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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 director."

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."

"Nobody 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 intact."

"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."

"With 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 have ended."

"And then, there I was at the screen test with Tom Cruise…"

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 grandkids."

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."

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CAST: Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr, Renee Zellweger, Kelly Preston, Jerry O’Connell

PRODUCER: James L. Brooks, Laurence Mark, Richard Sakai

DIRECTOR: Cameron Crowe

SCRIPT: Cameron Crowe


EDITOR: Joe Hutshing

MUSIC: Nancy Wilson

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen Lineweaver

RUNNING TIME: 138 mins





Sports agent Jerry Maguire has it all - looks, top job and stunning fiancee. But that was before his realisation that people and not money are what count. Stripped of his job, self-respect and his fiancee, Jerry starts from scratch.


See Reviews of Jerry Maguire

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