LONDON, ENGLAND. Over the past 25 years, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan has been realized on the big screen by a three-headed Cerberus of A-listers, each capturing a different side of the intelligence operative who, through an epic series of convolutions, eventually became the President of the United States, at least on the page.
In “Hunt for Red October,” Alec Baldwin was a macho, prime-of-his-life Jack Ryan, facing off with Sean Connery in underwater mayhem.
In “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger,” Harrison Ford portrayed an older, wiser Jack Ryan, still capable of kicking butt if required, but better suited for the political side of global intrigue.
In “Sum of All Fears,” Ben Affleck was an inexperienced Jack Ryan on the cusp of greater responsibilities, though the shadow of 9/11 made it hard to view that character as anything other than an in-over-his-head tragic figure when the movie opened in 2002.
It’s October 2012 and on the London set of “Jack Ryan” (the subtitle “Shadow Recruit” will come later), Jack Ryan is being reborn. Many of us will say he’s being rebooted. Heck, I’ll say Jack Ryan is being rebooted, but for producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, that’s not the preferred nomenclature.
“I understand why people are saying that”s what it is, but Chris Pine is so different than Harrison and Alec,” di Bonaventura says. “It is Jack Ryan in the sense that he”s the everyman, the sense of intelligence, the sense of physical capabilities without being Superman. I guess in that sense it”s a reboot in that we recognize all of those things. But Chris is so different and has a very different color as a result of that.”
Agrees producer David Barron, “Chris Pine is Chris Pine’s version of Jack Ryan. He’s the contemporary Jack Ryan. The new Jack Ryan. And hopefully he’ll be Jack Ryan for quite a while to come.”
Of course, it’s most immediately tempting to call this a reboot because rebooting has become old hat for Chris Pine. As a group of reporters sit adjacent to the “Jack Ryan” set watching Pine navigate a staircase repeatedly, “Star Trek Into Darkness” is still months away from release, but after the box office for the first movie, Pine is settled into the character of James T. Kirk, not necessarily usurping the unusurpable William Shatner, but certainly carving his own space. And it’s hardly a coincidence that Pine was slotted into another familiar franchise at the same studio.
“It was actually Paramount”s idea,” di Bonaventura says of casting Pine. “After ‘Star Trek,’ they had the advantage of seeing all the dailies we had not seen. So they started calling Mace [Neufeld] and I and saying, ‘What about Chris?’ He”s an amazing actor. And it”s great to have that ability. As a person in real life, he”s a very thoughtful guy. He”s great or Jack Ryan, because you can really feel the wheels turning, and there”s really something in the wheels.”
“Star Trek” came with a multi-picture contract and “Jack Ryan” has similar clauses should embrace this new Ryan. Did Pine have any hesitation about locking him into what could potentially be a lengthy run of back-and-forth portrayals of Kirk and Ryan?
“There is a lot of time involved in it and nowadays especially, too, just with publicity, you have an incredible time making the film and then there’s an incredible responsibility to go out and to sell the film to the world,” Pine says. “And especially because I’m not an actor commodity yet — People don’t really know me other than Kirk — there’s a responsibility to kinda introduce myself to the world, so there is a lot of time spent on that. But I’ve been very fortunate that I think the two franchises that I’m involved in, I really like the characters, I like the world, so I certainly want to do things outside of these two things, but for the time being, I’m very happy with the work that I’ve been given. But certainly, I’m 32 now and a minute ago I was 27 doing the first “Trek,” so it’s like, “There are other things in my word besides Jack Ryan and James Kirk,” but um… yeah.”
For a man balancing the fate of two of the most familiar franchises on his shoulders, Pine is still humble. He speaks slowly and thoughtfully and tries to find the right way to articulate what drew him to the character and the responsibility he feels towards the character.
“You know, with Bourne, for instance, Bourne has his body. He’s physically very adept at kicking ass. And Bond looks great doing it and he’s kinda brooding and complicated but he wears a suit well and he drives great cars. I think you’re right in say that… I think the challenge with Jack is how do you make dynamic his smarts?” Pine says. “His weapon is his brain. He thinks and moves with his mind faster than other people. I think with the kind of Clancy world and the Clancy plots, oftentimes kinda the lead of the story is the story itself. Even with like ‘Hunt for Red October,”‘I thought the plot with Connery with even more fascinating than any one of the particular characters and I think with the Ryan character, the challenge is to… You have to excitingly move the plot forward. So maybe the challenge is… you can’t rely on anything in particular and you kinda just have to let the thinking do the work, I guess. I think with this film we tried to give him a substantive enough background and backstory so that we understand why he moves and thinks the way that he does and why that is appealing to him and why perhaps in this particular circumstance, he doesn’t initially… maybe is hesitant to jump right into the story.”
It’s not that Ryan’s predecessors didn’t get to punch people, but Pine articulates something important about Ryan: His primary weapon is his brain and perhaps his moxie.
“‘Everyman’ is probably even the wrong word. He”s living in an extraordinary place, and his education certainly isn”t everyman. When you”re watching a Jack Ryan movie, though, you feel like you could be in the same place, and you”d hope that you do the same thing,” di Bonaventura says. “He”s not Jason Bourne. He can”t take out 10 guys with one hand tied behind his back. Which is fun as hell. I think that”s what makes Jack approachable. He has a strong sense of right and wrong. Those are the two things I always related to with him. That”s what Clancy came up with.”
While everybody’s saying that Jack Ryan isn’t Jason Bourne, there’s still action in “Shadow Recruit” and Pine has the wounds to show for it. Sitting at a table at a London pub, he’s obviously nursing a hand covered in a fairly unobtrusive splint. In addition to being unfailingly thoughtful, Pine is also honest.
“I broke my finger in a stunt in a very not-too-romantic way,” he says ruefully. “I was just trying to tackle someone and I just flicked his forearm and then screamed in pain.”
When it’s pointed out that he could pretty make up any badass lie he wanted to about the injury, Pine protests, “I’m an actor, but I am an awful liar.”
Jack Ryan is exactly the sort of hero Pine’s “Jack Ryan” co-star Kevin Costner used to play. In fact, Costner was famously offered the lead in “Red October.” Now into the character actor/mentor stage of his career, Costner sees a lot of his own stardom in what Pine brings to the table.
“There’s thing in America where you’re about six-feet, you’re white or something like that and you get to play these roles. He is stepping into that time-honored spot and it’s not an easy one,” Costner tells reporters on the “Jack Ryan” set. “Everybody thinks it’s easy. It’s not so easy to carry a movie. It’s really not so easy. In fact, it’s the evolution of your stature in Hollywood. I remember when I played in ‘Silverado,’ everybody went, ‘Wow, that guy’s really flashy… That’s really cool… That’s really whatever.’ And then they go, ‘Yeah, but he probably can’t carry a film.’ So it’s always these things that you’ve gotta get over and Chris is in that moment, because he fits the way a lot of these stories read for a traditional lead. So it’s not boring and it shouldn’t be underestimated how good you have to be to actually be able to do that. Other people get to come into the movie and do accents and do little funny things and be incredible character actors and you just have to be Boring Lead. It’s not that it’s “boring,” but you just have to be That Guy and you cannot be concerned if somebody starts to steal the movie… You have to actually be smart enough as a lead actor to want that to happen, want somebody to come and be very flashy and that makes for a better movie. He fits in that category.”
Does Pine know the secret to making a smart character accessible for an audience who may not have his background in politics and economics?
“First of all, we can’t have a plot that is inaccessible,” Pine says. “People have to understand what’s going on, so I think our plot is interesting and kind apropos to what’s happening in the world, but not overly convoluted so people will spending time figuring out what’s going on. Jack’s experience is an experience that many people share. I don’t share it. I don’t know if anybody here has. He’s been to war. He’s seen war and it’s affected a lot of people and I don’t think we take that lightly in the film and how that traumatized him and how that kinda pushed him in a different direction in his life. And also, he shares what we all share, which is 9/11, which is going through a major turning point. It’s Pearl Harbor for another generation. So what is it like to live in that world after such an effect. Even though he is smart and he is going to save the world, he’s got a lady in his life and he’s got a lot of troubles with that relationship and he’s trying to figure that out and they’re trying to work on their communication skills. It’s a lot of very kinda accessible, human stuff that we all deal with, I’m sure.”
Thanks to Tom Clancy and four movies, much of Jack Ryan’s future has been depicted in some form or another and you know that Paramount wouldn’t be doing a “Jack Ryan” reboot without the hope of several follow-up movies, but Pine isn’t planning his visits to a submarine or Ireland just yet.
“I haven’t spent much time thinking about where the story could go,” Pine says. “Obviously in the series, he becomes president and has many stories to be told from that perspective, but off what I’ve seen in characters that are like the genesis of and the birthing of the character story — Kirk and here — is characters, they can get comfortable with what their responsibility in this world is and I think Jack is younger in this and he’s figuring out what his best place in this world is. He has a need to serve and that is the Jack Ryan character. That is the Clancy character is this kind of patriot. I personally had issues of the idea of “patriot,” but what I do connect to is a man that wants to be selfless and he sees something happen that is so devastating and he gets outside of himself and feels the need to serve, but in doing that, there are many, many real, awful complications to that and many, many real things that can affect a relationship with a woman that he loves. So I think by the end of the film, I think he gets to a place where he, strangely given the events of the film, has found more stability with the lady in his life and more comfort in what he’s doing for his country.”
Click through to Page 2 for Pine’s thoughts on working with Kevin Costner, director Kenneth Branagh and more.
Other highlights from Chris Pine’s chat with reporters…
Question: Can you tell us what’s going on today? What’s happening?
Chris Pine: What’s fun about this movie is that it’s very “Three Days of the Condor,” very kinda “All the President’s Men.” Again, it’s a puzzle. There are little tendon pieces to create the plot, so it’s a ostensibly very small scene… I don’t want to give too much away. What can say about this? S***’s gone awry. S***’s hit the fan. Jack’s trying to cover that that s***’s hit the fan and he’s working very fast to figure things out. But anyway… A more interesting answer, maybe, is that it’s just these fun little pieces. Our movie may not have the biggest set-pieces in the world. It’s not “Star Trek,” in that there’s an incredible amount of visuals, although Harris is shooting this incredibly well — visually, it’s very very stunning, even some of the shots in there, just the geometry of the building itself I think… it’s really beautiful — it’s a thriller, it’s a plot thriller. It’s kinda building up tension piece-by-piece, moment-by-moment and I look forward to seeing what it turns out to be, because I know a lot of it will happen afterwards in the editing process.
Question: We know kinda the man that Jack Ryan becomes from the previous films and all the books. Can you use that as a reference for playing the young version? Or because he doesn’t know exactly what kind of man he’ll become, do you really have to start from Square One?
Chris Pine: I love the stories that have come before that we know of. I think, for me it’s always more interesting to kinda start from square one and you take the kinda fundamental pillars of the character and, around that, try to create something new and different. Just like with Kirk, for instance, I can’t do what came before and who these other guys are as Jack Ryan and kinda only do my version of it, but there are certain things that are kinda fundamental to Jack. Like I remember in “Clear and Present Danger,” I always love the fact that it was… Anne Archer who’s driving the Porsche and he’s driving the VW Bug. He’s kinda frumpy and she’s kinda the wunderkind doctor. I like that about Jack, that he’s more comfortable in his study. He’s comfortable with his books. He’s more comfortable putting a puzzle together. He’d rather spend a Sunday at home than go out. He’s a homebody. There’s a comfort in isolation, but there’s a really intense confidence in his own abilities to figure stuff out and to work through things in his own mind. So it’s balancing that kind of Everyman with the thoughtfulness and the ability to be by himself and the comfort in isolation and then also that kind of intense confidence in his own abilities. And above and beyond that, you kinda wrap it around and create something [new].
Question: Kevin’s a fascinating guy and he really knows a lot about the business, inside and out, and he really had some interesting things to say about being a lead actor. Have you had a chance to talk to him and get a lot of stories?
Chris Pine: Yeah. Kevin and I, I think, really hit it off. I love any chance to talk… Here’s a guy who the top movie star in the world for a long time and he’s got great advice. I love watching him in a close-up. For someone who’s done it for so long, there’s just such a comfort in the knowledge of what he’s able to do and how to do it and how to sell a moment and just a comfort in front of the camera. Look, with a close-up and the camera’s right there and it’s a 15-hour-day and it’s all about you, sometimes it’s not the best feeling to have in the world, that kind of responsibility. But man, he’s a cool cat. He’s just a really knowledgeable guy and he’s got his hands in so many different things. He’s writing all the time and the way he talks to Ken about a shot or how that’s going to move into the next sequence, I love listening to it, because watching my director, who’s, you know, Kenneth Branagh, and then I’m watching my fellow actor, who’s Kevin Costner, and I’m learning an incredible amount just by kinda being there.
Question: What’s it like working with Ken when he’s both acting and directing.
Chris Pine: I have yet to do it. We’ve yet to work together. I’ve worked Keira quite a bit and Kevin. What I would say about Ken is that he’s incredibly, incredibly focused. I was talking to Lorenzo about this earlier, but Tony [Scott] was very much like this, I guess, but Ken, I guess even more-so, is very specific about what he wants. We don’t spend much time… There’s maybe three takes and then we’re moving on. Oftentimes there’s one. He knows what he wants, how he wants it and that’s not say that he’s not open to collaboration, but he’s not shy from, if we get it in one, we’ll move on. And in those scenes where it demands some colors and really getting to the core of it, he’ll stay with it. And what I love about his set too, and it’s probably because he’s an actor directing actors, is that there’s actor-focus and a lot of times with big films, I think because there’s so much responsibility elsewhere in the film, what with CG or effects or the visuals of it, he’s very happy to kinda sit in a scene and talk with the actors. He’ll oftentimes stand right next to the camera and watch us work, which is great. He’s not hidden in video village all the time, which sometimes can happen. So I appreciate that.
“Jack Ryan” opens on Friday, January 17.