Way back in 1991, when Tom Clancy wrote this installment of the Jack Ryan series, the concept of Arab terrorists wreaking havoc in the U.S. was frightening enough. As the years passed, however, the idea became too frightening. So No. 1 on ”The Sum of All Fears”’ agenda was fashioning a new villain to orchestrate an attack on the Super Bowl. ”Who would use a nuclear weapon to try to start a war between Russia and the United States?” says producer Mace Neufeld. ”When Harrison [Ford] was going to do it, we had changed them to vaguely defined Yugoslavians. Now it’s a neo-Nazi Austrian billionaire.” Logically.
But Ford, who played Ryan in ”Patriot Games” and ”Clear and Present Danger,” soon begged off. ”His issue was that we started [Ryan] as the head of the CIA — that’s an executive job,” says Neufeld, explaining that in this go-round, Ryan is dispatched to aid the former Soviet Union and later uncovers the evil plot. ”He wouldn’t be in the field — it would be stretching reality.”
Neufeld and Paramount chief Sherry Lansing then recruited 29-year-old Affleck, which necessitated a script overhaul, demoting Ryan to CIA analyst. ”The idea that was appealing to me was to do a ‘Batman: Year One’ kind of thing,” says Affleck, ”to explore the origin.” Before shooting, Affleck made a pilgrimage to Clancy’s Maryland home, where he uncovered a most fascinating bit of intelligence: ”He’s got a tank on his lawn!”