IAR INTERVIEW: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, and Kenneth Branagh Talk 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit'

Tuesday, 14 January 2014 10:25 Written by  iamrogue
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IAR INTERVIEW: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, and Kenneth Branagh Talk 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit'

This Friday, Jack Ryan returns to theaters for the first time...again.

With Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the hero of bestselling author Tom Clancy's popular novels receives a cinematic origin story chronicling his first globe-trotting adventure in the CIA.

The character has led four previous thrillers over the last twenty-four years, starting with The Hunt for Red October and continuing with a different star in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger before an eventual prequel, The Sum of All Fears.

In this Friday's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Chris Pine (Star Trek) takes over as a Ryan for a new generation.  Though Shadow Recruit is not based on any specific novel, it incorporates elements of the backstory established by the late Clancy.  The film follows a young Ryan starting with his days as a Marine in Afghanistan shortly after September 11, 2001.  When Ryan subsequently signs up for the CIA's contemporary Financial Intelligence Unit, however, he gets more than he bargained for: the brilliant analyst uncovers a Russian plot to bring the U.S. economy to its knees.  Suddenly, Ryan and the love of his life Cathy (Keira Knightley, Never Let Me Go) are directly in harm's way, attempting to stop an unprecedented act of financial terror.

At the Los Angeles press day for the reboot, IAR Managing Editor Jami Philbrick, along with entertainment journalists from around the world, had the opportunity to speak with Chris Pine and Kevin Costner (Man of Steel), along with director and co-star Kenneth Branagh (Thor) about Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  The stars and helmer were happy to talk up the enduring appeal of Ryan, updating Cold War tropes, mentors, stunts, and the possibility of another Ryan sequel.

The film represents Pine's second time taking over as an iconic established cinematic hero, having played Captain James T. Kirk in the 2009 Stark Trek reboot and last summer's sequel.  The actor commented on reboots, saying, "Well, I think that the great thing about the Jack Ryan films is that the plot and the story kind of always take center stage and I think if you’ve done your job as the actor portraying Jack Ryan, you are present enough to make an impact, but you kind of let the story shine, and we had a great story that David Koepp came up with and you know, Kirk is obviously – [William] Shatner made such a deep impression on the zeitgeist that it’s just a whole different thing entirely."

Jack Ryan was first played by Alec Baldwin in 1990, with Harrison Ford taking over in the 1992 and 1994 sequels.  Ben Affleck then starred as a younger Ryan in the 2002 prequel.  Pine cited the first two performers as particular influences, explaining, "I’ve always loved the series, I’ve always loved the spy genre, fiction and films, so I was just kinda well-versed with the Clancy universe, having watched the films growing up, and looking at the character and rewatching the films, I think what I most enjoyed, for me, was the difference that I saw in how Alec portrayed the character and how Harrison portrayed the character. With Alec in Hunt you have this – what Alec does really well, which is this confident, intelligent, analytical man who knows what he knows and is not afraid to say it. And with Harrison, with his tweed coat and his Volkswagen Jetta, he’s the humble intellect and he’s the classic what Harrison does best, the classic reluctant hero. And I thought somewhere in that was kind of a great way to begin looking at the character."

Shadow Recruit represents something of a departure for Branagh, who is best known as a Shakespearean director thanks to critically acclaimed efforts such as 1996's Hamlet.  Still, in selecting a follow-up to his successful 2001 Marvel Studios feature, Branagh was drawn to Clancy's work and themes.  "Well, I loved the previous pictures and the books. I like the Cold War era and the big sort of elemental standoff between, in this case, Russia and America, and east and west and old and new and old empires and new empires," he said. "One of the excitements about trying to reimagine it was finding a world, so the interconnectivity of the financial markets was one that was both interesting and a bit of a brain teaser for me. Chris was very good at understanding it, thank god. But to be able to put Jack Ryan there at a time when it was a different kind of elemental face off between Russia and America, and where one tiny event in one part of the world can so, you know, dramatically and catastrophically influence a larger event elsewhere with that same, for me, sort of good principled morally-conscious man in a very much dirtier world."

"For me, that was pretty interesting," he continued. "And although Chris is right to say that the story and the plot in these pictures is very important, for me it was a huge, huge pleasure to work with these two great actors, to be able to also follow what also, I think, is a big part of it is watching them think and deal with it in a layered way, the human dimension of the story, as portrayed by these fellows, was a huge pleasure for me in trying to make the movie."

Costner, meanwhile, pointed to the grounded, realistic tone of this material as a more fitting approach for modern times, saying, "Hopefully when our movies are realer, they get realer [than] when they happen to be the James Bond situation where a guy parachutes in and, you know, that kind of thing. That’s another kind of spy movie. So our job is to entertain and to find the rhythms that do that, the language of the day, and hopefully that we don’t try to reinvent the wheel, because spies are trying not to get caught, trying to stop bad things, and hopefully the level of sophistication always is going up."

Like Costner, Branagh is both a director and an actor.  Here, the British star pulled double duty, directing himself as Viktor Cherevin, the Russian billionaire orchestrating the attack on America.  To perfect his Russian accent, Branagh said, "I got to, a long time in advance, started to listen to, you know, Russian television, Russian radio. I had a dialect coach who just introduced me to the just the sound of the language. I wasn’t really familiar with all its varieties."

While the director plays the heavy, Costner is an ally of hero.  As William Harper, Costner acts as Ryan's CIA handler and his mentor throughout the high-stakes adventure. "Well, you know, the mentor role is always that – what can you offer a younger man, what can you offer a younger woman, you know, things in your level of experience, and so that by definition is the mentor, if you have a level of experience," the actor explained. "But that’s what I was. If you read it on paper, that’s the role that’s meant for me. Chris inhabited it perfectly, his role. And what I liked about it was that I wasn’t just a person at a desk on a phone going, 'Get the hell out of there. What the hell are you doing? Well, you need to do it faster.' I mean, Kenneth was able to say, 'Wait a second, I want to incorporate some of your skill set into this,' where even though I’m a stupidvisor, if you would, a supervisor here, that I could take the gloves off, so to speak, and become involved and bring a physical presence and team up with him at the right moment. So I thought that was unusual for the mentor role. Usually they’re back in Washington or they’re in a big, giant control room. In this instance, we were always fairly close together and trying to sort it out a little bit together, and as the movie progresses, you see that he just possesses a lot of intuitive skills, whether it’s being how to survive or to process a lot of information in a very quick way."

In Keira Knightley, Pine found the perfect foil for Ryan.  "I don’t know if I’ve ever had more fun with an actress. She could not have been anymore professional. I mean, she’s younger than I am and she’s done probably three times more films than I have. She’d show up, super-smart, friendly, charming, in it, in the moment, and then she’d wrap and she’d take, and there was zero drama with Keira Knightley. It was the most lovely, wonderful experience you could ask for. And just present, it was her job. She took her job really seriously, so she would ask the right questions. And I think what I respond to more often than anything is just intelligence and she was just sharp, sharp as a tack," he explained. "The scene that I remember most was the scene that we have with Kevin here when she kind of gets on board with our plan to take down Viktor Cherevin and it was just a great joy to work with someone like Kevin who’s been doing it for so long and with Keira who’s been doing it much longer than I have. I just felt like I was an apprentice."

Unsurprisingly, Pine's latest leading man role affording many opportunities for daring action and stunt work.  Asked about his involvement in his own stunts, the star answered,"I enjoyed doing them and I think most actors do it. You get to live out kind of boyhood fantasies and you know, people make sure that you’re doing it safely. I was on a very large motorcycle for a lot of the time, which I’m not sure I would probably do again without a helmet on the streets of New York."

"[That was] on the first day, but it sure was a lot of fun. The most fun I had I think is the – and one of the best moments in the film, from my point of view – is the scene that I have with the security guy [Nonso Anozie] in the bathroom towards the beginning of the film when I first arrive in Russia. And that was – I like – I didn’t get to do much of it in the last Star Trek, I like the kind of hand-to-hand combat stuff, and I like the fact that Jack, as much as he had training in the Marines, isn’t a trained killing professional, and so it was kind of a MacGyver moment of trying to figure out how to defeat the large bad guy when you’re, you know, not quite as big and not quite as ferocious or talented, you know, with your fists," Pine explained. "And we had a great stunt team behind us, and Vic Armstrong who’s been around for a long time and is one of the best in the business was our second unit guy and our stunt coordinator, and that was a lot of fun."

Will the fun continue in more sequels featuring this new Ryan?  "I think, obviously, we’re in a corporate world and we’ll see what Paramount thinks of it," said Pine. "And if people like it and people come to see it, and I would love to do it again, and I think what a really interesting time for a spy franchise in 2014."

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, January 17th.

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