Who is Jack Ryan? On screen, as played by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford, he’s a CIA analyst, a professor at the Naval Academy, a British Royal lifesaver, and a family man. Offscreen, he’s a bit more than that. Mix an action hero with a genius politician, add in stories about assassinations, a D.C. terrorist attack, and chemical warfare, and you’ll have a rough approximation of the life Ryan has led in the works of late author Tom Clancy.
At this point, it’s hard to call Hollywood’s Jack Ryan output modest — there have already been four movies based on Clancy’s famed character, with a fifth one, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, out today. However, if you take into account the source material, the movie series could almost be considered humble. A quick scan of the Ryan novels — 14 in all, including five that follow Ryan’s son, Jack Jr. — reveal plenty of crazy story avenues filmmakers have yet to explore. That’s not to say they will explore them, though. Of the four plot points we listed below, three will almost certainly never come to fruition onscreen, at least in regards to the Chris Pine reboot, whose incarnation of Ryan is more Jason Bourne than politician, and strays away from Clancy’s original stories. Is it too late to ask Harrison Ford to come back to the role? (Book spoilers follow.)
A Plot to Assassinate the Pope
From the 2002 novel Red Rabbit — which, chronologically, takes place after Patriot Games but before The Hunt for Red October — this story focuses on a 1982 KGB plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II. What has the Papacy done to piss off the Russkis? It has privately thrown its support behind Solidarity, the independent (and decidedly anti-Communist) Polish labor union. The pope’s challenge: Either his native Poland must stop persecuting its people, or he will resign from office. Since a resignation caused by Communist labor practices would not look good for Russia, they decide to kill the pope before he even has a chance to consider the option. Luckily, Jack Ryan is there to save the day. Fresh from protecting the prince and princess of Wales (as well as his entire family) from a group of Irish terrorists, he receives intel that the Kremlin is planning on harming the leader of the Catholic Church. However, since America’s leaders aren’t convinced that the Russians would stoop that low, he is forced to take matters into his own hands.
Jack Ryan Becomes President
Honestly, we could have made this entire feature about Clancy’s Debt of Honor, a book with enough harebrained subplots to fuel a full season of Homeland. Here’s what happens: When failed trade negotiations threaten to cripple the Japanese economy, Japan takes military action against the United States — this includes taking out two submarines, engineering the collapse of the U.S. stock market, and assassinating the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Thanks to the work of Ryan, the U.S. is able to rescue the country’s economy and eventually negotiate a truce with Japan. While this is going on, the vice president has been forced to resign after being accused of drugging and raping a member of his staff. Therefore, the president nominates Jack Ryan as vice president. Unfortunately, right after being sworn in, a Japanese airline pilot, upset over the deaths of his brother and son during the U.S.-Japan standoff, decides to fly his jumbo jet right into the Capitol during a joint session of Congress. The attack wipes out the president, the supreme court, the joint chiefs, and a majority of senators and congressmen, thus leaving Jack Ryan as president.
Iraq and Iran Form Union, Send Ebola Virus to United States
In 1996, Clancy published Executive Orders, which takes place right after the events of Debt of Honor. The book begins with newly elected President Jack Ryan, who now has to deal with a U.S. Government possibly on its last legs. With no members of congress or the supreme court to assist him, Ryan, like some geopolitical Judge Dredd, is forced to represent America by himself. While this is going on, Iran decides to take over Iraq, creating a new country called the United Islamic Republic. With their eyes set on conquering the world, supervillain-style, the UIR (with help from India and China) attacks Saudi Arabia and releases a very deadly strain of the Ebola virus. This causes President Ryan to enforce martial law to prevent it from spreading. Insane subplot bonus: The UIR tries but fails to kidnap the president’s daughter and a Secret Service sleeper agent attempts to kill the president. It’s too bad this story was never adapted on screen. Imagine what Alec Baldwin would have done with a character that works in the Oval Office?
China Tries to Kill Russia’s President, U.S. and Russia Attack China
Tom Clancy really had a bone to pick with the Russians, huh? In The Bear and the Dragon, President Jack Ryan is forced to contend with a Chinese plot to invade Siberia for its oil fields, as well as kill Russian president Eduard Petrovich Grushavoy. But President Jack Ryan’s got the jump on all of them. First step: He gets Russia admitted to NATO. Second step: He enlists American forces to help Russia destroy China’s military. Third step: He broadcasts the entire war on CNN, thereby countering China’s propaganda on the attacks. This causes Chinese citizens to overthrow their Communist leaders and transition to a democracy. Seriously, why were there no Jack Ryan mentions in Team America?