In the Line of Fire

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.[2] 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 that was 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 Thompson.

In the Line of Fire
In the line of fireposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWolfgang Petersen
Produced byJeff Apple
Written byJeff Maguire
Music byEnnio Morricone
CinematographyJohn Bailey
Edited byAnne V. Coates
Castle Rock Entertainment
Apple-Rose Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • July 9, 1993 (1993-07-09)
Running time
128 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million[1]
Box office$177 million

The film was co-produced by Columbia Pictures and Castle Rock Entertainment, with Columbia handling distribution. Eastwood and Petersen also originally offered the role of Leary to Robert De Niro, who turned it down due to scheduling conflicts with A Bronx Tale.[3]


Secret Service Agents Frank Horrigan and Al D'Andrea meet with members of a counterfeiting group at a marina. The group's leader, Mendoza, tells Horrigan that he has identified D'Andrea as an undercover agent, and forces him to prove his loyalty by putting a gun to D'Andrea's head and pulling the trigger. Horrigan shoots and kills Mendoza's men, identifies himself as an agent, and arrests him.

Horrigan investigates a complaint from a landlady about an apartment's absent tenant, Joseph McCrawley. He finds a collage of photographs and newspaper articles on famous assassinations, a model-building magazine, and a Time cover with the President's head circled. When Horrigan and D' Andrea return with a search warrant, only one photograph remains, which shows a much younger Horrigan standing behind John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963. Horrigan is the only remaining active agent who was guarding the President that day, and he is wracked with guilt over his failure to react quickly enough to the first shot, shielding Kennedy from the subsequent fatal bullet, which could have saved the President's life. This guilt drove Horrigan to drink excessively; eventually his family left him.

Horrigan receives a phone call from McCrawley, who calls himself "Booth". He tells Horrigan that, like John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, he plans to kill the President, who is running for reelection and is making many public appearances around the country. Horrigan, despite his age, asks to return to the Presidential Protective Detail, where he begins a relationship with fellow agent Lilly Raines.

Booth continues to call Horrigan as part of his "game," even though he knows that his calls are being traced. He mocks Horrigan's failure to protect Kennedy but calls him a "friend". Booth escapes Horrigan and D'Andrea after one such call from Lafayette Park, but unknowingly leaves fingerprints in the process. The FBI matches the prints, but because the person's identity is classified, they cannot disclose it to the Secret Service. The FBI does notify the CIA.

At a campaign event in Chicago, Booth pops a decorative balloon. Horrigan, who has a cold, mistakes the pop for a gunshot. Because of this error, he is removed from the protective detail by White House Chief of Staff Harry Sargent and head of security detail Bill Watts, but he is left in charge of the Booth case. Horrigan and D'Andrea learn from the CIA that Booth is Mitch Leary, a former assassin who has suffered a mental breakdown and is now a "predator". Leary, who has already killed several people as he prepares for the assassination, uses his model-making skills to build a zip gun out of composite material to evade metal detectors and hides the bullets and springs in a keyring.

D'Andrea confides to Horrigan that he is going to retire immediately because of nightmares about the Mendoza incident, but Horrigan is able to dissuade him from doing so. After Leary taunts Horrigan about the President facing danger in California, Horrigan and D' Andrea chase him across Washington rooftops, and Leary shoots and kills D'Andrea. Horrigan asks Raines to reassign him to the protective detail when the President visits Los Angeles, but a television crew films him mistaking a bellboy at the hotel for a security threat, and Watts and Sargent once again force Horrigan to leave the detail.

Horrigan connects Leary to a bank employee's murder and learns that Leary, who has made a large campaign contribution, is among the guests at a campaign dinner at the hotel. He sees the President approach Leary and jumps into the path of the assassin's bullet, saving the President's life. As the Secret Service quickly removes the President, Leary uses Horrigan – who is wearing a bulletproof vest – as a hostage to escape to the hotel's external elevator. Horrigan uses his earpiece to tell Raines and sharpshooters where to aim; although they miss Leary, Horrigan defeats him, leaving him hanging from the edge. Though Horrigan attempts to save him, Leary commits suicide by letting go and falling to his death.

Horrigan, now a hero, retires, as his fame makes it impossible for him to do his job. He and Raines find a farewell message from Leary on Horrigan's answering machine. Horrigan and Raines leave the house and visit the Lincoln Memorial.



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.[4]

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]

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]

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, Clint "gets the world's first digital haircut".[5]


Critical receptionEdit

In the Line of Fire was released in United States theaters in July 1993. The film received mostly positive reviews, receiving a 96% "Certified Fresh" positive rating based on 67 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8 out of 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."[6] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[7]

Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half stars out of four, writing: "Most thrillers these days are about stunts and action. In the Line of Fire has a mind."[8]

Box officeEdit

The film was a financial success, earning $176,997,168 worldwide[9] (over $102 million in North America and $74 million in other territories), while its budget was about $40 million.


  • 1994 Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (John Malkovich)
  • 1994 Academy Award Nomination for Best Film Editing (Anne V. Coates)
  • 1994 Academy Award Nomination for Best Writing, Screenplay (Jeff Maguire)
  • 1994 ASCAP Award for Top Box Office Films (Ennio Morricone) Won
  • 1994 BAFTA Film Award Nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (John Malkovich)
  • 1994 BAFTA Film Award Nomination for Best Editing (Anne V. Coates)
  • 1994 BAFTA Film Award Nomination for Best Screenplay (Jeff Maguire)
  • 1994 Chicago Film Critics Association Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor (John Malkovich)
  • 1994 Golden Globe Award Nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (John Malkovich)
  • 1994 MTV Movie Award Nomination for Best Villain (John Malkovich)[10]
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains (2003):
    • Mitch Leary – Nominated Villain


  1. ^ a b c d Hughes, p.80
  2. ^ Eller, Claudia (July 13, 1993). "In the Line of Fire: Whose Movie Is It, Anyway?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 27, 2010.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Turan, Kenneth (July 9, 1993). "'Fire' lines up a worthy villain for Clint". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
  5. ^ 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 October 13, 2011.
  6. ^ "In the Line of Fire (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  7. ^ "CinemaScore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 9, 1993). "In the Line of Fire". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
  9. ^ Box Office Information for In the Line of Fire. The Numbers. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  10. ^ "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.

External linksEdit