9 Things I Learned at the Press Conference for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit


When you can’t score the one-on-one interview, you get the press conference – 20-30 minutes or so in a room with many, many other writers, as the filmmakers and stars speak from a podium. You all come away with the same content, but like the blind men and the elephant, it can be fascinating to see what different people take away from the same event. Here, then, are the things I learned from my time in a large hotel room with Kenneth Branagh, Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, and producers Mace Neufeld and Lorenzo diBonaventura.

1. High Finance Is the New Cold War.

Branagh: “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. 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 moral conscioused man in a very much dirtier world. For me, that was pretty interesting.”

Pine: “We’ve seen it obviously done in the Cold War in the late ’80s and ’90s with Harrison and Alec, but I think right now given the interconnectivity of the world, given the kind of – the gray morality of politics and spydom and all that, there’s great, fertile ground to be mined for good stories.”

2. Chris Pine Will Obey Helmet Laws Next Time.

Pine: “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. On the first day.

3. Kevin Costner’s Not Ready to Take Things Sitting Down.

Costner: “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, you know, 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, you know, whether it’s being how to survive or to process a lot of information in a very quick way, which I actually ask him a couple times to slow down, remembering that I’m in another century.”

4. In Russia, Dogs Walk YOU (Through Language Training).

Branagh: “I learnt it phonetically while walking the dog. We have a dog in this movie, the next dog in the next Jack Ryan film, if there is one, will be my dog, who can now speak Russian, so I’m looking forward to seeing her in that.”

5. The Real Reason Kevin Costner Is in Every Other Movie Right Now.

Costner: “you know, I had three little kids the last five years, my wife and I, and I slowed down for about three to, you know, get them started, and I’ve had enough of that fuckin’ minivan, and I just had to get a minivan ’cause my back was killing me with the SUV, three seats and shit, I thought, I have to go back to killing somebody for real or you know, action movies, ’cause this is too tough.”


6. Kenneth Branagh’s Lifelong Dreams Are Insanely Specific.

Branagh: “I wanted to make a movie, having grown up loving them, where a man passes on information to another man in a cinema, where two men meet on a bench at night in Moscow and talk about the fate of the world, while a dog is distracting people from thinking that they’re doing anything nefarious, and you know, combine action/thriller with working with great actors.”

7. Also He Used to Bring His Drama School Principal on Set With Him.

Branagh: “He was a very eccentric English guy. We were making a film of Hamlet, I was doing the ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy, I was very nervous. I said to him that day, I said, ‘Look, this is the acting Olympics, Hugh, I’m doing the most famous speech in Western dramatic literature. If you have any notes for me, I’d like them very early on, please.’ So we started doing it, I did take one, ‘How was that?’ He said, ‘I don’t have anything to say.’

I did take two, take three, he didn’t have anything to say. I said, ‘Look, I think I’m getting there. Now I’m going to call this a print very shortly.’ He said, ‘I think you should do another one.’ ‘Did you have anything to say?’ ‘Not at the moment,’ he said. So we get to take six and I said, ‘Hugh, you know, I think we might have it. Do you have anything to say?’ He said, ‘Well,’ he said, ‘Yes, yes, yes. The rhythm of it absolutely, absolutely extraordinary, the understanding of the language, fantastic. The pacing of it, marvelous. The timing of it, really extraordinary.’ I said, ‘What’s the problem?’ He said, ‘I simply don’t believe a word you say. You have absolutely no sense of the man, it’s phony, it’s fake, it’s acting, it’s showing off. You really have to do another one.’

So he was – with a guy with those balls, close to it, it was very helpful, so he was my greatest mentor.”

8. Sean Connery’s Advice to Costner on The Untouchables Was Much Simpler.

Costner: “He was a leading man, and he carries himself as a man, and I remember a big scene with De Niro and everybody and we were all talking and he finally told me, he goes, ‘Mr. Ness.’ I said, ‘What?’ And he goes, ‘Sit down.’ And I said, ‘Wh – sit down right now?’ And he goes, ‘Yes, it’s gonna be a long day.’ Yeah, and he just talked about, not artsy fartsy stuff, he talked about sometimes just practical shit, like, ‘It’s gonna be a long day. Sit down. And you and I are gonna sit here and we’re gonna watch and when it’s our turn we’ll be ready.’ So, what better advice could one man give another than like, you know, something so practical that I could use.”

9. Mace Neufeld Thinks Chris Pine Is Hot.

Neufeld: “He was the right age for the character. He’s an extremely attractive young man. And those were the first two things I knew about him. Then I saw him in Star Trek and I was kind of blown away.”

My review of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is coming Friday.