sometimes is not the happiest kid in the world. We hired this young actor, spent two or three weeks filming with him. Late one night, we were doing a two-shot where Tom comes over drunk to Renee’s apartment, and he confides in the kid. And the kid just kind of ran out of gas and announced to the room, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ There was such simple conviction in the way this young man said he didn’t want to do this that we knew we had to replace him. That he was not born for the silver screen, at all. Tom understood it and was great about it. But we knew we had to find a replacement. Over the weekend. Gail Levin and Larry Mark went to tireless work, saw a bunch of kids and had this eureka moment. They said they’d found this guy. We were in Arizona and he was going to come and have a little audition.
We bring this kid into Tom’s trailer for an audition, and he is exactly what you see in the movie. He’s got the hair, the glasses. He is completely thrilled to be acting with Tom Cruise. He says to Tom, ‘I’ve been a fan of yours, my entire life.’ He’s six. He kills every scene, and as he is leaving the trailer, gives Tom a Maverick Top Gun thumbs up. We look at each other, like we’ve just seen Elvis in ’56. I said, Gail, what has this kid done before? She says, ‘only one thing. A McDonald’s commercial.’ I say, fine, he’s in! He stepped right into the part, and would improv things. He says, ‘the human head weighs eight pounds,’ and I’m like, ‘that’s going in the script.’ That was his line. Jonathan Lipnicki was a gift from above. Weeks later, the mother of the first kid calls the office. I got on the phone and she says, ‘will you please tell Tom Cruise thank you for the way he has kept in touch with my son, sent him letters and gifts, and just let him know all is well?’ I thought, wow, I had no idea Tom Cruise was doing that. She said, ‘it really helped my son. He’s over it now, he’s fine, and Tom did a beautiful job helping him transition back to his life.’ I went to Tom, later, and said, you quietly helped this kid through what could have been a terrible transition. Thank you, but why did you never tell any of us? Tom said, ‘I just didn’t want that first actor to go to the movies, look at the screen and think he’d failed. I wanted him to love movies, his entire life. That is the quiet way Tom Cruise conducts his professional life.
DEADLINE: You actually wrote out Jerry Maguire’s long, freewheeling mission statement. What moments in your own life informed this?
CROWE: I knew from my experience at Rolling Stone that sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. Other guys come in, challenge your so-called turf, force you to look into your soul a little bit. How can you deepen and increase your effectiveness? Romantically I knew it, too, from relationships. I really wanted to get down Jerry’s descent and dark night of the soul, and that flicker of hope when he’s listening to The Who, writing that statement. The mission statement was a bit of method writing for me that came out of Jim Brooks saying, ‘what if you actually wrote the Mission Statement and gave these actors a hunk of Jerry’s soul in their hands for when they’re doing these scenes?’ That was all I needed to hear. I went right home. Stayed up all night. Drank bad coffee, had a bad pizza, and just went full method and wrote it in one night.
DEADLINE: What was the most tangible benefit?
CROWE: I should add that when we were doing Say Anything, Jim said, why don’t you write it as a novella, and you’ll find that you fill in all kinds of character detail that you’ll use in the script later? I did that, too. The Mission Statement was a sincere effort that in actuality was slightly ridiculous, but you really would believe it when Jerry tried to stuff it and all the intentions behind it back down inside himself. Once it was out, he had to live up to the soul he never knew he had. We wanted to tell a story that had something to say about the times we were living in at that moment. We were coming off of the Gordon Gekko greed-is-good story of Wall Street, and were influenced by that. The idea with Jerry Maguire is, his come to Jesus moment is where you realize that greed-is-good is not the way to live your life. He declares in the opening moments of our movie, I have found religion, but then he’s completely f**ked by that revelation. Ultimately, it leads him to a better life, but not without really fighting for it. It has to be more than just something he wrote in the middle of the night. He had to learn to live it; that was our take on post-greed is good.
DEADLINE: Jerry Maguire is one of those movies where the signature lines, from ‘You complete me’ to ‘Show Me The Money,’ and ‘You had me at hello,’ could have felt schmaltzy, but they did not. Love Actually was another movie like that. Describe how how you became convinced these lines weren’t going to make the audience cringe.
CROWE: I’m with you on Love Actually. Love Richard Curtis, and how that movie just stands up. I have always found that you can’t chase the big, memorable moments. You just have to give yourself time to get everything that you wrote in the script down, and then fight for everything, particularly if you’ve spent years on the script. Every page has something that survived many battles, and every once in a while, something just lights on fire. Cuba and Tom dueling with show me the money, that happened in a rehearsal. I was so giddy. I ran across the lot with the tape of it and played it for Jim’s assistant, Maria, and said am I crazy, or is this the best f**king scene with Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding ever? And she’s like, ‘holy shit, they’re screaming at each other.’ I’m like, yeah, and I don’t want to do it ever again until we have cameras and people there because this is awesome. It exploded in rehearsal. The sing-along of Tiny Dancer in Almost Famous was one of those things. It’s not many lines in the script, and some of that was improvised, but we could feel it as it started to happen. We changed the schedule so we could spend two days filming the bus scene. But stuff like ‘You complete me’ and ‘You had me at hello?’ All I knew from those sequences when we shot them was, I wasn’t sure if ‘You complete me’ was too on the money, or too Hallmark. I thought if it landed wrong, it’s best to cut it. Tom knew that I was on the fence, even though it was set up in the script through the deaf hearing-impaired couple in the elevator. I wasn’t sure it was working, and he said very early on, don’t take it out. Let me take a shot at this. And when it was time, he brought his A game.
DEADLINE: What does that mean?
CROWE: There were grizzled grips who just wanted to get home, and were suddenly crying, watching him do that scene. And you go, wow, that’s a bit of fire power. I hope it works in the movie. And when we first had an assembly of footage, there were two things that popped out. One was that, the other was the scene where he comes back, speaks his piece and she says, ‘Shut up, you had me at hello.’ Renee just popped, there. We were all hoping for that, but it was such a wonderful moment.
DEADLINE: Were there any lines like that which you cut?
CROWE: No. That was the one very ‘heart on your sleeve’ moment. I’d put in that extra bit where he says, we live in a cynical world.’ to inoculate the scene in hopes that people would feel, that’s really so romantic. Jerry knows he’s treading into vulnerable territory, and he doesn’t care because he is this guy now. That was a big Cruise delivery, and I wasn’t sure that ‘Shut up, you had me at hello,’ which is its own little tribute to The Apartment, was going to work. So I had gone back and re-shot that again, and when I looked at all the takes, Renee had it I think in two. She had me at take two.
DEADLINE: The music was important and while you had songs like Magic Bus and Bob Dylan’s Shelter From The Storm, the song most identified with Jerry Maguire is Bruce Springsteen’s Secret Garden. Did you know him from covering his band for Rolling Stone?
CROWE: Well, no, that was Dave Marsh territory. But I had met Bruce a few times and worked with his sister Pam on Fast Times. The song was one of two originals on his Greatest Hits album. I loved the synth-y beginning. We played it on the set, in that scene, and it felt right. That doesn’t happen often, but it happened there and with Magic Bus at the beginning. That moment, where Tom and Renee regard each other in the street, and that song is playing, is one of my very favorites. Bruce was cool enough to let us have it. The thing I heard after was that his manager, Jon Landau, saw the movie and said, ‘I knew that song was a f**king hit!’
DEADLINE: You always heard that mob guys loved The Godfather, despite its soulless depiction of violence and betrayal. What impact did Jerry Maguire have on the sports agent business?
CROWE: Almost immediately, I heard some young guys that wanted to get into the sports agents thing from entertainment. They made a point of telling me how much they could relate to fighting for the clients. That was funny to me that you’d want to be an agent because of what you saw in a movie that was about Jerry Maguire having to overcome the things that made him that kind of agent in the first place. I think it’s just the charisma of Tom and that character. It’s intoxicating to see him at his job, racing back to the office to get those clients back. Scenes like that had movement and fun to them. You could get drawn to the job from feeling that world, but there is also the pain and heartache, of how a client that’s firing you can throw away all the personal stuff instantly, just to go for the money. That heartbreak gave real agents a tremor, which made me feel we did it right. And that scene with the young athlete who is crying as she fires Jerry, and then takes another call but still has him on the line? That came in a call I had with an actress who was disconnecting herself from a part that she had taken in one of our movies. So that was from my own life. She called up, weeping, and then another call came in, and she was like, [cheerful] ‘hello?’ And I said, it’s still me. She’s like, ‘oh, I feel so bad.’ I just remembered being alone late at night in the office, feeling rejected by this actress we really wanted, and it found a home in Jerry Maguire.
DEADLINE: When did you know this movie was going to work?
CROWE: Well, one of the first times we showed it was a friends and family screening that Jim had put together. Lawrence Kasdan was there, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Jim invited Shirley MacLaine. So I was a little terrified, watching the movie. When it was over, the lights came up, and there was a guy and his girlfriend in the row in front of me, near Katzenberg. This guy stood up and proposed to his girlfriend. It must have seemed like some publicity stunt, but it was real and it was one of the first times we felt like the love story might reach people. We walked to the Sony commissary for a party and Jim introduced me to Shirley MacLaine, who says, ‘tell me, who is that girl?’ I told Shirley that girl is a tribute to you, in The Apartment. She said, ‘I thought so.’ And then I watched her trot off, to find Renee Zellweger. And in that moment, the circle was complete for me. We’d been blown off by Billy Wilder, but embraced by Shirley MacLaine. So we had two-thirds of The Apartment covered.