James Patterson is protective of crime-fighting FBI profiler Alex Cross. He ought to be; after all, he wrote 18 books about the guy, thrilling millions of readers.
"I wanted to create an African-American hero," the author says. "You know, Barack Obama before people could even imagine there'd be a Barack Obama, somebody who's bigger than life and very well-educated. He's not any of the caricatures of African-Americans we used to see. He solves stuff with his head for the most part, although in this story he's much more physical."
Paramount adapted two of Patterson's Cross novels into movies Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider, with Morgan Freeman as the heroic detective. But a hoped-for third instalment never materialized.
"I don't know a whole lot of what went on at Paramount," Patterson says. "I know they tried [developing] another script, and there was a lot of change at the top for a while. We had the ability to make one, and we went out with their blessing and made it."
That would be Alex Cross, an attempt to relaunch the character by starting at the beginning. Here, he's a Detroit homicide detective, played by Tyler Perry. It's an intriguing casting choice - risky, even - but Patterson, ?who co-produced the picture and developed the script, is very happy with the results.
"I think Tyler did a great job," he says. "I find him probably the most impressive person I've met on my Hollywood circuit; he's very bright, very focused, and when I met with him in Atlanta he said, ‘James, I wouldn't attempt this if I wasn't sure I could do it.' He did a lot of training to get himself in physical shape; he's much closer to the Alex Cross in the books than Morgan is... maybe even a little darker than I'd have liked."
I ask Patterson how much control he had on this movie.
"Oh, I had a lot of input," he says. "I had approval over actor, script, director. One of the things I like about this project is that everybody who was involved was hungry. Tyler wanted to do something very dramatic; Matthew [Fox] was attracted to playing a real bad guy. Rob [Cohen] had done the real action-action-action stuff and wanted to do a suspenser. Everybody came in with a lot of passion."
Having rebooted the character for the movies, Patterson isn't sure what will happen next if Alex Cross is a hit.
"It will all revolve around Tyler," he says. "I think if it does well, he'll want to make another one. And I think it will do well - it's just a question of how well."