Chris Pine on Balancing Politics With Playing a CIA Analyst
By Shana Naomi Krochmal
Chris Pine’s second big franchise film hits theaters this Christmas, when he takes over the eponymous Jack Ryan role in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel. It’s the prequel (or reboot, if you prefer) to portrayals by Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October), Harrison Ford (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) and even Ben Affleck (The Sum of All Fears).
In this outtake from our June/July cover story, Pine talks about which of his Ryan predecessors most influenced him and how he balanced his own politics with playing a CIA analyst.
ON HIS JACK RYAN PREDECESSOR HARRISON FORD:
Harrison Ford was always the guy that I really responded to. For instance with Jack Ryan, I remember in—I want to say it was Patriot Games, or Clear and Present Danger. They show his wife, who’s this very successful eye surgeon, and she drives up in a Porsche, and he pulls up in this ratty kind of tweed jacket and his tie’s undone and he’s driving an old VW Rabbit. I thought that was very telling of this character, this guy who didn’t have to show off. Who did like his tweed and his books and his paper and his students and academia, and he liked living in the world of his head. He wasn’t a man of action as much as a man of intellect. I don’t know Harrison Ford, but the quality that is most attractive to me is that he has this genetic humility. There’s a sense always that he shouldn’t be there, but he has to be there, and if he’s going to be there, then by God, he’s going to do the best job that he can. It seems very human, very flawed and uncomfortable sometimes, and awkward occasionally—and handsome but not beautiful. Someone who’s lived a life. And that was always just very appealing to me. He seemed grounded.
ON PLAYING A PART IN LIFELONG REPUBLICAN TOM CLANCY’S POLITICAL THRILLERS:
The books are written at the end of the Cold War, the late '70s and early '80s. That was a time granted that I was a kid, but I would think that in the painting of the world it was seemingly much easier to paint the good guys and the bad guys. So yes, the Russians were the ones who were living behind the Iron Curtain, and it was gulags and work camps and we were the bringers of freedom and democracy. There’s something very stark and easy about it. So it was definitely on my mind approaching it in 2013 to think, well, how do you take a framework like that in a time where it, if anything, it’s defined by gray. I think war is probably always defined by gray, now even more than ever. The transparency of picking sides and the morality of any of it seems so difficult. It’s difficult to discern the edges of anything. So to have [a part in a movie about] the CIA—that we all know was a part of doing very nasty things during the height of this new war without end—I wanted to make sure that Jack, being a self-aware man, being an intelligent man, being a man of letters, that while there’s a need to serve and a need to do right, it comes from really a personal inward need to do it. That he wasn’t a man that was being drawn by ideology. He was a man being drawn by what was the right thing to do, and that was coming from somewhere deep in himself.