Clear & Present Danger: Anne Archer talks husband’s political page-turner

Anne Archer & Terry Jastrow preview their new book (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — While she was earning an Oscar nomination in “Fatal Attraction” (1987) and teaming with Harrison Ford in “Patriot Games” (1992) and “Clear & Present Danger” (1994), he was winning Emmys directing TV’s “Wide World of Sports,” the Super Bowl and the Olympics.

Now, Anne Archer and husband Terry Jastrow have entered the world of literature with Jastrow’s debut novel, “The Trial of Prisoner 043,” a controversial piece of political fiction.

“It’s very suspenseful,” Archer told WTOP. “He did three and a half years of research; three times he visited the International Court at The Hague in the Netherlands and read everything there is to know about it. He’s made a very tight novel that is definitely a page turner.”

Set in the near future, former President George W. Bush is golfing in St. Andrews, Scotland, when he is abducted by paramilitary commandos and taken to the International Criminal Court to stand trial for the Iraq War, hence the title “Prisoner 043,” as in the 43rd president.

“It tells both sides,” Archer said, to which Jastrow added, “We can define conflict as two or more opposing forces colliding. … I created a very strong prosecution team of attorneys and an equally strong team of defense attorneys. As a writer, I wanted to advocate for both sides equally and aggressively, so that the readers can make up their minds for themselves.”

What inspired him to write the novel?

“I love my country, but we fight too many unnecessary wars,” Jastrow said. “President Ike Eisenhower, in his last public address before he left the White House, warned us of the military industrial complex, that unholy alliance between the military and big business. They begin the drumbeats, not the people, then the press picks it up and perpetuates it.”

Though he disapproves of the Iraq War, he insists it’s nothing personal.

“This is not a personal vendetta against George W. Bush,” Jastrow said. “I actually know him. We met 50 years ago when his daddy was an oil man in Midland, Texas, and so was my dad. We played little league baseball against each other. … I knew him in Houston as a young oil guy, and I even went and visited him in the governor’s office in Texas. He’s a very charming and loquacious guy. He could win almost any popularity contest. … He has his reasons.”

While President Bush’s popularity has improved from 25 percent in 2008 to 59 percent today (Gallup, June 2017), Americans have soured on the Iraq War with just 18 percent saying it was worth the cost (CBS News/New York Times, June 2014). Opposition to the war has propelled both Democrats and Republicans into the White House, from Barack Obama defeating Hillary Clinton in 2008 to Donald Trump defeating Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“After 9/11, there was a huge outpouring of compassion and love for the U.S.,” Jastrow said. “[President] Bush had an approval rating of 90 percent and every legal justification to track down Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida [but] he began to shift attention to Saddam Hussein. … Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 [and] did not pose a clear and present danger.”

It’s a term Archer popularized in “Clear & Present Danger,” the sequel to “Patriot Games,” both of which were Tom Clancy adaptations casting her as the wife of Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan.

“Harrison is a wonderful human being. Lovely, professional — I can’t say enough good things,” Archer said. “He liked to do all [his stunts] himself. … So I saw him really putting himself out to deliver the physicality of the scenes. We had a great time; it was an amazing company with amazing producers and a great studio, Paramount. It was a really happy experience.”

Still, her career role remains her Oscar-nominated turn in “Fatal Attraction” (1987), playing the wife of Michael Douglas during his affair with Glenn Close’s not-to-be-ignored mistress.

“There aren’t a lot of male movie stars who make sure the female leads get their fair share in front of the camera,” Archer said. “He is not egotistical in that way; he will share the moments on film. I always admired and appreciated him for that. … We thought we were making this nice, cutting-edge domestic drama; we had no idea it would have the legs that it had.”

While Close turned Alex Forrest into the American Film Institute’s No. 7 Villain of All Time, Archer has the distinction of killing that villain during the film’s chilling bathtub finale.

“We obviously didn’t have scenes together until the very end, so we weren’t necessarily on the set at the same time,” Archer said. “But, I must say, she wrote me one of the most beautiful letters I’ve ever gotten from an actress with tremendous praise and wonderful words for my performance. I thought that was a very classy thing to do. I was really impressed by that.”

Having married Jastrow in 1979, the couple went through the Oscar excitement together.

“There had been lots of Oscar-buzz talk prior to that about the film, the director, the actors, so I had my fingers crossed,” Archer said. “We were up at the crack of dawn to hear the announcement on television and were blown away. It was a very exciting time in my life and I got to present at the Oscars three years in a row after that, so we had a really great run.”

Today, Jastrow and Archer hope their own original book will hit the screen.

“It’s my great dream that ‘The Trial of Prisoner 043’ will become an entertainment project in some capacity,” Jastrow said. “I wonder whether or not the story is too massive and too dense to be accommodated in a movie. … But I think it would make a really interesting multiple-episode television series, like a miniseries,” to which Archer added, “Like ‘Taboo’ or ‘O.J.'”

Until then, you can meet Archer and Jastrow at the Barnes & Noble at Georgetown University at 5 p.m. Monday, which follows their appearance in Tysons Corner over the weekend.

“You may think you know what happens or the collection of things that might happen,” Jastrow said. “But I promise you that you do not know what happens in this novel.”

Listen to our full conversation with Anne Archer and Terry Jastrow in the interview below:

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Anne Archer & Terry Jastrow (Jason Fraley)
Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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