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Tom Clancy dies: Author's Jack Ryan was Hollywood favorite

October 02, 2013|By Amy Kaufman

Tom Clancy, the military novelist who died Tuesday, was such a prolific author that one would imagine Hollywood was eager to adapt the majority of his many books into films. Particularly because on the few occasions Clancy's novels were turned into movies, both the commercial and critical response was pretty strong.

And yet the release of Paramount Pictures' Chris Pine-led "Jack Ryan: Shadow One" this Christmas will mark only the fifth time one of the author's books has gotten the big screen treatment (as well as the fifth time a Ryan movie will come to the screen).

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All of the previous four films centered on the fast-rising CIA officer and the various global threats he helped fend off involving nuclear weaponry, drug-smuggling conspiracies and assorted forms of villainy, often depicting in some detail the military technology Clancy was famous for.

The first movie in that series is arguably the author's best-known adaptation -- 1990's "The Hunt for Red October," based on Clancy's first published work. The film starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin was a blockbuster, grossing over $200 million worldwide and even winning an Oscar for its sound effects. (Baldwin, the first actor to ever portray Jack Ryan, tweeted early Wednesday that Clancy was a "real gentleman of the old school.")

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Harrison Ford would go on to take over the role in 1992's "Patriot Games" and 1994's "Clear and Present Danger," each of which also did massive business. It was nearly a decade before Jack Ryan turned up at the multiplex again -- this time, played by Ben Affleck in 2002's "The Sum of All Fears," the least well-reviewed of any of Clancy's adaptations, but no less popular with moviegoers.

Despite these successful collaborations with the movie business, Clancy was openly hesitant about about the film industry. "Giving your book to Hollywood is like turning your daughter over to a pimp," went one of his more famous quotes. Clancy disliked the slow pace at which movies were made, questioning why it took so long for screenwriters to pen a 120-page script when he could churn out a 1,200-page manuscript in five months.

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"We all know that time is money," he told The Times in a 1995 interview. "Well, by God, time really is money in Hollywood, and yet the Hollywood process wastes a colossal amount of time unnecessarily."

Clancy also frequently sparred with Paramount, which released all of his Jack Ryan movies. He was not allowed to weigh in creatively on his first three movie adaptations and nearly took the franchise to another studio before Paramount made him a full partner on the series.


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