Your previous film was “Under Siege,” the Steven Seagal action epic that was a big hit for Warner Brothers in the fall of 1992. Had you already agreed to make “The Fugitive” before that one came out, or did the offer come afterward?
At the premiere of “Under Siege,” Arnold Kopelson, who was one of the producers, came up to me and said, “I think I know your next movie,” and I didn’t know what he was talking about. Then I got a call that Sunday night from Bruce Berman, the head of the studio, congratulating me and telling me that Harrison had seen “Under Siege” in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and wanted to talk to me about doing “The Fugitive.” They sent me the script, and I was a little lost because I didn’t think that it made any sense—Tommy Lee Jones had hired the one-armed man because Harrison screwed up on Tommy’s wife in the operating room. I had to come up with a better solution because I had the biggest movie star and a studio supporting us because of the success of “Under Siege.”
Considering both that script overhaul and the enormous size of the production, it is amazing that the time from when you came on to the film to its release was only about ten months.
It was the same crew that had done “Under Siege,” and there were a lot of Chicago guys and gals. We went right from Mobile, Alabama, back to Chicago and started making “The Fugitive.” It was a group of people who liked each other, cared about each other, and could work together well.
One of the things that is most striking about your action films, particularly “The Fugitive” and “Code of Silence,” is that even though they are both action-packed spectacles, there is a sense of realism to them that is relatively rare for the genre as a whole. For example, there’s the moment in “The Fugitive” where someone’s hearing is temporarily damaged as the result of being too close to a gun as it goes off—that is the kind of detail that you rarely see in this type of film.
I think there is a theme to my work in films like this, and that is a sense of heightened reality. You want to keep it real because it is more compelling. Now, you see these fight sequences that go on for 20 minutes, and people are bashing each other, and it isn’t entertaining at all—how long can you watch someone pounding on someone and have it be worthwhile as a human being? I just try to keep it real and move on to the next beat of the story.
Another thing that is striking about your films—especially in the case of “The Fugitive”—is your incredibly effective use of Chicago locations. Unlike a lot of the films that are shot here, which tend to be concerned with showing the most superficially pretty visuals imaginable, it has a genuine feel for the city and its neighborhoods that comes from someone who knows the place well.