Tom Clancy Thought Harrison Ford Was Always A Little Too Old For Jack Ryan

Who's your favorite Jack Ryan? For author Tom Clancy, who created the Ryanverse and wrote or co-wrote 17 novels set within it, it wasn't Harrison Ford.

The Jack Ryan role has changed hands five times onscreen; Alec Baldwin first played the character in "The Hunt for Red October" in 1990, before Ford took over and delivered the one-two punch of "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger" in 1992 and 1994. After Ford vacated the role, a succession of younger actors — Ben Affleck, Chris Pine, and John Krasinski — would appear as the titular CIA analyst in the movies "The Sum of All Fears" and "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," as well as the Prime Video series "Jack Ryan."

It seems "younger" was what Clancy always had in mind. According to Indiewire, Ford was director John McTiernan's first choice to play Jack Ryan in "The Hunt for Red October." However, in a 2002 interview with film critic Roger Ebert — ten years after he first portrayed Jack Ryan — Ford himself indicated that Clancy always envisioned someone "younger and cuter" in the role.

Ford was just shy of his 50th birthday when "Patriot Games" hit theaters, whereas Affleck was a spry 29 when "The Sum of All Fears" attempted to reboot the Jack Ryan franchise in 2002. By then, Ford had transferred to a Soviet submarine. Not the Red October, but "K-19: The Widowmaker," in which Ford starred.

"If you ask Tom Clancy," Ford told Ebert, "and I'm not suggesting that you do ... I was always too old for the role. So finally he has his way. I'm happy for everybody's success with the film."

'I didn't want to engage, and so I passed on it'

The Daily Variety in 1991 (via the AFI Catalog) reported that Harrison Ford originally signed a three-picture deal to play Jack Ryan. Ford was involved in "The Sum of All Fears" during its early development, but by 2000, he had dropped out of the project, with sources like IGN citing script problems as a motivating factor.

Ford told Roger Ebert, "I was presented with a situation in which I didn't want to engage, and so I passed on it." He said he had to choose between "The Sum of All Fears" and "K-19: The Widowmaker" and "it would have been one or the other."

The rest is bargain-bin DVD history. Tom Clancy died in 2013, so he wouldn't live to see the Prime Video era of Jack Ryan. In addition to the "Jack Ryan" series starring John Krasinski, Clancy's Ryanverse novel, "Without Remorse," also made it to the screen in 2021 with Michael B. Jordan in the starring role of John Clark (a character who worked for Jack Ryan in the novels). While the "Jack Ryan" series is scheduled to end its Prime Video run after its upcoming fourth season, a spin-off led by Michael Peña is in consideration.

With the way Hollywood likes to reboot things, it's possible viewers haven't seen the last of Jack Ryan onscreen. When all else fails, fans of the middle-aged Jack Ryan, played by Harrison Ford, will always have "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger."