Lorenzo di Bonaventura is one of Hollywood’s biggest producers, having ushered such big-budget films like Transformers, G.I. Joe and Salt to the screen and his latest endeavor has him working alongside Mace Neufeld and David Barron and others to breathe new box office life into one of Tom Clancy’s most well-known characters in Jack Ryan.
Screen Rant had the opportunity to speak with di Bonaventura in London on the set of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit about the challenges of rebooting the Jack Ryan franchise following a 12-year absence. He discussed the decision to cast Chris Pine in the role of Ryan, a move which sees the star follow Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. The producer also talked about assembling an impressive cast including Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley, as well as what director Kenneth Branagh brings to the thriller’s production.
Talk a little about… this is one of those projects you have been talking about for a while, to get this going. Talk a little about the challenge of bringing this back to the screen and what it’s been like filming in London.
Lorenzo di Bonaventura: The first challenge has been that [producer] Mace [Neufeld] put together this great series of films that really stand up: their intelligence; their entertainment value. So he set a pretty high bar. That, in and of itself, was the biggest challenge. We didn’t want to screw up, after all of those good films.
I think the big break for us really came when Ken [Branagh] came aboard. He has such a great vision. It’s very interesting to watch him work because he’s such an actor’s director. At the same time, with Thor, he had the chance to play in a big arena, so he has put those two things together here. It’s a lot about performance. There’s a lot of emotional context that’s going on between Jack and his fiancée. And Jack, as a character, is going through this decision-making process. This is really the origin story. The result of it is that you see a guy who doesn’t view the CIA with rose-colored glasses, that’s for sure, debating the merit of becoming part of a government organization. And it really becomes, “What can I do? What can’t I do?”
It was really important for us to have a director who could get that emotional context going. Jack’s also a guy, because of the line of work that he is in, he has not told everything to his fiancée, and that has been building in their relationship. There’s a great pressure cooker going on, which adds to … it’s hard enough having a relationship, you know? If you are hiding a part of it, it adds a real complication. We can make these great, roller-coaster action sequences, because [Branagh’s] had those experiences, but you can do… When I think of the Jack Ryan movies, there was always one kind of marquee moment where you are really like, “Whoa! That was fucking cool.” And that’s one of the things that e have to do in this one.
Jack Ryan really does have a long legacy. What do you think it is that makes him such an iconic character?
Probably everybody has a slightly different point of view on it. For me, the thing I see most of all is that he’s an everyman. “Everyman” is probably even the wrong word. He’s living in an extraordinary place, and his education certainly isn’t every-man. 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. 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.
I always believe, with any kind of hero, that you want to believe that their decision-making is right. That ultimately, I can trust what that guy’s sense of right and wrong will be. Even in a vigilante movie, where you are going against the law by definition, you still want to agree with the fact that your character is breaking the law. That’s the same thing with Jack. Here’s a guy with a clear sense of right and wrong, but because we are doing the young Jack Ryan, there is some sort of formation going on, of what the definition of that is.
There has only been one Jack Ryan movie since 9/11. Does this Jack Ryan get back into a pre-9/11 type world?
No, I think this is incredibly contemporary. The thing I always liked about [Clancy]… I was thinking about Clear and Present Danger the other day, and that movie felt like it existed in that moment. Pablo Escobar – that’s what it felt like our world was facing at that time, right?
Our world right now faces incredible economic uncertainty. The notion of what is a super power has evolved, and who actually can carry what muscle [has changed]. What is America’s role in the world? All of those things exist in this movie. It feels incredibly contemporary, particularly the economic aspect of it. A lot of the larger, earthquake moves that precipitate this movie have to do with the fact of what is the economic order, and who is trying to take control over it. It’s not a movie about economics, but the effect of what is going on in the world is very drive, and very clear in this movie.
Can you give us a better idea of the story, or tell us why we’re in London?
[Laughs] Our director’s from London. No, um, I think on every movie, you’re always in the wrong city. Unless your story is set in that city. We debated a number of cities, and interestingly enough, Liverpool and London can double for New York and Moscow. [Laughs] I never would have known it. That’s why we’re here.
Seriously, though, the villain of the piece is a man who has great wealth and great power, and would have a building just like this building. The financial district [in London] is very important to our decision to being here. We’re trying to communicate the idea of unrestrained wealth, and the power that comes along with it. That building also looks like the Death Star.
Without divulging too much about the plot, the story is about Jack’s decision-making process to become part of the world with which we are familiar with him. He gets caught up… actually, 9/11 is a direct motivator for him. I think in a way this might be the first post-9/11 spy movie, because it so directly motivates its hero. Jack is a character who reacts to 9/11 be going into the service. What’s fun about that is it allows you to go back into all the back story of what Clancy wrote, and put it into context.
Do you view this story as setting up reboots of The Hunt for Red October or Clear and Present Danger?
I never thought about that, but… it’s a good thought. [Laughs]