This could be considered to contain spoilers for the end of The Good Shepherd, which opens December 22. I don’t think any information in here would ruin the film for you, but I wanted to give the heads up just in case.
Robert DeNiro’s The Good Shepherd follows the CIA from its earliest days as WWII’s OSS right through the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, leaving much more CIA history, including lots of historic misadventures against Communism, unexplored. Screenwriter Eric Roth says that he and DeNiro would like to revisit their character in the next period of the CIA’s history. “We talked about it before we got to get this one made!” he told me in a phone interview today. “We might get our asses kicked, so it might be a nice pipe dream. When we met, Bob had been working on a CIA project that was set in a different time period – his was from the 70s or so until the fall of the Berlin Wall. We kind of struck a bargain that if he directed this one I would write the second one for him. They’re of a piece.”
Where would the next film go? The character that Matt Damon plays is based partially on a real guy, James Jesus Angleton, who descended into a legendary madness brought on by paranoia. That didn’t end up in this film, but could show up in a sequel. “I originally had many years ago [a version of the script with] some scenes with that, but we decided not to do it.” Roth says. “I think Bob felt that he just didn’t want to take the movie in that direction. It wasn’t what he thought the movie was about. It felt like a different movie. If we’re lucky enough to do a part two we may do some of that.”
The period from the 70s through the fall of the Berlin Wall was an eventful – and sometimes dark – one for the CIA. “I don’t know if the line’s still in there, but the Richard Hayes character, when he’s taking [Matt Damon] on the tour of the new CIA building, he says, ‘We don’t have to be gentlemen. We can take the gloves off now.’ As if they were gentlemen in this movie. But you’re right – it’s much more hot… this is kind of cold, and that’s a much more hot period.”
Although Roth is understandably hesitant to draw any comparison between this film and The Godfather movies, he did write it originally for Francis Ford Coppola, and saw the story as a family epic. Could a The Good Shepherd, Part 2 be to this film was The Godfather, Part 2 was to that film? Only the box office will tell us if we’ll know.