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Breach in our magazines


Chris Cooper • Ryan Phillippe • Laura Linney

The true story of the downfall of an FBI operative, Robert Hanssen (Cooper), who for 20 years sold key intelligence to the Soviet Union, and how a young FBI agent-in-training, Eric O’Neill (Phillippe), brought him down.

U.S. RELEASE: February 16 2007, Nationwide
• Rated: PG-13


“The first step in doing this movie was to find out if there was any research material, and there was a lot. I found at least five books that I used, and they are pretty in-depth studies about Hanssen from his childhood all the way to his capture. They were very helpful, and of course we had Eric O’Neill, who made himself available about a week before we started shooting to both Ryan and I. We would spend anywhere from 10 to 12 hours a day peppering him with all sorts of questions, any bits of information about Robert Hanssen and their relationship.”

“Eric is a great guy. He’s got this indomitable spirit, this confidence that let me know how he could get through a situation like this. Once I’d met Eric, and I’d hear him tell stories about Hanssen, he’d talk abut how much Hanssen annoyed him. That’ something so funny to me, the idea that he’s not only the boss from Hell and one of the worst spies in U.S. history, but the guy would get on his nerves and Eric would get on Hanssen’s nerves, and I like the idea of the married couple in the car on a long road trip bickering. To find those sort of human, idiosyncratic aspects in what is an enormous story was what was really appealing to me.”

“One question I always get is what did I learn from the Hanssen case? I think it was a sense of confidence. The ‘game’ that we were playing, ‘I’m saying this and you’re thinking this, but I’m really trying to get you to think this because I want you to say this,’ which is what I was doing and what Hanssen was doing, somewhere in there I beat him, and that gives you a lot of confidence.”

“My working relationship with Ryan was just terrific in that we had some very strong, serious scenes every day to do. I think the day of our introduction was the nicest I was to him, and I preferred to keep it that way. It didn’t call for a chummy atmosphere on the set, and that was fine for Ryan and necessary for me. I think we work in similar ways and in many respects at the moment of performance we’re intuitive. “

“It was great to watch Chris Cooper meticulously craft this character and get frustrated with himself for things he felt like he was doing. The guy’s this amazing actor and after certain takes he’d be cursing himself. You don’t even understand why. You’re like, you’re about the best out there, but watching him and Eric develop this character together in the room was just fascinating.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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