Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Good Shepherd: CIA Secrets or Hollywood Sizzle?

Personal Touches

*Roth's personal touches.  At the start of the film, a young boy asks Wilson to give him change for a dollar while they are riding on a bus. Wilson and his cohort, Ray Brocco (John Turturro) match the serial numbers on the dollar to a set of numbers next to the codenames of spies working for the CIA. The numbers match a spy known as "the Cardinal." At the end of the movie, Wilson's Soviet nemesis is asked by his aide, Sasha (Sandro Tecsy) for change because he wants to buy a souvenir. Wilson intervenes and offers Sasha a dollar, explaining that it is his "Cardinal duty" to help out. Roth included the dollar bill exchange so that careful viewers would realize that Sasha was a CIA mole. Roth said he also had Sam Murach (Alec Baldwin), who was Wilson's long-time, cigarette smoking FBI pal, mention while seated in a diner that he was dying from cancer. "It was a political statement something I carried over from The Insider," Roth said, referring to his script about  Big Tobacco's fight to hide evidence about the evils of smoking.  

James Jesus Angleton
James Jesus Angleton

Biographer Mangold said he understood that Roth was doing more than telling Angleton's story in The Good Shepard screenplay. He hoped, however, that someday Hollywood would produce a movie based on Angleton's biography. "You don't have to create anything when it comes to Jim Angleton and his life," Mangold said. "You don't need to add the Hollywood flourishes because his real story is much more remarkable than fiction."

Jolie-&-Damon in the Good Shepherd
Jolie-&-Damon in the Good Shepherd

Continuing, Mangold explained, "The CIA changed the rules after Jim died. They will not allow anyone to be head of counterintelligence for more than two years because that job is simply too dangerous. Your job is to assume that you are surrounded by traitors and liars and spies. There is an old CIA joke that says when Angleton was shaving in the morning, he would look in the mirror and say, 'I wonder who that man is working for.' That sort of paranoia eventually destroyed Jim. It will destroy anyone."

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