Friday, March 2, 2018

How 'Red Sparrow' Author Made The Film More "Authentically CIA"

I’ve not yet seen the film Red Sparrow, but I read the fine spy novel the film is based on, as well retired CIA officer Jason Matthews’ subsequent equally fine two novels in the Red Sparrow trilogy.

I suspect the film makers have more scenes in the film about the “sexpionage” featured in Matthews' thriller and less about the realistic “tradecraft’ and the art of street espionage that Mr. Matthews (seen in the below photo) described so well in his novels.

 Kate Kilkenny at the Hollywood Reporter interviewed Jason Matthews:  

When 20th Century Fox optioned Red Sparrow in 2013, it purchased the rights to a story that deliberately avoided spy-movie tropes: Jason Matthews' debut novel features long scenes of spies walking around cities to throw off tails, gaining new sources' trusts and trying to turn agents into double agents in the place of fancy gadgets, car chases or fight scenes on precarious ledges.

Nevertheless, the story is arriving in theaters this year as a major $69 million-budgeted movie featuring marquee names including Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Charlotte Rampling and Jeremy Irons. Part of the story's appeal, no doubt, is that its heroine, Dominika, is a "Sparrow," a Russian agent trained in seducing civilians and foreign agents to elicit information (a real program that the USSR operated in the '60s and '70s).  Another draw is that its author was once a CIA clandestine services officer himself: Matthews spent 33 years working for the CIA and was posted in the southern Mediterranean, Asia and the Caribbean. He has adapted some of those experiences into the Red Sparrow trilogy, whose last installment, The Kremlin's Candidate, was released Feb. 12.

The resulting film is a cross between an erotic thriller and slow-burn spy procedural, showing both the daily grind of office work and only slightly more glamorous fieldwork. Matthews, who has been a critic of spy movies previously, consulted on the authenticity of the movie. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with him before its release to learn what he thought of the end product.

First of all, give us a little bit of background on yourself — how long were you in the CIA’s operations directorate?

I retired about seven years ago, after 33 years at the agency. My wife and I both were in the clandestine service, which is the part of the CIA that sends officers overseas to foreign capitals under State Department diplomatic covers to live in the country of interest. What we do, basically, I use the metaphor of we’re clandestine journalists: We look for sources of information, humans, and we develop the relationship, we convince them to give us the stories or the secrets, as it were, and we write our stories up and then we protect our sources. The CIA protects its sources by operating mostly at night, after sunset, and we use tradecraft.

You can read the rest of the interview via the below link:

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