everyone remembers the five jack ryan films.
what's that? you say there's only four jack ryan films? john mctiernan's the hunt for red october (1990), starring alec baldwin; phillip noyce's patriot games (1992) and clear and present danger (1994), both starring harrison ford; and phil alden robinson's the sum of all fears (2002), starring ben affleck? and that the fifth film, kenneth branagh's jack ryan (2013), starring chris pine, comes out this christmas? well, yes, that's true. and i'd expect you'd think that's all the jack ryan films that were ever made.
this is because the real fifth jack ryan film was never released to the public.
in 2008, paramount pictures shot a jack ryan film entitled by any means necessary. it was not based on any tom clancy book, but was rather an original story adapted from an unrelated spec script. the film was directed by sam raimi and starred ryan gosling as jack ryan. the script was a little unconventional for a franchise of political thrillers, but it had been previously greenlit during the wga writers' strike of 2007-2008, when the studios were moving forward with just about anything that resembled a complete story, and they were banking on raimi's recent mainstream success with the spider-man franchise to shepherd the questionable material into a crowd-pleaser.
but everything changed at a fateful private screening of the film that took place in early 2009. in attendance were raimi and a handful of paramount executives. what they saw was a rough assembly of undoctored film with temp sound, missing only bits and pieces of incidental second-unit photography and effects shots. and they knew going in that this would not exactly be traditional popcorn summer fare. but skimming script pages and poster mockups over lunch at jerry's is one thing, and seeing an idea birthed as reality through the magic portal of cinema is quite another. by the time the temp credits rolled on that screening, in one of those haunted rooms on the paramount lot on a dark monday morning, the only emotion gripping those men was panic.
in the room, the decision was made to immediately halt production and kill the project, regardless of how close it was to completion. the cast and crew would receive payment in full for services rendered and be made to sign non-disclosure agreements prohibiting any discussion of the film. exact details are difficult to pin down, but it can be confirmed that chairman and ceo of paramount brad grey was heard to remark "this fucking shit can never see the light of day."
so what was wrong with this movie? what could those executives have possibly seen at that screening that would justify a nearly $60 million loss?
apparently, the film's content was so offensive, paramount feared that it would be banned from entire theatre chains, that tom clancy would straight up sue them into oblivion, and that audiences would demand no less than the resignation of every paper pusher involved, starting with grey himself. it was also a foregone conclusion that the careers of raimi, gosling, et al. would be crippled forever. the objectionable material was so ingrained in the film that no amount of reshoots could save it. grey refused to let anyone out of the screening room unless they looked him in the eye and vowed never to speak of the film again.
in the film, the character of jack ryan is a young ex-marine, collecting disability checks from the government after a botched back surgery left him with chronic pain following a helicopter crash. he's working as a stockbroker with merrill lynch in new york when he learns that a local mobster may have inside information about a pending terrorist attack.
without the involvement of a single government or lawkeeping entity, ryan privately decides to befriend the mobster in an effort to acquire intel that may prevent the attack. the mobster turns out to be a collector of nazi antiques, and in an effort to gain his trust, ryan submits himself to the world of underground nazi culture. he starts out small, building a private collection of nazi paraphernalia that he can use as a way of bonding with the socialist mob figurehead. but as he becomes addicted to his back pain medication, the parameters of his reality start to blur and he begins to question his own beliefs in the teachings of adolf hitler.
by the third act, ryan has grown a hitler mustache, tattooed himself with nazi symbology, and is just working out all the time, practically doubling in size. he finally snaps and tortures the possible terrorist info out of the neo-nazi mobster, whom he then executes for being "unworthy of the cause." what follows is a corpse desecration sequence that horrified all in attendance and defied all basic narrative justification.
this undercover nazi plotline engulfs the film, and stopping the terrorist attack is almost an afterthought, filling 15 minutes of screentime max.
the borderline nazi propaganda of the film's main character arc was hardly its only problem, as certain plot points also made it impossible for the film to serve as the franchise reboot paramount wanted, such as ryan's violent breakup with future wife caroline muller, and the child he sires with the mobster's teenage daughter nikki, whom he simultaneously corrupts with drugs and hate rhetoric. to say nothing of the fact that the film downright challenges non-racist audiences to find a single redeeming quality in jack ryan, now basically a drug-addicted nazi-sympathizing bisexual necrophiliac statutory rapist psychotic vigilante murderer.
raimi was understandably disappointed in the film's annulment. in his private moments, he would lament that audiences would never see his sincere effort to explore the psychological strain of a man living a double life, but that perhaps he should not have explored such weighty issues in the sandbox of a prominent studio's beloved blockbuster franchise. if the character's name had not been jack ryan, he might have been putting his autograph on movie posters instead of legal documents.
all that exists of the film today is that rough assembly and an aborted press package, deep within a vault at paramount pictures where they keep all their other unseen skeletons, such as the lost bing crosby/bob hope road comedy about the trail of tears, the unauthorized shot-for-shot remake of warner bros.'s casablanca, and the fleischer studios cartoon where betty boop sleeps with popeye.