Sir Kenneth Branagh isn’t just squaring off against Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit; he’s also the film’s director. The legendary Shakespearean actor and respected film director opened up to us about adapting Tom Clancy’s cold war hero for the modern age, why Chris Pine is perfect to follow in the footsteps of Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin and why he goes out of his way to work with actors like Tom Hiddleston before they’re big stars. Jack Ryan first appeared on movie screens in 1990’s The Hunt For Red October and since then the character has been played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck.
Though a franchise about a winsome CIA analyst fighting Russian communists might not seem like a natural fit for today’s world, Branagh thinks it’s perfect. Branagh described the tensions between the United States and Russia as “an elemental stand off” and points out that “modern tensions have not gone away.”
More importantly, though, Branagh thinks that people can’t get enough of Jack Ryan. “This character speaks to people in some way that is very intriguing to them,” Branagh explains. “There’s a kind of simplicity to Jack. You know that he’s a modest man…but he has got this brilliant mind.”
Star Trek star Chris Pine seemed like a perfect fit for Jack Ryan because “Chris [Pine] can play that kind of normality, but he happens to look like our kind of movie star.” He not only shares Jack Ryan’s “heroic attributes,” but is also, according to Branagh, “a natural gentleman.”
“I find her an adventurous and ambitious actress,” Branagh said. “She brings this feisty, fiery passionate intelligence to the role. She can play a full-blooded passionate woman.”
Branagh points out that Cathy is more than just a placid love interest in the film. “She could go out and be in a movie on her own where she’s the heroine, you know? Be an action hero herself.”
In addition to his work on stage and screen, Branagh is also something of a star-maker. He cast then unknowns Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston in Thor. He says that the benefit to working with younger actors is that “they’re still very open and prepared to listen.”
Branagh was actually knighted during production of the film, and by “during production,” that is in the middle of an actual shoot day. He shot one scene in the morning at Pinewood Studios, got knighted, and then returned for more work.
“When I came on set, I did show [the cast and crew] the actual award itself and everybody gave a round of applause. After that, I was just plain old Ken as I’d ever been.”
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opens in theaters today.