The Affleck Effect

Lora Barstad

Ben Affleck plays Jack Ryan, a young CIA operative-cum-advisor to the Department of Defense in The Sum of All Fears, this summer’s latest action movie offering. The role, made famous by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford in previous Tom Clancy-inspired movies, was an exciting challenge for Affleck, a long-time fan of the novels.

“Being asked to be a part of something I really admire was a big deal to me. The Jack Ryan character is really appealing. It’s sort of like getting to play Hamlet,” he said during a conference call last month.

While he says taking over the role from Baldwin and Ford was daunting, he thinks he brings a new dimension to the character.

“I’m lucky in that I take on this character from a very different point than those guys. I get to play Jack Ryan before he had all the answers.”

The film focuses on a misunderstanding between America and Russia over a stolen nuclear warhead. The Americans think the Russians are attacking them, the Russians think the same thing of America, and in the confusion, a neo-Nazi fascist plots to take over the world.

In Clancy’s novel, however, the threat of terror came from Arab countries. The change was made prior to the September 11th attacks. Affleck says the influx of Arab terrorist-themed films in the nineties affected the decision.

“Everybody felt like it was sort of passe, that it had been done before. Of course, that was before everything happened. I think if there were Arab terrorists in this movie, it would raise a lot more questions that the movie wasn’t prepared to answer.”

While Affleck has enjoyed much commercial success with summer blockbuster films like this one, he wants to start working behind the camera. He has a television pilot lined up for fall, along with another season of Project Greenlight, the popular HBO series that follows a screenwriting contest winner through the movie-making process.

“As an actor, you ultimately have very little control over the final product,” he says. With Project Greenlight, the goal wasn’t to do Survivor on a movie set, but to show how the creative process works. “Hopefully it allowed people the perspective to look at movies in a more educated way, to notice what really goes into it.”


The Sum of All Fears is in theaters..