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In the Line of Fire

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In the Line of Fire
An older man running alongside a limousine
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWolfgang Petersen
Written byJeff Maguire
Produced byJeff Apple
CinematographyJohn Bailey
Edited byAnne V. Coates
Music byEnnio Morricone
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • July 9, 1993 (1993-07-09)
Running time
128 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million[1][2]
Box office$187 million[3]

In the Line of Fire is a 1993 American political action thriller film directed by Wolfgang Petersen and starring Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich and Rene Russo.[4] Written by Jeff Maguire, the film is about a disillusioned and obsessed former CIA agent who attempts to assassinate the President of the United States and the Secret Service agent who tracks him. Eastwood's character is the sole active-duty Secret Service agent who is still remaining from the detail that had guarded John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, at the time of his assassination in 1963. The film also stars Dylan McDermott, Gary Cole, John Mahoney, and Fred Dalton Thompson.

In the Line of Fire was co-produced by Columbia Pictures and Castle Rock Entertainment, with Columbia handling distribution. The film was a critical and commercial success. It grossed $187 million against a $40 million production budget and earned three nominations at the 66th Academy Awards.


United States Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan learns, in a routine investigation, that a mysterious man who calls himself "Booth", an obvious reference to John Wilkes Booth (Abraham Lincoln's murderer), is planning to assassinate the President of the United States (unnamed in the film). Booth soon makes a phone call to Horrigan and reveals that he knows Horrigan's history: Horrigan was one of President Kennedy's bodyguards, but failed to protect JFK on the day of his assassination. Obsessed with his failure and tormented by feelings of guilt, Horrigan has become a cynical, loveless alcoholic, but now he requests to be assigned to protect the current President. His co-worker is the playful-but-businesslike Lily Raines.

Booth continues to call Horrigan from time to time, even though he knows that his calls are being traced. He calls from public telephones and allows his calls to be traced, but escapes before the Secret Service can arrest him. He needles Horrigan for his failure to protect Kennedy but also calls him a "friend". Booth escapes Horrigan and at one site, he inadvertently leaves a palm print on a passing car. The Federal Bureau of Investigation matches the print, but because the person's identity is classified, the agency chooses not to disclose it to the Secret Service. The FBI does, however, notify the Central Intelligence Agency. Booth goes to a bank to open an account where the banker, Pam asks where Booth is from and he says he's from Minneapolis which happens to be where Pam is from as well. Fearing she might interfere with his plans and that she'll remember him, Booth follows her to her home and kills her and her roommate.

Horrigan learns that the dodgy assassin is in fact Mitch Leary, a skilled killer who used to work for the CIA, but suffered a mental breakdown and is now a "predator" seeking revenge on his former masters. Leary is also independently wealthy and tech-savvy. He is able to mold a zip gun out of composite material so as to evade metal detectors, and he can carry two small bullets past a metal detector concealed in a key-ring ornament. He is therefore in a position to carry a functional pistol into a fundraising event at which the President is scheduled to speak in person to the donors.

D'Andrea, one of Horrigan's underlings, confides to Horrigan that he intends to retire immediately because of nightmares about a previous incident in which he was almost killed, but Horrigan persuades him to remain on the case. The two of them succeed in catching up to Leary after tracing one of his phone calls. Leary flees to the top of a building; the two bodyguards chase Leary across Washington rooftops, where Leary shoots and kills D'Andrea but saves Horrigan from falling to his death as he clings to the side of the building. As he supports Horrigan at the edge of the roof, Leary taunts Horrigan with his immediate dilemma: he (Horrigan) can save the President by shooting Leary, but then Horrigan will himself fall to his death. Horrigan is forced by circumstance to let Leary escape: choosing to "save [his] ass" (as Leary gleefully puts it) rather than save the President. Feelings of guilt over having failed to save D'Andrea on the rooftop further demoralize Horrigan.

At the fundraiser, Horrigan receives an electronic communication containing some crucial information he had requested, and realizes that Leary is there, disguised and armed. As Leary draws his pistol and takes aim at the President, Horrigan jumps between them and saves the President's life, shouting "gun!" at the top of his voice. Leary fires his pistol, but Horrigan is wearing a regulation bullet-proof vest. While the Secret Service hustles the President to safety, Leary takes Horrigan as a hostage and pulls him into one of the hotel's external glass elevators. Horrigan is also wearing a regulation hidden microphone; he openly instructs Raines and sharpshooters to fire upon Leary. They fire but miss, shooting out the elevator's full-height windows. Horrigan takes advantage of the surprise and engages Leary in ferocious, hand-to-hand combat in the small elevator. Leary falls through one of the ornamental windows and finds himself in the same position Horrigan was in before: hanging by his fingers from a precarious perch with only his arch-enemy to save him. Though Horrigan offers to pull him up to safety, he declares that he would only save him because it's his job, and Leary ultimately commits suicide by letting go, falling to his death.

Upon returning home to Washington, and now a widely publicized hero, Horrigan announces his retirement. Horrigan shows Raines into his apartment, where an unexpected farewell message from Leary is found on Horrigan's answering machine. They play the message, in which Leary begins to commend Horrigan on his character, but Horrigan and Raines leave the apartment before the message ends. The film ends with Horrigan and Raines enjoying a romantic interlude at the Lincoln Memorial.



The climax of the film occurs at the Bonaventure Hotel, Los Angeles

Producer Jeff Apple began developing In the Line of Fire in the mid-1980s. He had planned on making a movie about a Secret Service Agent on detail during the Kennedy assassination since his boyhood. Apple was inspired and intrigued by a vivid early childhood memory of meeting Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson in person, surrounded by Secret Service Agents with earpieces in dark suits and sunglasses. The concept later struck Apple as an adolescent watching televised replays of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In 1991, writer Jeff Maguire came aboard and completed the script that would become the movie.[5] In April, 1992, Castle Rock bought the script for $1.4 million.[6]

Eastwood and Petersen offered the role of Leary to Robert De Niro, who turned it down due to scheduling conflicts with A Bronx Tale.[7]

Filming began in late 1992 in Washington, D.C.[1] Scenes in the White House were filmed on an existing set, while an Air Force One interior set had to be built at a cost of $250,000.[1] The film's climactic scenes were shot inside the lobby and elevators of the Los Angeles Bonaventure Hotel, while earlier scenes of Frank and Lilly sharing intimate moments were filmed in the nearby Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel.

A subplot of the film is the President's re-election campaign. For the scenes of campaign rallies, the filmmakers used digitally altered footage from the campaign events of President George H. W. Bush and then-Governor Bill Clinton.[1][2]

The movie also inserted digitized images from 1960s Clint Eastwood movies into the Kennedy assassination scenes. As Jeff Apple described it to the Los Angeles Times, Eastwood "gets the world's first digital haircut".[2]

In an interview with Larry King, President Bill Clinton praised the film. Unsure if this endorsement would help or hurt the film, Peterson decided against using his quotes to market the film.[8][9]


In the Line of Fire was released in United States theaters in July 1993. It was one of the first films to have a trailer for the film made available online. Offered via AOL, the trailer was downloaded 170 times in a week and a half.[10]

Box office[edit]

The film earned $15 million in its opening weekend.[11] It earned over $102 million in North America and $85 million in other territories, for a total of $187,343,874 worldwide,[3] against a budget of approximately $40 million.[2]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, In the Line of Fire has a 96% rating based on 73 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The site's consensus states: "A straightforward thriller of the highest order, In the Line of Fire benefits from Wolfgang Petersen's taut direction and charismatic performances from Clint Eastwood and John Malkovich."[12] On Metacritic, it has a score of 74 out of 100 based on reviews from 16.[13] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[14]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote: "It's movie making of the high, smooth, commercial order that Hollywood prides itself on but achieves with singular infrequency."[15] Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half out of four, writing: "Most thrillers these days are about stunts and action. In the Line of Fire has a mind."[16]

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called the film "crisply entertaining". He praised the casting, "Malkovich’s insinuating, carefully thought out delivery is in the same way an ideal foil for Eastwood’s bluntly straightforward habits", and Eastwood "every part of this film trades so heavily on Eastwood’s presence that it is impossible to imagine it with anyone else in the starring role".[5][17]


66th Academy Awards[edit]

47th BAFTA Awards[edit]

  • Nominated: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (John Malkovich)
  • Nominated: Best Editing (Anne V. Coates)
  • Nominated: Best Original Screenplay (Jeff Maguire)

Other awards[edit]


A novelization of the film was published by Jove Books. Author Max Allan Collins wrote the book in nine days.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Hughes, p.80
  2. ^ a b c d Galbraith, Jane (July 11, 1993). "A look inside Hollywood and the movies 'Line of Fire' Gives Crowd Control a New Meaning". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 13, 2021. special effects on the film, and were estimated to cost as much as 10% of the movie's $40-million production budget
  3. ^ a b "In the Line of Fire (1993) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  4. ^ Eller, Claudia (July 13, 1993). "In the Line of Fire: Whose Movie Is It, Anyway?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 27, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Turan, Kenneth (July 9, 1993). "'Fire' lines up a worthy villain for Clint". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  6. ^ Claudia Eller (13 July 1993). "'In the Line of Fire': Whose Movie Is It, Anyway? : Movies: Columbia Pictures bankrolled the Castle Rock production, but there is disagreement over just how much creative credit the studio can claim". Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ Crocker, John (22 September 2011). "MOVIE FEATURE: 10 THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT... ROBERT DE NIRO". Red Bull. Archived from the original on May 30, 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  8. ^ a b "The 50 greatest heroes and the 50 greatest villains of all time" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 7, 2011. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
  9. ^ "CLINTON GETS CLIPPED AS FILM CRITIC". The Buffalo News. July 25, 1993. I thought Eastwood was terrific. . . . I liked the movie very much. . . . I think it was as realistic as it could be and still be a real rip-roaring thriller.
  10. ^ Rothman, Matt (July 20, 1993). "Studios go on-line to woo audiences". Daily Variety. p. 3. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  11. ^ "Movie Weekend Gross Screens/Avg. Weeks (National ranking)..." Los Angeles Times. 15 July 1993.
  12. ^ "In the Line of Fire". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved January 25, 2023.
  13. ^ "In the Line of Fire". Metacritic.
  14. ^ "CinemaScore". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  15. ^ Canby, Vincent (9 July 1993). "Review/Film: In The Line of Fire; Eastwood Slips Easily Into Town (Published 1993)". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 9, 1993). "In the Line of Fire". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
  17. ^ McCarthy, Todd (6 July 1993). "In the Line of Fire". Variety.
  18. ^ Suskind, Alex (27 August 2014). "Yes, People Still Read Movie Novelizations . . . And Write Them, Too". vanityfair.com. Retrieved 22 January 2022.


External links[edit]