11 Surprising Facts About In the Line of Fire

Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

In 1993, after more than a decade of moving from the hands of one producer to another, Jeff Maguire’s script for In the Line of Fire finally made its way to the big screen. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, the film starred John Malkovich, Renee Russo, and Clint Eastwood as a longtime Secret Service agent still harboring guilt about not being able to protect JFK—and ready to make sure another presidential assassination doesn’t happen on his watch. The cat-and-mouse game ended up earning more than $100 million at the box office, making it the seventh highest grossing film of the year. To celebrate the political thriller’s 25th anniversary, here are 11 things you might not have known about In the Line of Fire.

1. THE SCRIPT MADE THE ROUNDS.

Columbia Pictures

Jeff Maguire wrote the script for In the Line of Fire more than 10 years before it would ever hit the big screen—and his lack of success getting a script produced in the interim had put him and his wife in a precarious financial situation. With mounting credit card bills, overdue rent, and a phone that was about to be disconnected, Maguire and his wife were just getting ready to give up on Los Angeles and move toward a quieter life in New Hampshire when he got a call that Rob Reiner’s Castle Rock Entertainment had purchased the script for a cool $1 million.

“That day we traded in a blouse I got my wife for her birthday so we could go out and celebrate," Maguire told The New York Times of how the couple found the cash to celebrate his success. The hard work—and waiting—paid off: Less than a year after almost giving up on the Hollywood dream, Maguire earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

2. THE IDEA WAS PARTLY INSPIRED BY A MEETING WITH LYNDON B. JOHNSON.

The idea to write a script about a Secret Service agent was suggested to Maguire by producer Jeff Apple, who had long dreamed of making a political thriller when, as a child, he had the chance to meet Lyndon B. Johnson but was equally impressed by the security detail that surrounded the then-Vice President.

3. AT ONE POINT, ROBERT REDFORD WAS ATTACHED TO STAR.

Though Clint Eastwood will forever be associated with the role of ultra-dedicated Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan, he was hardly the first choice for the role. As the script made its way around Hollywood over the years, a number of other actors were either attached to or offered the project, including Robert Redford. Dustin Hoffman, Sean Connery, James Caan, Tommy Lee Jones, and Val Kilmer were among the other names wanted for the role of Horrigan.

4. ONE STUDIO WANTED IT TO BE REWRITTEN FOR TOM CRUISE.

Though Maguire was anxious to get the script sold, he had a very clear vision for the story and wasn’t willing to compromise on certain points—even if it meant passing up a big payday. When the higher-ups at Imagine, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s company, expressed interest in purchasing the script if Maguire would rewrite the lead so that a younger actor like Tom Cruise, who was in his late 20s at the time, could play it, the struggling scribe flat-out refused. Making the character younger would mean that he’d have to toss out the JFK subplot, which was a deal-breaker for Maguire.

5. ROBERT DE NIRO WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR THE ROLE OF MITCH LEARY.

John Malkovich turned in a creepy and memorable performance as Mitch Leary, In the Line of Fire’s would-be presidential assassin. But like Eastwood, Malkovich wasn’t the filmmakers’ first choice for the role. That honor belonged to Robert De Niro, who eventually had to pass on the project due to scheduling conflicts with A Bronx Tale. Jack Nicholson and Robert Duvall were also reportedly in contention for the part.

6. FRANK HORRIGAN WAS INSPIRED BY ONE OF JFK’S SECRET SERVICE AGENTS.

Though the movie is a work of fiction, main character Frank Horrigan was partly inspired by Clint Hill, one of John F. Kennedy’s Secret Service agents who was on duty the day the 35th president was assassinated in Dallas. In 1975, Hill sat down for an emotional interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, where he broke down and admitted that he felt responsible for what had happened that terrible day.

“I still feel today a sense of failure and responsibility because that was our job: to keep the president safe, to protect him at all costs,” Hill said. “And on that particular day, we were unable to do that.” Much of Horrigan’s desire to right that wrong came from Hill’s interview.

7. THE SECRET SERVICE OFFERED THEIR FULL COOPERATION—WHICH WAS A FIRST FOR THE AGENCY.

In the Line of Fire holds the distinction of being the first movie that received the Secret Service’s full cooperation in getting the film made. “They didn't agree to help us because they thought the film would portray them in a heroic light—Clint plays a pretty flawed character, and John [Malkovich]'s character makes some very negative points about the Secret Service,” director Wolfgang Petersen told the Los Angeles Times. “I think the Secret Service was interested in the possibility of their world being accurately portrayed in a Hollywood film for the first time. They didn't want us to make a commercial for them, they just wanted it to be real, and though they had no creative control, they made many suggestions we happily accepted.”

8. WOLFGANG PETERSEN WAS A LITTLE INTIMIDATED BY CLINT EASTWOOD.

Though he was already a highly acclaimed director with two Oscar nominations on his resume (for writing and directing 1981’s Das Boot), Petersen admitted that the idea of directing a Hollywood icon like Eastwood was a slightly terrifying prospect.

"I must admit, I was initially a bit intimidated at the prospect of directing Clint, but any fears I had disappeared after our first meeting, and once we started shooting he never challenged my direction," Petersen told the Los Angeles Times. “At the beginning he told me, 'I won't interfere, but if you want my advice I'll be there for you—otherwise I'll leave you alone.' I took up his offer and consulted him a lot.”

9. DROPPING EASTWOOD INTO HISTORIC MOMENTS COST A PRETTY PENNY.

In order to create as realistic a portrait as possible of Eastwood’s history with the Secret Service Agency, the filmmakers implemented some state-of-the-art computer effects to swap out the faces of real agents with the actor’s to show him being part of key events with Bill Clinton and George Bush. But as the JFK plotline was so integral to Horrigan’s character, it was important to Petersen that the audience be able to witness that as well, which became their biggest challenge, as Eastwood would have been 30 years younger. The solution? Drop footage of Eastwood from the original Dirty Harry into archival footage of JFK’s motorcade. It’s estimated that 10 percent of In the Line of Fire’s $40 million budget went to its digital effects.

10. JOHN MALKOVICH COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT ALL THE RUNNING.

When asked about the toughest part of playing the unhinged antagonist, Malkovich admitted that it was the physicality of the role. "The hardest thing about this part was all the running I had to do,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I hate running and don't intend to do it again for a long time. I didn't train for the running scenes either—I just put down my cigarettes for a minute and ran."

11. IT COULD BE TURNED INTO A TV SERIES … MAYBE.

Frank Horrigan could rise again. In 2015, Deadline reported that In the Line of Fire was being turned into a television series at ABC. There’s been no update since on any casting or a release date, so it very well could be a stalled project. But you never know.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

A New Documentary Investigates West Virginia’s Infamous Mothman

The Mothman statue in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
The Mothman statue in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
Jimmy Emerson DVM, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The continuing impact of the Mothman on Point Pleasant, West Virginia, is hard to overlook. The town plays host to a statue, a museum, and an annual festival that all celebrate the red-eyed flying beast who first showed up on the scene in 1966.

In November of that year, two couples spotted a winged, vaguely man-shaped monster near the so-called “TNT area,” a collection of abandoned bunkers where explosives were stored during World War II. After the Point Pleasant Register reported on their harrowing ordeal, other sightings started rolling in. When nearly four dozen people were killed in a bridge collapse on December 15, 1967, many believed the Mothman was somehow involved.

The infamous cryptid’s popularity endured over the ensuing decades with the help of John Keel’s 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies and the 2002 movie adaptation starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. While glimpses of the Mothman himself definitely peaked during the ’60s, close encounters with a strange creature in West Virginia still surface to this day.

In his new documentary The Mothman Legacy, director Seth Breedlove delves into the history of the Mothman, investigating its long legacy in Pleasant Point and interviewing more recent eyewitnesses. It’s not Breedlove’s first film on the matter; he also directed 2017’s The Mothman of Point Pleasant, which focuses on the Mothman’s heyday from November 1966 to the bridge catastrophe a year later.

His latest project features Jeff Wamsley, who has written two books on the subject and also founded the town’s Mothman Museum. As The Daily Beast reports, The Mothman Legacy doesn’t exactly try to solve the mystery of the Mothman or debunk all the theories about it. Instead, it’s more of a celebration of the urban legend, complete with spooky CGI reenactments and plenty of eerie accounts of alleged run-ins with the monster. In short, it’s ideal fodder for your Halloween movie marathon—and as narrator Lyle Blackburn points out in the film, “an absence of evidence doesn’t necessarily indicate an evidence of absence.”

The documentary is now available to buy on VOD through Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other streaming platforms.

[h/t The Daily Beast]