Christopher McQuarrie

Christopher McQuarrie

McQuarrie at the premiere of Jack Reacher, 2012
Born 1968 (age 4748)
Princeton, New Jersey or Princeton Junction, New Jersey, United States (sources differ)
Occupation Screenwriter, film producer, director
Years active 1993 – present

Christopher McQuarrie (1968) is an American screenwriter, director and producer. A regular collaborator of director Bryan Singer, he co-wrote the screenplay of Singer's Public Access, wrote the screenplay for The Usual Suspects, co-wrote and produced Valkyrie and co-wrote Jack the Giant Slayer and Edge of Tomorrow.

McQuarrie won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Usual Suspects. McQuarrie wrote and directed The Way of the Gun, Jack Reacher and directed Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, his fourth collaboration with actor and producer Tom Cruise, after Valkyrie, Jack Reacher and Edge of Tomorrow. He also created the 2010 NBC television series Persons Unknown.

Early life

McQuarrie was born in 1968 in either Princeton, New Jersey or Princeton Junction, New Jersey, a nearby unincorporated community, where he was raised.[1][2][3] After graduating from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South in 1986,[4] he worked as an assistant at Christ Church Grammar School in Perth, Western Australia, recalling in 2013, “I was offered an Interim program. ... I picked a place out of a hat and ended up at Christ Church Grammar School. I lived at the school and worked at the boarding school, though I did very little work".[5] Fired after nine months, "I hitchhiked for three months, came home, knocked around for about a month and then immediately started working for this detective agency.... [It] was actually a glorified security-guard position. I think in the four years I worked there I did about six investigations...."[6]

He had been acquainted with his future filmmaking collaborator, director-producer Bryan Singer, "from the time we were very little our parents were friends. I had been in one of his 8mm films."[6] They attended the same high school, with Singer two years ahead, and became friends after Singer's graduation. At 16, McQuarrie wrote a screenplay for an uncompleted film project with Singer, and stayed in contact through McQuarrie's early work years. Their first professional collaboration, Public Access came about following McQuarrie's decision to leave the detective agency move to California and try screenwriting — Bryan was already living there. And then I was offered my own agency in Florida. I was 22 years old, and was being given this opportunity to run my own business. So I called Bryan and he said, “Listen, I’d love to have you out here but there’s nothing going on; you should probably go to Florida.” So I told them I would do it ... and then, out of nowhere, it fell through. ... So I applied for the New York [City] Police Department [with a friend] and we both passed. As we were gearing up to do that, Bryan called. He had made a short film called "Lion’s Den", with Ethan Hawke –... and we tried to make a feature-length film out of it. The script was horrible. My parts of it were written by hand. So Bryan called me and said that these people had seen "Lion’s Den" and really liked it and had asked to see another script. And he made up a three-second pitch off the top of his head, which evolved into Public Access. ... He asked me if I wanted to write it. ... I wrote a draft in 15 days. ... Bryan then got Michael Dougan involved in the writing, and he came in and took this basically glorified episode of Murder, She Wrote and really darkened it up. I took a look at his rewrite and was like, "Oh, you mean I can be dark with it…"[6]


Public Access

Though earning only a 50 percent positive rating on the film-critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes,[7] the 1993 thriller Public Access, won the Critics Award at the Deauville American Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize. It did not secure a theatrical distributor.[8]

The Usual Suspects

Three years later, Singer and McQuarrie collaborated again on the film The Usual Suspects (1995), for which McQuarrie received best screenplay awards from Premiere Magazine, the Texas Board of Review, and the Chicago Critics as well as the Edgar Award, The Independent Spirit Award, and the British and American Academy Awards. The film was later included on the New York Times list of the 1000 greatest films ever made, and the character Verbal Kint was included on AFI's list of the 100 greatest Heroes and Villains of all time. In 2006, the Writers Guild of America voted The Usual Suspects No. 35 on their list of 101 Greatest Screenplays.

The Way of the Gun

Five years later, in 2000, Artisan Entertainment released The Way of the Gun, a modern-day Western written and directed by McQuarrie. It starred Benicio del Toro, Ryan Phillippe and James Caan. The film received mainly negative reviews [9] and performed poorly at the box office, grossing US$13 million worldwide off a reported US$21 million budget.[10] It has since been regarded as a cult film.


Eight years later, McQuarrie co-wrote and co-produced Valkyrie, which opened on December 25, 2008. The story is based on the real-life July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The script was co-written with Nathan Alexander. The pair had access to members of the Stauffenberg family as well as a book written by Fabian von Schlabrendorff – a conspirator who survived.[11] While doing research for the screenplay, they also spoke with Hitler's bodyguard. The film stars Tom Cruise and is directed by Bryan Singer. It received two awards, the BMI Film Music Award and the Bambi Award for Courage.

The Tourist

In 2010, McQuarrie co-wrote Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. The film grossed US$278 million worldwide.[12] It received three Golden Globe Award nominations and several other awards, among them the Redbox Movie Award for the most rented drama of 2011.

Jack Reacher

In 2012, McQuarrie directed Jack Reacher, an adaptation of One Shot, the 9th in the series of 21 Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. Paramount Pictures released the film.

Tom Cruise played Jack Reacher amid criticism that he was too short to play the part of a 6' 5" character.[13] In an interview with the BBC, Lee Child stated that although Cruise was not the Jack Reacher from the novels, he still felt Cruise had the talent and presence to make an effective Reacher.[14] Filming began in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area on October 3, 2011, and continued through the end of January 2012. The film was released in December 2012.[15] It won the BMI Film Music Award, and was nominated for three Golden Trailer Awards.

Jack the Giant Slayer

2013 saw the release of McQuarrie's fourth collaboration with Singer: Jack the Giant Slayer, co-written by McQuarrie. The film was a failure at the box office, grossing only US$198 million with an estimated US$240 million budget (excluding promotional fees).[16] The critical reviews were generally negative.[17]

Edge of Tomorrow

McQuarrie co-wrote the 2014 science fiction action thriller Edge of Tomorrow with Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, based on the Japanese novel All You Need Is Kill. Directed by Doug Liman, this marked the third collaboration with Tom Cruise. While the film underperformed at the box office on its opening weekend with only US$28.8 million, it received strong reviews and became a word-of-mouth hit, grossing just over US$100 million at the domestic box office.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

In 2015, McQuarrie released his third directorial feature Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, the fifth entry in the Mission: Impossible film series, which he co-wrote with Drew Pearce. This marked the fourth collaboration with Tom Cruise and second as director. The film received strong reviews and grossed over US$195 million at the domestic box office.



Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1993 Public Access Yes
1995 The Usual Suspects Yes Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
2000 The Way of the Gun Yes Yes
X-Men Yes Uncredited
2008 Valkyrie Yes Yes
2010 The Tourist Yes
2012 Jack Reacher Yes Yes
2013 The Wolverine Yes Uncredited
Jack the Giant Slayer Yes
2014 Edge of Tomorrow Yes
2015 Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Yes Yes
2016 Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Yes
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Yes script doctor (Uncredited)


Year Title Writer Producer Notes
1994 NYPD Blue Yes
1997 The Underworld Yes
2010 Persons Unknown Yes Yes Creator/Executive producer



  1. Different sources and in the case of All Movie Guide, the same source give both places. Note that Princeton Junction has no hospital.
  2. Buchanan, Jason. "Christopher McQuarrie". All Movie Guide / Rovi via The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 14, 2015. Retrieved November 21, 2012. Birthplace: Princeton, New Jersey, USA ... Born in Princeton Junction, NJ, in 1968...
  3. "Christopher McQuarrie". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on July 14, 2015. Retrieved July 14, 2015. Birth Place: Princeton, New Jersey, USA
  4. Miller, Lynn (December 15, 2007). "More West Windsor Filmmaking Stars on the Horizon". West Windsor & Plainsboro News. West Windsor, New Jersey. Archived from the original on January 8, 2008. Retrieved December 15, 2007. Two West Windsor-Plainsboro High School graduates are following in the footsteps of two other filmmakers from West Windsor, Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie. Singer, Class of 1984, and McQuarrie, Class of 1986, have recently joined together for the filming of 'Valkyrie'... Archived from the original on January 8, 2008. Note: Name was simply West Windsor-Plainsboro High School until being renamed West Windosor-Plainsboro High School South in 1997.
  5. Harvey, Shannon (January 3, 2013). "Reaching for the Stars". The West Australian. p. 52. Archived from the original on July 14, 2015. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  6. 1 2 3 Pelan, Tim (March 12, 2014). "Christopher McQuarrie Gets Verbal On The Usual Suspects". Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved July 14, 2015.
  7. "Public Access". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
  8. Stax (December 9, 2002). "Featured Filmmaker: Bryan Singer". IGN. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  9. The Way of the Gun critical reviews,; accessed August 28, 2014.
  10. The Way of the Gun box office receipts,; accessed August 28, 2014.
  11. "Christopher McQuarrie: Valkyrie". December 24, 2008. Retrieved December 24, 2008..
  12. "The Tourist". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
  13. Fernandez, Jay A. (June 13, 2011). "Tom Cruise Mulling Offer to Take on Jack Reacher in 'One Shot". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  14. "Author Lee Child wins top crime award". British Broadcasting Corporation. July 22, 2011. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  15. Falk, Joshua (September 9, 2011). "Tom Cruise movie 'One Shot' confirmed for Pittsburgh". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved September 10, 2011.
  16. Jack the Giant Slayer box office receipts,; accessed August 28, 2014.
  17. Jack the Giant Slayer reviews,; accessed August 28, 2014.

External links

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