WONDERFUL COLLISION OF ACTORS
Jerry Maguire is that rare film from a Hollywood studio
that combines an independent spirit, a good story well told and a
cast that’s assembled for its talents. The reward: Oscar
nominations as Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best
Supporting Actor, Best Editing. In these production notes
extracts, edited by Andrew L. Urban, we go behind the scenes to
the heart of the making of Jerry Maguire.
Jerry Maguire was four years in the writing, much of that time
devoted to first-hand research, as befits a filmmaker whose
previous occupation was journalism. In fact, Tom Cruise first met
Cameron Crowe when the filmmaker was a sought-after young
journalist writing for some of the country's best magazines.
"The first cover story I ever had was written by Cameron for
Interview magazine, which he did as sort of a favour,"
Cruise remembers. "A few years later, I saw [Cameron’s
film] Say Anything and realised that he had become a terrific
With Jerry Maguire, Crowe focuses on the life and times of its
title character, a smooth and successful sports agent whose
essential decency and idealism cannot help but rear its head,
even in his world of multi-million deals and world-class
back-stabbings and betrayals, an arena in which the sports agents
are often more competitive than their clients.
No one was more surprised than Crowe when he found himself
writing a story about a sports agent. "I wasn't a jock
growing up," he says, "but I thought the world of
sports agents was something that hadn't been written about at the
time, and where can you get more of a highly concentrated pursuit
of pure money? I wondered, what if love and honour attempted to
flourish in that world? And so I embarked on a wild little
journey of research, going around and talking to a lot of sports
agents and athletes."
carries a gun, nobody dies, everybody in the movie is simply
trying to survive with their hearts and souls intact."
Though the backdrop was a new one for Crowe, the research led
him to some of the central issues of the decade, things he had
been moving toward in his writing since Fast Times at Ridgemont
High. "I found that these agents and athletes and owners
were grappling with the same things I was - what is love and
marriage in a cynical time? What is integrity in an era where
salaries are printed like sports scores in every newspaper? What
is a real hero, as opposed to the ones marketed like soda pop?
Without even trying, Jerry Maguire became my most personal movie
yet. Nobody carries a gun, nobody dies, everybody in the movie is
simply trying to survive with their hearts and souls
"The script works on so many different levels because
every character is well defined," says Cruise. "I felt
that it reflects today's society and culture. Ultimately, Cameron
is an optimist and a romantic, and in the long run, he believes
that people are basically good, and when put to the test, will
make the right choice. His characters do, and that's why I was
excited to work with him.
"With Jerry Maguire, we took the hardest road. We wanted
to dig deeper and push this character to a strong emotional
reality. That's what excited me...trying to push myself and
explore areas I haven't done before, like the kind of dramatic
comedy in this film -- comedy is pain. And that's what's really
funny...when I can identify with a character and say, yeah, I've
been through that."
Tom it was always 'What new stuff can we try? What can we do
that's not been done before?'"
Cruise and Crowe shared many goals, not the least of which was
just to let loose and go for the new. "With Tom it was
always 'What new stuff can we try? What can we do that's not been
done before?' That kind of commitment is great, because I think
most people that have reached his level of success have a formula
for staying there. And Tom was, in fact, trying to explode the
formula on this movie, and it was a thrill to watch and to be the
guy directing him. Somebody was going to get a performance like
this out of Tom; he was ready to give it. I'm just lucky that it
was my script that he committed to."
After bringing Tom Cruise on board, Cameron Crowe was to
populate Jerry Maguire with a remarkably diverse, talented and
offbeat cast chosen for their individuality rather than
"industry clout." "I thought, okay, we're lucky
enough to have Tom Cruise in this movie; let's surround him with
fresh faces," says Crowe. "Let's put him in an
environment where nothing is familiar."
Chosen to portray Rod Tidwell, the flamboyant Arizona
Cardinals wide receiver whose heart is ultimately as big as his
mouth, was Cuba Gooding, Jr. Recalls Tom Cruise, "When I
read with Cuba, I looked over at Cameron, and knew we were both
thinking the same thing: that this guy had just created Rod
Tidwell. He blew us away."
Gooding himself identified with the Tidwell character from the
first reading. "Rod has a son. So do I," the actor
explains. "In the story, Rod has another baby on the way. So
did I while the movie was being made. Rod goes from being with a
huge agency to one person he trusts and has faith in. I had just
moved from a big agency to a smaller one. He's in the pros, but
hasn't gotten his big break yet. I can identify with that too.
"Rod may seem like he's only in it for the money,"
Gooding continues, "but he's all heart, and plays with his
heart. He's always striving to become the best. And he also knows
that a football player's career is limited, and is looking for a
way to support his wife and children after his days on the field
then, there I was at the screen test with Tom
For the highly sought-after role of Dorothy Boyd, Crowe chose
Renee Zellweger, who despite having excelled in several
independent features, had yet to topline a major studio film. To
win the role, Zellweger was screen tested by Crowe in a scene
that she performed with Tom Cruise. "It was an amazing
day," recalls Zellweger. "I had to keep stopping every
few seconds and saying to myself 'Is this happening? Am I really
here?' It's not something that I expected to happen. When I first
met with Cameron, that was plenty enough. I went home with a big
smile on my face, because since I knew it wasn't going to happen,
there was no pressure.
"And then, there I was at the screen test with Tom
Cruise, someone I have so much respect for. I just wanted to hold
my own, remember my lines and not screw up. And Tom was so
generous and warm. He had been in that position himself – he
knew what it was like to be a nobody actor who comes in and just
wants to do a good job. On the one hand, there was enormous
pressure. On the other hand, there was this wonderful person who
was making it a day to remember, and a good story to tell my
For writer/director Crowe, the pairing of Cruise and Zellweger
was unexpected magic "because they are so different. Tom and
Renee come from different sides of the world professionally, but
there they were in one frame and they looked so right
together," he remembers. "They completed each other,
which was a line in the script that I always had in my head. You
can find a million actors that look great together, but that's
not enough. They have to collide in a wonderful way and look like
they belong together at the same time."