Like James Bond and Batman, the character Jack Ryan has been played by more than one actor.
He sprang from the imagination of author Tom Clancy and started on the screen as Alec Baldwin, aged into Harrison Ford and did a Benjamin Button act and peeled away the years with Ben Affleck.
Now, Chris Pine – who knows a little something about two or more performers playing the same signature role thanks to his inheritance of Captain Kirk and Star Trek – is taking over in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
It’s an origins story, introducing the character as a student at the London School of Economics who is motivated to join the American military by the 9/11 attacks. He is severely injured in Afghanistan, struggles to regain his health and lands a desk job on Wall Street that’s a cover for the CIA.
When sent to Moscow to investigate some suspicious financial data, he faces mortal danger to himself and his fiancee (Keira Knightley) in the film featuring Kevin Costner as Ryan’s mentor and director Kenneth Branagh as a Russian villain, complete with accent and a penchant for vodka.
Here’s a look at the other Jack Ryans of yore:
The Hunt For Red October (1990)
The story: Moscow, Washington and a low-level CIA analyst named Jack Ryan track a renegade Soviet captain (Sean Connery), commanding the most sophisticated sub on the planet. Is he planning to defect to the United States or obliterate it?
Jack Ryan: Alec Baldwin (pic), 31 years old at the time.
Oscar love: Won for sound effects editing, and also nominated for film editing and sound.
Bonus fact: President Ronald Reagan received this book as a Christmas gift and quipped at a dinner that he was losing sleep because he couldn’t put it down, an endorsement that boosted the novel to The New York Times best-seller list.
The story: Jack Ryan, now an ex-CIA analyst, finds himself and his family targets of an extremist offshoot of the IRA, seeking vengeance for a thwarted assassination plot in London.
Jack Ryan: Harrison Ford (pic), then age 49.
Oscar love: None.
Bonus fact: When Paramount delayed shooting, Baldwin was forced to choose between this thriller and playing Stanley Kowalski in a Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. He opted for the stage and earned a Tony nomination while Ford scored a
deal to play Ryan in three movies but would do only two.
Clear And Present
The story: CIA agent Jack Ryan investigates the murder of a US president’s friend, a businessman with secret ties to Colombian drug cartels.
Jack Ryan: Ford, 52 at time of release.
Oscar love: Nominated for sound and sound effects editing.
Bonus fact: Highest grossing, to date, of the Clancy adaptations and the one that forced peace between the author – who thought Ford too old and also didn’t like the way Hollywood tampered with his plots – and Paramount.
The Sum Of All Fears (2002)
The story: A terrorist group tries to ratchet up tensions between America and Russia while it smuggles a nuclear weapon into the US that it plans to detonate at the Super Bowl in Baltimore. Jack Ryan and his CIA colleagues, led by the director (Morgan Freeman), must figure out what’s going on and try to stop the unthinkable from happening.
Jack Ryan: Ben Affleck, 29 years old.
Oscar love: None.
Bonus fact: Director Phil Alden Robinson had finished his first cut of the film before Sept 11, 2001, and said he didn’t have to make any changes in reaction to the attack. He told the Post Gazette he tried to make “an anti-war, anti-violence movie”, one in which the proper response to terrorism is “that you don’t rush headlong into violence. You get the facts.” — Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services