Cruise, Diaz showcase stunt skills in "Knight"

Sun Jun 20, 2010 4:49pm EDT

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - If Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz ever quit their day jobs, they could easily become A-list stuntmen.

The duo star in "Knight and Day," an action comedy that opens Wednesday through Fox and producer New Regency amid bruising early reviews from the Hollywood trades.

"I had two actors who are also incredibly gifted stunt people," said director James Mangold. "Our stunt coordinators could tell you that Tom or Cameron could stop acting tomorrow and start a career as a stunt person."

Cruise, he explained, "is in on the planning of the stunts. He shows up days in advance to walk through it, to check the grounds, to understand the footing, to think about it. He trains. He warms up. You couldn't find someone who is more methodical and organized about what they're doing."

And Diaz easily holds her own: "Cameron is a really great driver. I mean, an insanely good driver of cars and does all her stunts in the picture."

Mangold's involvement with "Knight" came about through his relationship with Cruise.

"Tom and I got to know each other talking about (Mangold's Western) '3:10 to Yuma.' He had been curious about that film and we had met a bunch of times talking about him potentially being involved in it. When that didn't happen, we still parted with a great relationship and a real interest in doing something together."

They continued discussing projects and ultimately it all came together when Mangold read and liked "Knight" in late 2008.

"I thought it needed work, but there was a kind of intense charm to it and an originality. I was told Cameron was attached and Tom had read it and was curious about it. But it was without a director and obviously was going to need more work. So I met with Cameron and with Tom and talked with them about what I'd try to do with the script."

Mangold felt it was exactly the kind of movie he'd want to see Cruise and Diaz in, but "no other two people in. In many ways, my involvement was based upon whether we could reel in both of these actors because it was about this particular grouping."

The director had missed seeing in the star's recent performances "more warmth" and "more flawed characters." The one thing, he said, "that comes from playing the kind of hero that was in 'Valkyrie' or that occupies the 'Mission' films is that he doesn't have a chance to show a wonderful aspect of his personality, which we've seen in films like 'Jerry Maguire' or 'Rain Man' and certainly 'Top Gun' and 'Risky Business.' "

What Mangold envisioned in "Knight" for Cruise beyond physicality was that "the dance he and Cameron could do through this picture would afford him moments watching the gears turn in Tom's head." Those are, he said, "my favorite kind of Tom Cruise moments -- watching him try to cope with stuff that isn't always rational."

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