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This isn’t your father’s Jack Ryan. In fact, with the Cold War long since concluded, the Jack Ryan making his way into theaters isn’t exactly Tom Clancy’s prototypical hero… even though he’s exhibiting several traits that will be recognizable to audience members who devoured the various Clancy spy novels, from The Hunt for Red October to Clear and Present Danger.
Chris Pine’s new Jack Ryan is young, Patriotic, highly intelligent and driven by a unique sense of purpose that separates him from James Bond or Jason Bourne. He’s a CIA analyst, but relies more on his brain than any type of gadget or gizmo generated in a secret lab. But instead of digging back into the Clancy archives to adapt a specific Clancy book, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura and director Kenneth Branagh worked hard to bring Ryan into a modern age. He’s affected by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. He needs to factor in Facebook and Instagram when tracking a foe. And his actions take place on a global stage.
We attended a press conference Paramount held for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which opens in theaters on Jan. 17. And we walked away with some interesting insight into the updated version of the character. Here are the things that caught our eye.
1. Shadow Recruit is only the beginningPine, obviously, already has one franchise to his name: He plays the heroic Capt. Kirk in the rebooted Star Trek movies. But he inserts himself beautifully into the Jack Ryan role, and Shadow Recruit very much acts like Paramount’s version of Batman Begins, with Branagh weaving an origin story that could go in several different directions.
While Pine couldn’t confirm a Jack Ryan sequel, he did acknowledge the franchise potential of this reboot, saying, "Obviously this is a corporate world that we live in, and this in a business. We hope that people come to see [the first movie]. I would love to do another one. We’re in a really interesting time to do spy franchises, in 2014. … I think, right now, with all the activity in the world, the grey morality of politics and spies, there’s a fertile ground to provide [us] with new stories."
2. Pine would love to do something around the Edward Snowden scandalI continued the conversation about Ryan sequels with Pine when we got some one-on-one time. I asked him if he thought this version of Jack Ryan, this newer version, had updates of the Red October or Patriot Games stories on his timeline. With Trek, J.J. Abrams figured out how to reboot the series’ history. But with Clancy, did Pine want to try his hand at some established Jack Ryan stories?
He thinks he’d like to go in a different direction.
"To me, the world is so interesting right now, and it’s changing all the time," Pine told me, "it seems like in that era, things were a little bit more clearly defined, about who the good guy or bad guys was, depending on what side you were on. Nowadays, it’s mercurial, changing, amorphous and amebic. I think I’d like to keep it open."
When I asked for a specific topic that intrigued him, because Pine considers himself a student of the world, he opened up.
"Clearly what’s happening with Snowden and the NSA, that’s of great interest to me. So yeah, we’ll see."
3. Producers, meanwhile, were just happy to have a Movie StarWhich Pine absolutely is, whether he wants to admit it or not.
When asked by a reporter what Pine brought to the role, longtime Clancy producer Mace Neufeld broke it down as such:
"Well, he was the right age for the character. [Laughs] And he’s an extremely attractive young man," Neufeld admitted. "Those were the first two things I knew about him. And then I saw him in Star Trek and was blown away. And then I happened to go and see him on stage twice. … And I said this is the guy."
Pine, who was sitting near Neufeld, blushed and grinned during the answer, but couldn’t argue against it. How could you?
4. There are connections to The Untouchables, and not just the presence of Kevin CostnerCostner plays a senior CIA operative who recruits Pine’s hero into the government organization. And it was mentioned during the press conference that, back in the day, the Dances With Wolves star might have assumed the lead role. But he compared it to Sean Connery in The Untouchables, and hearing Costner lay it out, his involvement made a ton of sense.
"Smarter directors will do this from time to time. They’ll have a supporting role, and they’ll put a leading man in it, because they either know how to inhabit the screen … listen, nowhere was this better than when Sean Connery came in and played the little Irish street cop. And you realized how formidable he was. I remember saying to Sean, ‘You know, this has got enough meat on the bone. You really could win the Academy Award.’ And Brian [De Palma] could have gone with any character actor to fill that part with an Irish brogue, and he said, ‘No, we’re going to go with arguably the biggest star – the biggest star I’ve ever worked with in my life – to play this."
5. This team knows why we still give a damn about Clancy’s ‘Boy Scout’There have been three actors in the Jack Ryan role to date. Pine will be the fourth. The books and the movies have stood the test of time. And we’re diving back into this world with this analytical hero once again. Neufeld believes he understands why
"He’s referred to in Clear and Present Danger, disparagingly, as a ‘boy scout.’ But those qualities that a boy scout is supposed to have … appeal to an audience. Jack is really smart. He has to jump to his own conclusions. He’s somebody who you would like to have as a friend, or even a neighbor. Because you know that if your house ever were to catch on fire and you had to throw your baby out of the top window, you know that Jack would be there to catch them."
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opens in theaters on Jan. 17