With American Made director Doug Liman wanted to celebrate the ambition that turned the USA into a super power.
While Barry Seal (Tom Cruise)’s journey from bored commercial pilot to reconnaissance CIA pilot to drug smuggler for the Medellin Cartel was packed with danger and risk, it also made him a very, very rich man. Liman believe this story could only have happened to an American.
“I think Barry is quintessentially American. I wouldn’t use greed, I might use hunger. I really would use opportunist. If you’re walking down the street in London and saw $100 bill laying there you might turn it into the police station. In America, the crime would be to not pick it up and take it. That really is what is great about America”
“That attitude is why we have been an economic power house, and we have revolutionized. From the Henry Ford assembly line to Facebook to Uber, the disrupters, the people seeing opportunity and taking it are American. That really is the spirit that ‘American Made’ is looking to celebrate. Barry Seal made a fortune while working for the CIA.”
After Liman told me the above during our phone conversation earlier this month I immediately suggested that it sounded like he was proud of America and what the country has achieved, something that “The Bourne Identity,” “Swingers,” and “Go” director far from denied.
“I think you can hold a mirror up to yourself, and laugh at the things we’ve done, and learn from them. This is not a movie about self-flagellation, the good and the bad go together. But that American spirit, that can-do attitude, we flew to the moon. There’s no other country that could put somebody else on the moon. No-one else has done it after all these years.”
When he first leafed through Gary Spinelli’s script Liman told me that he instantly connected to Seal, especially when it came to “his attitude towards living and his pursuit of adventure at almost any cost.”
“I am also a pilot. So that quest for adventure, and damn the risks, goes hand in hand with being a pilot, because it is extremely risky and about the greatest adventure you can have.”
For Liman, Seal was the last of his kind. In fact, Liman even went as far as to call Seal the last ever American cowboy. But rather than riding on a horse, he was using airplanes packed with cocaine as his transportation.
“Airplanes are such instruments of personal freedom. In a way Barry Seal is the last of the American cowboy. Long after they stopped riding horses, they were still flying airplanes. And that era ended with Barry. The kind of flying he was doing wasn’t possible today.”
You can check out Doug Liman’s celebration of US opportunism when “American Made” is released into cinema on September 29.