Uncovered Tom Clancy Notes Shed Light on the Untold Origin of Jack Ryan

August 31, 2018 4:32 PM
All the actors who have portrayed the Tom Clancy character, Jack Ryan. Left: John Krasinski in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan; Right from Top to Bottom: Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October, Harrison Ford in Clear and Present Danger, Ben Affleck in The Sum of all Fears, Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

In Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, the new Amazon streaming series released today, actor John Krasinski adds a dash of James Bond to the CIA’s best-known number-cruncher.

Since the 1984 publication, The Hunt for Red October the character of Jack Ryan has evolved from a cable-knit sweater wearing naval strategist — complete with copies of Proceedings on his coffee table — to a body armor wearing, bruised and scarred operations officer with a pistol at the ready.

Based on a character sketch recently uncovered by U.S Naval Institute, elements of author Tom Clancy’s original vision for the character have surfaced in various Jack Ryan depictions – Krasinski is the fifth actor to play the character – but so far no version has quite captured what Clancy had in mind when he set out to write his technological thrillers.

According to Clancy’s original character sketch found by the Naval Institute, Ryan was born in the 1950s, is the son of a Baltimore police officer and hospital nurse. He attended Clancy’s alma mater the Jesuit Loyola High School (now Loyola Blakefield High School) in the Baltimore suburb Towson, Md. After earning an economics degree from Boston College, Jack Ryan joined the Marine Corps, commissioned as a 2nd Lt., and hurts his back in a serious helicopter crash during a NATO exercise in Crete.

Discharged from the Marines because of the injury, Clancy saw Ryan as using his economics degree and number crunching skills to secure a job at the Baltimore office of broker Merrill Lynch. His parents die in a plane explosion, leaving Jack Ryan a sizable insurance settlement – which coupled with his brokerage work, explains how a CIA analyst can afford a multi-million dollar home overlooking the Chesapeake Bay outside of Annapolis, Md.

Clancy envisioned Ryan meeting his future wife Cathy thanks to a chance encounter with her father, a senior partner at Merrill Lynch. He rebuffs an offer to move to New York, to stay close to Cathy who is in medical school, and instead earns a Ph.D. from Georgetown University. While working as an associate editor with the U.S. Naval Institute, lecturing at the Naval Academy and Naval War College, Jack Ryan’s gets pulled into the world of CIA analysis.

In the new series, Ryan has morphed from an agent trained to face Cold War adversaries to one combating transnational terrorist organizations in the Middle East. The message: Krasinski isn’t playing your dad’s Jack Ryan. He’s tall, fit, and has a crack shot to go with his with an analyst’s acumen.

In comparison, the first on-screen depiction of Ryan in 1990’s The Hunt for Red October, is confident with his analysis, but awkward around high-ranking officials and uncomfortable when he has to sling a sidearm aboard the Soviet boomer in the film’s climax.

Alec Baldwin’s Ryan already is a CIA analyst and a U.S. Naval Academy graduate. There’s no mention of working in finance, and his wife sounds British – something Tom Clancy reportedly disagreed with, according to a Vanity Fair article from just before the 2014 theatrical release of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

In the movie, Adm. Painter, played by Fred Thompson, explains, “Summer of his third year, he went down in a chopper accident. Bad. Pilot and crew killed. That kid spent months in traction and another year learning to walk again. He did his fourth year. from the hospital.”

The latest Ryan has pulled more from Clancy’s original vision. Jack Ryan is now a Boston College graduate, served in the Marine Corps much closer to harm’s way, as depicted by flashbacks and finally has a past working numbers on Wall Street.

The new Jack Ryan is still an analyst, but doesn’t shy from taking action. He makes a name for himself inside the CIA by tracking the suspicious transnational money transactions of a suspected terrorist.

“How come you’re the only one who knows about this mystery man?” asks his superior James Greer (played by Wendell Pierce),

“I was just following the money sir,” Jack Ryan (Krasinski) answers.

In comparison, 28 years ago, Jack Ryan made a name for himself because he once ate supper with Red October’s commander Marko Ramius and got lucky when he guessed one the captain’s maneuvers. He’s right but still apologizes for his hunch.

“How did you know that his next turn would be to starboard?” asked Capt. Bart Mancuso, (played by Scott Glenn).
“I didn’t. I had a 50/50 chance. I needed a break, Baldwin’s Ryan replied.

Ben Werner

Ben Werner

Ben Werner is a staff writer for USNI News. He has worked as a freelance writer in Busan, South Korea, and as a staff writer covering education and publicly traded companies for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., Savannah Morning News in Savannah, Ga., and Baltimore Business Journal. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree from New York University.

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