In the Line of Fire

In the Line of Fire Information

In the Line of Fire is a 1993 American thriller film directed by Wolfgang Petersen and starring Clint Eastwood as Agent Frank Horrigan and John Malkovich as assassin Mitch Leary. 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 remaining from the detail guarding John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, at the time of his assassination in 1963. The film also stars Rene Russo, Dylan McDermott, Gary Cole, John Mahoney, and Fred Thompson. 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. In the Line of Fire was the final film Eastwood starred in that he did not direct by himself until 2012's Trouble with the Curve.


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 a United States Secret Service agent, and forces him to prove his loyalty by putting a gun to D'Andrea's head and pulling the trigger. Horrigan shoots Mendoza's men, identifies himself as an agent, and arrests the counterfeiter.

Horrigan investigates a complaint about an apartment's absent tenant. 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 his partner return with a search warrant only one photograph remains, which shows a much younger Horrigan standing behind John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963. He is the only remaining active agent who was guarding the President that day, but guilt over his failure to react quickly enough to the first shot in Dallas to take the next one in Kennedy's place caused Horrigan to drink excessively and his family to leave.

Horrigan receives a phone call from the tenant, 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 asks to return to the Presidential Protective Detail despite his age, where he begins a relationship with fellow agent Lilly Raines.

Booth continues to call Horrigan as part of his "game", even though he is well-aware that his calls are tapped and traced. He mocks the agent's failure to protect Kennedy, but calls him a "friend". Booth escapes Horrigan and D'Andrea after one such call from Lafayette Park, but leaves fingerprints. The FBI matches the print, but the identity is classified so the bureau cannot disclose it to the Secret Service; it does, however, notify the CIA.

At a campaign event in Chicago Booth pops a decorative balloon which Horrigan, who has the flu, mistakes for a gunshot. Due to the error he leaves the protective detail but remains in charge of the Booth case. Horrigan and D'Andrea learn from the CIA that Booth is Mitch Leary, a former operative (a "wetboy") 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 modelmaking skills to build a composite zip gun 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. After Leary taunts Horrigan about the President facing danger in California, the assassin kills D'Andrea after the two agents chase him across Washington rooftops. Horrigan asks Raines to reassign him to the protective detail as the President visits Los Angeles, but a television crew films him mistaking a bellboy at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel for a security threat, and he must again 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 of a campaign dinner at the hotel. He sees the President approach the assassin and jumps in front of his bullet. 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. The agent uses his earpiece to tell Raines and sharpshooters where to aim; although they miss Leary, Horrigan defeats him. The assassin chooses to fall to his death from the elevator.

Horrigan, now a hero, retires as his fame no longer lets him 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.


  • Clint Eastwood as Agent Frank Horrigan, a Secret Service agent still haunted by his failure to save John F. Kennedy and now seeks redemption.
  • John Malkovich as Mitch Leary, a psychotic assassin determined to kill the President of the United States.
  • Rene Russo as Lilly Raines, a Secret Service agent and Frank's love interest.
  • Dylan McDermott as Al D'Andrea, Frank's partner.
  • Gary Cole as Bill Watts, Frank's superior, wary of Frank's reputation.
  • Fred Dalton Thompson as Harry Sargent, the White House Chief of Staff, also distrusting of Frank.
  • John Mahoney as Secret Service Director Sam Campagna, Frank's colleague and friend in the Secret Service.
  • Gregory Alan Williams as Matt Wilder
  • Jim Curley as the President of the United States (codenamed "Traveler"), Leary's target.
  • Sally Hughes as the First Lady of the United States
  • Tobin Bell as Mendoza, a counterfeiter, apprehended by Frank in the film's opening scene.
  • Clyde Kusatsu as FBI agent Jack Okura
  • Steve Hytner as FBI agent Tony Carducci
  • Patrika Darbo as Pam Magnus
  • John Heard as Prof. Riger
  • Joshua Malina as Secret Service agent Chavez


Producer, Jeff Apple, began developing "In the Line of Fire" in the mid-eighties. His previous credits included Zapped!, a teen comedy starring Scott Baio. For "Fire", Apple made several research trips to the U.S. Secret Service headquarters in Washington, D.C. and recruited Secret Service agents, including Robert Snow, to consult. Snow helped lead Apple to the real Secret Service Agent the Clint Eastood character is modeled on. The Secret Service also gave an official nod to Apple's project.

Apple planned on making a movie about a U.S. 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 movie 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.

Filming began in late 1992 in Washington, D.C. Scenes in the White House were filmed on a pre-built set, while an Air Force One interior set had to be built at a cost of $250,000.

A sub-plot of the film is the President's reelection campaign. For the scenes of campaign rallies the filmmakers used digitally-altered scenes from President George Herbert Walker Bush's and Governor Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign events.

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


Critical response

In The Line of Fire was released in United States theaters in July 1993. The film received mostly positive reviews, receiving a 95% "Certified Fresh" positive rating by top film critics based on 43 reviews, and a 72% positive audience rating based on 52,481 reviews. 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."

Box office performance

The film was a considerable financial success as well, earning $176,997,168 worldwide ($102,314,823 in North America, and $74,682,345 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)
  • AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains (2003):
    • Mitch Leary - Nominated Villain

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