As far as silver screen secret agents are concerned, there are few fictional spies as iconic as Ian Fleming’s James Bond. While the well-dressed lothario may carry a license to kill, he’s not the only literary sleuth to be turned into a multimillion-dollar movie franchise. With “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’’ now in theaters, here are seven reasons why Tom Clancy’s character is sort of like America’s version of James Bond — sans the suave British accent, of course.
1. Multiple actors have played him
From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, several actors have been cast as 007 during the past five decades. Like the fictional British Secret Service agent, Jack Ryan has also been portrayed by many notable actors. Alec Baldwin first played the character in the 1990 film “The Hunt for Red October’’ before Harrison Ford (pictured) took over for “Patriot Games’’ and “Clear and Present Danger.’’ The franchise was rebooted when Boston’s own Ben Affleck starred as the famed CIA agent in 2002’s “The Sum of All Fears.’’ Chris Pine will be the fourth person to take over the role when “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’’ hits theaters.
2. Lovely leading ladies
Bond girls are as much of a staple in the 007 franchise as guns, gadgets and vodka martinis (shaken, not stirred). But not all spies are lady killers like Mr. Bond. While Jack Ryan is more of a one woman kind of spy, plenty of actresses have played his serious love interest, Caroline “Cathy’’ Ryan, through the years. Gates McFadden, of “Star Trek: The Next Generation’’ fame, played Ryan’s wife opposite Alec Baldwin in the first film before Anne Archer was cast in the series’ following two sequels. The role of Cathy was played by Bridget Moynahan in the franchise’s first reboot, “The Sum of All Fears,’’ while Keira Knightley (pictured) will take over duties in the latest installment.
3. Created by a legendary writer
Behind every great literary character is a great writer, and Jack Ryan is no different. The CIA agent was created by acclaimed author Tom Clancy (pictured) in 1984, first appearing in the novel “The Hunt for Red October.’’ Much like James Bond, who was created by Ian Fleming in 1953, Ryan has appeared in numerous books and spinoff series. In addition to his numerous film adaptations, Clancy’s written works have also generated many popular video games as well, including the “Ghost Reacon,’’ “Rainbow Six,’’ and “Splinter Cell’’ series. Unfortunately, the man behind these spy thrillers died last October at the age of 66.
4. He’s got (some) style too
In a battle between which spy has the better wardrobe, James Bond and his Tom Ford suits win by a landslide. While Jack Ryan may be more of the working man’s secret agent, that doesn’t mean he’s completely clueless when it comes to men’s fashion. Alec Baldwin’s incarnation of the character looked pretty daper wearing an officer’s uniform, while Ben Affleck’s (pictured) take on the character sported a stylish tuxedo in 2002’s “The Sum of All Fears.’’ And, judging by the trailer, Pine’s version of the CIA operative seems to be more “Skyfall’’ inspired than “Patriot Games’’ when it comes to Ryan’s look in the upcoming reboot. Who said Americans are bad dressers?
5. Awesome rides
He may not be riding around in an Aston Martin outfitted with ejector seats like 007, but Jack Ryan has some pretty sweet rides as well. Whether its sailing the ocean in a giant submarine or riding around in your standard CIA assortment of helicopters, motorcycles, and other stereotypical action movie vehicles, Tom Clancy’s character has a pretty stacked line-up of rides. Too bad they don’t come with all of James Bond’s gadgets though.
6. Memorable foreign baddies
In the world of international espionage, you’re bound to make at least a few enemies. Like James Bond, Ryan has his own cadre of foreign villains, ranging from Cold War era Soviet communists to enraged Colombian drug cartels. Director Kenneth Branagh (center) will pull double duties in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’’ as he will also star as the film’s main antagonist, Viktor Cherevin, a maniacal Russian businessman plotting to cripple the world economy. That plan sounds a lot more realistic, unlike your typical Bond villain, who usually tries to dominate the globe via giant laser beam or through a game of Texas Hold’em.
7. Sean Connery?
Interestingly, one of the most famous Bonds in the history of the franchise was also featured in the first Jack Ryan film. Sean Connery played Marko Ramius, a Soviet submarine captain looking to defect to the United States, in “The Hunt For Red October.’’ While he wasn’t the flick’s CIA trained hero, Connery had a pretty big role and showed he has the chops to play more than just your debonaire spy. Now if only he’d learn how to play Jeopardy…