Thrillist: Why were you the right guy to pair with Cruise in this movie?
Jake Johnson: The casting process of this was a really weird one because I had just finished a season of New Girl. I really value time off and I’m not an actor who needs to be busy or more famous. I believe work leads to more work, so I think there’s something really nice to no work. I had told my team I wanted to take the summer because I knew we were back in the fall. But then they said, "A guy named Alex Kurtzman wants to Skype with you." I Googled Alex Kurtzman and realized I liked his work. I emailed Olivia Wilde, who had worked with him, and she wrote me, "Lovely man, really collaborative, really smart, I’d work with him again in a heartbeat." Alex had written this part with me in mind, so I thought, "OK…"
He wrote it specifically for you?
Johnson: Yeah. And then he said, "And it’s opposite Tom Cruise." And I said, "Oh, fuck, I’m not saying no to this one, am I?" Then I got deeply scared. I told Alex, "There’s no way I’m saying no to this, but I have to wrap my head around doing an action movie with Tom Cruise."
How did you do that?
Johnson: I panicked! I know his [reputation]. He does his own stunts. I read the first act [of the movie] and it’s like, "Nick and Vail jump off a three story building as it explodes, they feel the heat on their backs." And when you read those little things somebody has to actually do that. That meant the fire would be touching us! That meant I was jumping through fire and I was like, "I don’t want to jump through fire!"
But they flew me out to London to have a meeting with Tom and I sat down with him and we had one of those legendary talks where we didn’t break eye contact. He’s just actually a charming, awesome guy. He doesn't lie and he doesn't bullshit. He said things like, "Yeah, it’s going to be really hard and you’re going to be really scared and you’re going to get hurt. You’re going to work your ass off. I think you should do this." So the answer was a very easy yes.