N E W Y O R K, May 28, 2002 -- In The Sum of All Fears, a film based on Tom Clancy's best-selling book, Ben Affleck plays CIA hero Jack Ryan. In the film, which was shot before Sept. 11, his character tries to stop the world's superpowers from bringing on the nuclear destruction of the human race. Affleck talked about the film and the controversy surrounding it in an interview with ABCNEWS' Diane Sawyer.
The following in an uncorrected, unedited transcript of the interview as it aired on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.
ABCNEWS' DIANE SAWYER:
There's a new political thriller about to charge into the theaters.It is called The Sum of All Fears, and it's based on that Tom Clancybest-seller. In it, neo-Nazis have their hands on nuclear weaponsand are trying to trick the superpowers into all-out nucleardestruction. Affleck plays CIA hero Jack Ryan who knowsthe truth and is begging his superiors to listen. (Clip from The Sum of All Fears)
SAWYER:It is a movie that already has everybody talking. Ben Affleck joinsus now. How are you?
AFFLECK:Good. How are you doing?
SAWYER:What'd you do on Memorial Day?
AFFLECK:I actually spent Memorial Day in Canada doing interviews andpromoting the movie, since it wasn't a holiday there.
SAWYER:That's cheerless, isn't it? Doing interviews with people like me.
AFFLECK:Exactly. Exactly, it wasn't …
SAWYER:Well, what a sensation this movie is already causing. As we know, anumber of people — it was made before Sept. 11.
AFFLECK:Yeah. It was made, we shot it last year, last winter.
SAWYER:And yet a lot of people are saying, 'Is there such a thing' — nuclearweapons, somebody desperately trying to get people to heed what'sgoing on here. Is there such a thing as too real, too scary, tooclose to the bone?
AFFLECK:Yeah, I know. It's and I don't know what the answer is tothat question, really. I mean, I know that, you know, we shot themovie and wanted to make a kind of smart, adult, political thrillerand we made it last year. And, you know, at the time, it was justthat, an escapist, political thriller. And then the whole, sort of,world changed, and the movie now has turned into a drama, you know,in a weird way without us having changed anything.
SAWYER:There's even a warning that says "Disaster Images" which I don'trecall having seen before in a film. A warning for children.
AFFLECK:No. Yeah, and I think it's a reflection of the fact that, youknow, recognizing that people may be, some people may be,really sensitive to these kinds of things.
SAWYER:But we have been reading that the White House, at least on sourcedbasis, is saying that this really could alarm people too much and youcould whet the appetite somehow of terrorists.
AFFLECK:Yeah, that, to me, I think is probably not true. I mean, first ofall, it's on these, like, tabloid Internet sites which, I think ifthe White House really wanted to say something, they probably wouldfind a way to do it other than, like, The Drudge Report, or something. And secondarily, you know, the White House has known about themovie and been aware of it for a long time. We did a screening in Washington last week with, you know, a bunch of senators and military folks and intelligence folks. And if they were really concerned about it, I think they would have addressed some of that. And also,it seems that the White House has been, you know, as interested in raising awareness as anybody, with the many warnings from Bushadministration officials, including Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney about, you know, the inevitability of future attacksand being on guard and that sort of thing.
SAWYER:So no ambivalence on your part?
AFFLECK:No, I don't have any ambivalence in terms of the fact that, you know,we did it. The movie is told tastefully, it's not sensationalism forthe sake of, you know, titillation, showing disaster for`oohs and aahs' from the audience. And this is not new, you know,"Black Sunday" dealt with this subject. The book has been outthere for 11 years. There's another Tom Clancy book about somebody,you know, flying an airplane into the capitol. I mean, so, and Idon't think anybody imagines that that was the source of, youknow the inspiration for this previous terrorist act.It's just a reflection of a really different world that we livein now, you know?
SAWYER:I know you have said, on a lighter note, that growing up in Boston,to play Jack Ryan was like playing Hamlet.
SAWYER:And respectfully, you were respectfully wary of trying to followHarrison Ford's foot-steps. But you're playing a very, a young andmuch more naive kind of Jack Clancy.
AFFLECK:Yeah. This, you know, this version of it, you know, Alec andHarrison played this part and did it expertly and I have nothingbut, you know, admiration for those guys and didn't really imaginethat I could follow them. And the way that I kind of felt good aboutdoing this was that they were sort of starting at thebeginning, that he was going to be kind of, you know, less capable,new on the job, still trying to figure things out. You know, onlydating this woman who, we know from the other movies, he'll end upmarrying, but still in that stage in his life where he's trying tojuggle his romantic life and his career. And a little eager,sometimes saying the wrong thing. And it sort of gave us somewhereto go, you know what I mean? For the character. But nonetheless, itwas scary and I didn't want to be the guy who ruined a franchiseof movies that I really loved growing up, you know?
SAWYER:And you speak Ukrainian? It's Ukrainian you're speaking, really?
AFFLECK:Apparently, there's a difference between Ukrainian andRussian, yes. And although it's--they sort of sound similar, I speaksome Russian and some Ukrainian in the movie, which was probably themost challenging thing for me.
SAWYER:It is alleged you can say, 'Put down the gun so nobody gets hurt.'
AFFLECK:(Foreign language spoken) What do you think?
SAWYER:Can you prove it, here?
AFFLECK:The Russian audience is cringing somewhere.
SAWYER:I was going to say, anybody out there
AFFLECK:Six Russians go, (Spoken with Russian accent) 'Well, that's terribleRussian.'
SAWYER:Yeah, somebody saying, 'Vanya dides,' or whatever he says there. OK,can you say …
AFFLECK:I can only say that and "take off your boots."
SAWYER:Is that — that's it.
SAWYER:"Take off your boots?"
AFFLECK:(Foreign language spoken) There you go. Because I figure that's allyou need to know to get by in the Ukraine, you know?
SAWYER:Yeah. I think so, that …
AFFLECK:Just people just to put their guns down and take their boots off.And other than that, everything's going to be just fine.
Yeah, I think you're ready for diplomacy, myself.
AFFLECK:Exactly. I know there's no danger of me being asked to translatefor the UN, I don't think.
SAWYER:All right. We only have a few seconds, but I want to roll a pictureof you, because we only have a picture I'm going to show everybody ofyou when you were eight-years-old, I believe, and I want to leaveeverybody with. This is your life. Can we see you there?
SAWYER:Yes. There you were, about to begin your life in show biz. (Commercial break)