HOLLYWOOD - Since he first appeared in the 1993 novel Kiss The Girls, Alex Cross has been one of author James Patterson's most popular characters. Morgan Freeman played the homicide detective and psychologist in a pair of films, but a new screen version stars Tyler Perry.
In Alex Cross, the toughest cases go to the title character, one of the Detroit police department's top murder investigators.
Away from the crime scenes, Cross goes home to his loving wife, two bright-eyed kids and their doting grandmother. But his peace is shattered when a sadistic murderer targets the detective's family.
Tyler Perry is better known for writing and directing faith-based inspirational films. So the Alex Cross story is quite a change.
"The revenge and the fighting back …it's not me by nature," Perry admits, "but I think we all have a bit of it in us and I just had to find a way to tap into it.
Perry says his version had to be different from the way the detective was portrayed in the earlier films, Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider.
"I knew going in that I could not try to be Morgan Freeman playing Alex Cross," he says. "So in that sense I tried to forget everything that I saw and just go in and be the best that I could with it."
Author James Patterson, also a producer of the film, says Perry is actually closer in age and physical appearance to the way he describes Cross in the novels. However, this new screen version is more sinister and the action is moved from the Washington, D.C. setting of the books to run-down neighborhoods of Detroit in the Midwest.
"Look, the book is the book. It's there. Nobody can mess with it. And the movie is the movie. I'm comfortable with that," Patterson says.
Perry acknowledges that things he says and does as this character might shock his core audience, more accustomed to seeing him in a wig and dress as the funny old woman named Madea.
"I may lose a lot of the grandmothers who come out after church, but I'll do something for them a little later on," Perry says.
Alex Cross is directed by popular action filmmaker Rob Cohen. The cast features Matthew Fox as the killer. Award-winning Cicely Tyson plays the detective's strong-willed mother.