Exclusive: Courtney B. Vance on The Hunt for Red October 30th anniversary
Courtney B. Vance has led an incredible career from his debut in the 1987 war drama Hamburger Hill to the Oscar-winning fantasy dramedy The Preacher’s Wife and his Emmy-winning turn in the FX true crime epic The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. This year marks the 30th anniversary of his first major studio effort, The Hunt for Red October, and while discussing his upcoming Netflix drama Uncorked, ComingSoon.net got the chance to chat with the star about the Oscar-winning spy thriller.
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When looking back at the Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin-led thriller, Vance laughs as he mentions that people come up to him “quite often” and shout the iconic lines “Crazy Ivan” and “Pavarotti” and that the film was very “impactful” for him, but that there was a struggle in getting on the role.
“It was very impactful for me because that was my first big film and it was my first big studio film, and I read the book and I really, really wanted to play that character and it was very challenging for me to get in because I was in a play at the Public Theater and had to go to battle and go to bat with the union on both coasts because the general manager at the Public at the time didn’t want to let me out,” Vance described. “So it got ugly, but eventually, when I did get the role and it came up, they refused to let me go, and so it was ugly for me a minute, but ultimately, they did let me go do it. At the beginning, at the outset of it, it was very stressful. But once I got it, Sam Neill and James Earl and Alec Baldwin, it was just a great, great group, and I had a wonderful time. It was a very impactful life moment for me.”
In developing his performance as Sonar Technician Submarines Second Class Ronald Jones, Vance found he didn’t have to model it on any one person, as the character was a “very unique gentlemen” which made it easy to find his own take for the role.
“You know, everything I start with myself and just begin to build it with the director,” Vance said. “I mean, Rogers was on the case because he was kind of a showy fellow. In the context of the submarine, Navy life, he came out with glasses. But he was somebody that was very passionate about what he did, and being the ears and the eyes of the ship, it’s very wonderful to have somebody colorful in that position. I’m sure in that world, the radar/sonar person tends to be probably colorful like that because a ship relies so on his or her ears.”
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Based on the 1984 Tom Clancy novel of the same name, the film is set in the late Cold War era and follows rogue Soviet naval captain Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius (Connery) as he sails his submarine, an advanced nuclear missile sub, towards the United States in an effort to defect. CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Baldwin) deduces this motive, despite his superiors believing it to be an act of war, and must board the submarine and prove the truth before the situation spirals out of control.
In addition to Connery, Baldwin and Vance, the ensemble cast also includes Scott Glenn (Castle Rock), Sam Neill (Jurassic Park), James Earl Jones (The Lion King), Jeffrey Jones (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and Stellan Skarsgård (Dune).
The Hunt for Red October was a smash upon release, grossing over $200 million on a $30 million budget and scoring rave reviews from critics for its cat-and-mouse game of espionage and the performances from its cast and went on to be nominated for three Oscars, winning for Best Sound Effects Editing.
Uncorked premieres on Netflix on Friday!