Christopher McQuarrie (born 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.
McQuarrie was born in 1968 in either Princeton, New Jersey, or Princeton Junction, New Jersey, a nearby unincorporated community where he was raised. After graduating from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South in 1986, 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". 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...."
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." 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
...to 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…"
Though McQuarrie's first film as a screenwriter, the 1993 thriller Public Access, directed by Bryan Singer, earned only a 50 percent positive rating on the film-critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, it 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. 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. 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, budgeted at US$8.5 million, received mainly negative reviews and performed poorly at the box office, grossing US$13 million worldwide.
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. 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.
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. It received three Golden Globe Award nominations and several other awards, among them the Redbox Movie Award for the most rented drama of 2011. 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. Filming began in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area on October 3, 2011, and continued through the end of January 2012. The movie was released in December 2012.
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). The critical reviews were generally negative. 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. 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.