Movie Talk

'Patriot Games' Author and Hollywood Go-To Thriller Writer Tom Clancy Dies at 66

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Tom Clancy (Getty Images)

Tom Clancy, who died Tuesday at age 66, probably would want to get straight to the point: He wrote best-sellers that Hollywood made into box-office hits.

"The Hunt for Red October," "Patriot Games," "Clear and Present Danger," and "The Sum of All Fears" were all based on Clancy's Jack Ryan thrillers. Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck each took turns as the author's signature hero. The Advocate once called Clancy "a filmmaker's fantasy."

The novels, as the movies, were driven by technology, military strategy, and plots that took off, much like the Soviet-era submarine at the center of his breakout debut, "The Hunt for Red October," published in 1984 and endorsed by then-President Ronald Reagan.

From "Red October" forward, there were thrillers and there were Clancy-style thrillers. And audiences knew exactly what to expect of the latter.

Though called a Cold War storyteller, Clancy's stories survived the Soviet Union; all of the Jack Ryan movies were released after the fall of the Berlin Wall. One, "The Sum of All Fears," seemed ripped from the headlines when the terror-attack tale was released less than a year after 9/11.

The four Clancy movies each opened No. 1 at the box office. Together, they grossed nearly $500 million domestically.

[RELATED: Tom Clancy's Secret "Magnum, P.I." Connection]

Baldwin, who starred as Ryan alongside Sean Connery's Soviet sub commander in 1990's "Red October," was among the first Hollywood stars to pay tribute to the late author today.

When Baldwin fell out of the franchise, Ford stepped into 1992's "Patriot Games," a movie Clancy tried to disown in a dispute over the script, and 1994's "Clear and Present Danger." Affleck took on the role in 2002's "Sum of All Fears."

In all those movies, Jack Ryan was a CIA agent. (Clancy's backround was in insurance.) In other Clancy novels not adapted by Hollywood, the straight-arrow character ascended to the presidency.

Jack Ryan will next be seen in "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," due out on Christmas, and starring Chris Pine. (Yahoo Movies will have the trailer premiere Thursday at 4:30 p.m. PT.) The movie is the first Jack Ryan adventure not based on a Clancy book. But the character, like the Clancy-style thriller, lives on.

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