Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx in ‘Collateral’
Jamie Foxx earned an Oscar nomination for playing a cab driver in 2004’s Collateral – but in the crazy universe of It Almost Happened, that honor might have gone to Adam Sandler. In an interview for The Hollywood Masters, director Michael Mann revealed that Foxx’s character was originally a “badly written” stereotype of a New York Jew. The thriller was originally developed with Sandler in mind as the cab driver, and Russell Crowe in the hitman role that would eventually go to Tom Cruise. (Sandler’s career hardly suffered: the funnyman went on to make two of the most successful films of his career, 50 First Dates and The Longest Yard.)
When Mann took on Collateral, he gave the script an overhaul, keeping the “beautifully constructed” story, but making major changes to the dialogue and characters. The director briefly considered casting Cruise as the cab driver — and turning the hitman into a hitwoman – before deciding to offer the part to Foxx. “I loved the idea of Jamie playing the cab driver. And we had just done Ali together, and knew each other really well,” Mann explains.
Mann shared few other compelling tidbits during the 90-minute chat, held before an audience of students at L.A.’s Loyola Marymount University. The director revealed that the late Mike Wallace was no fan of The Insider, the 1999 thriller in which the veteran 60 Minutes newsman (played by Christopher Plummer) is shown succumbing to corporate pressure to kill an explosive story on Big Tobacco: ”I know it injured Wallace, and I feel bad that it injured him.”
Daniel Day-Lewis spent eight months preparing for ‘Last of the Mohicans’
Mann also spoke about a brief correspondence with a convicted murderer while researching 1986’s Manhunter (“he had killed three or four people…I don’t know if he’s exactly called a serial killer”), how he set up an eight-month training regimen for Daniel Day-Lewis (above) before shootinh 1992’s Last of the Mohicans (“by the end of it…Daniel could live in wilderness for a week with nothing but 18th-century gear”), and why he chose not to have Al Pacino and Robert De Niro rehearse their famous face-to-face encounter in 1995’s Heat (“so that what occurred spontaneously could occur right there”).
In addition to Michael Mann, the second season of The Hollywood Masterswill feature Billy Bob Thornton, Hilary Swank, The Farrelly Brothers, director James L. Brooks, producer Charles Roven, and composer Hans Zimmer.
Photo credits: Philip Cheung/Getty Images, DreamWorks/Kobal, 20th Century Fox