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Exclusive: “Knight & Day” director James Mangold — Hollywood In Ten

By Sean O’Connell’s interview feature, “Hollywood In Ten,” showcases the creative individuals responsible for the movies we love, and corners them for 10 quality minutes.

James Mangold must not have received the message. Remakes and sequels are supposed to dominate the summer film season. Yet here comes the director of “Walk the Line” and “3:10 to Yuma” with an original spy thriller that blends together action, comedy, and romance into one pretty package.

“Absolutely, that message did not get to me,” Mangold says with a laugh. “I missed it, and probably missed a good paycheck in the process.”

Something tells us the versatile director will be just fine financially once “Knight & Day” barnstorms its way into multiplexes. On the eve of the film’s opening, Mangold called to talk about Tom Cruise’s comedic chops and the movie’s globetrotting marketing campaign.

Hollywood News: I’ve read that you enjoy tinkering with a film right up until the last minute. What is this time period like for you, when the movie is in the can and you are sitting around, waiting to show it to an audience?

James Mangold: It’s always a little nerve wracking. We literally finished this movie about two and a half weeks ago. It’s partly like you are on such a mission to make your (release) date. We were shooting in January, and aiming to make our date to release the movie in the summer. So it is a real sprint.

Hollywood News: That’s insanity.

Mangold: Yeah. Plus you have so much stunt work, complicated sound effects works, a very complicate score, and huge amounts of things to navigate through in a short amount of time. Right now, to be honest, I feel like I just stepped off of a Merry-Go-Round.

Hollywood News: The film taps into Tom Cruise’s humorous side. We always knew he could be charismatic, but rarely do we see him being so funny. Does he believe he can be funny? Or does he not think people perceive him as funny?

Mangold: I don’t know anything about how people perceive him, but I certainly think that Tom understands comedy. The truth is, for me, I just saw my friend on stage two weeks ago at the MTV Movie Awards as Les Grossman. Seeing that, it’s pretty clear that, first off all, Tom is one of the boldest, major movie stars in the world in terms of what he is willing to do, and the risks he’s willing to take and the characters he’s willing to play. And he damn well knows what is funny.

But I think the key to him, and great actors like him, is that instead of winking at the camera, he just plays it 100 percent committed. There are comedians who are always letting you know that it is put on, and then there are comedic actors who 100 percent commit to the role and take your breath away in a different way.

Hollywood News: How was the European press tour you just wrapped?

Mangold: It was incredible. You know, I’m the first to bitch about a studio, but I have to say that 20th Century Fox did a great job. I think every journalist had a great time. I think it was a really refreshing backdrop. I even think the actors had a great time. They really loved being outdoors and showing their driving skills off to the press, which they justifiably have. Those are serious assets that the press might not understand. These actors are very physical.

Hollywood News: And how did you feel about the studio’s decision to hold advanced sneaks of the film last weekend?

Mangold: I’ve got nothing against it. It’s such a business question. From my perspective, because I’ve screened it in front of audiences and I know the movie plays, I felt very supportive of the idea. One of the biggest ways to get people talking about a movie is to get them seeing it.

James Mangold’s “Knight & Day,” starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, opens everywhere on Wednesday, June 23.

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