Rabbit Hole’s Kiefer Sutherland Explains How ‘70’s Spy Thrillers Influenced The New Paramount+ Series

 Kiefer Sutherland walking away from a car in Rabbit Hole
Kiefer Sutherland walking away from a car in Rabbit Hole

Watching Rabbit Hole, you can feel the influence of classic espionage thrillers and spy movies radiating off of it. The web of deception that’s been concocted for this new Kiefer Sutherland show is directly inspired by ‘70s spy thrillers, but updated to fit a modern-day setting. And as the show’s star and its creator explained, these influences really helped mold the show into what it is today.

When asked about what movies inspired their show, Kiefer Sutherland immediately name-dropped Three Days of the Condor and Marathon Man as two of the major influences for Rabbit Hole. The actor told CinemaBlend that both films have a spiraling effect, and they deal with the complexities of the truth, he elaborated on this point, and talked specifically about the Robert Redford-led movie, saying:

Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor was a CIA guy who was not an operative, he was just an office guy. But he's thrown into this amazing circumstance, where every time he tries to tell someone else what is happening to him, he sounds crazier and crazier. And so when you're in a situation and you can't get anybody to believe you, and yet the audience is watching you, and they know everything that you're saying is true. You start to kind of realize how frustrating that might be.

Sutherland then talked about Marathon Man, and how Dustin Hoffman’s character starts to trust the very people who are after him. The 24 alum explained that these layers of trust and deception can disorient an audience, and he said the creators of Rabbit Hole have done a good job taking inspiration from ‘70s thrillers and creating a suspenseful and exciting series.

So when you end up in a situation like Rabbit Hole, where up is down and down is up, and everything is turned around you start losing your orientation. And I think that's an interesting experience to have with an audience because they start to actually viscerally feel the frustration of the character that they're rooting for. And I think John and Glenn have done an expert job in crafting that.

Glenn Ficarra, one of the writers and creators of the series, explained that one of the ways ‘70s spy movies influenced Rabbit Hole was through the way it builds its tension. He also noted that in every good spy movie, there are tons of layers and surprises. So, as someone who has seen Rabbit Hole, I can confirm the layers that get revealed with each episode are always shocking, and it really feels like you are falling deeper and deeper into this plot with every episode. Ficarra elaborated on how these older movies influenced their Paramount+ series, telling CinemaBlend:

Well, I think one of them is that there's this kind of looming, feeling like something is always going to happen, and that felt like a tonal choice. I think there's a lot of visual references or links in ‘70s cinema and a lot of use of sound like in the conversation. Ultimately though, it's just about the story that there is something much bigger going on behind the scenes. And that seemed to be a big theme in those movies that there was always just something big lurking in the shadows that we as the public didn't know, and then we just kind of took that and layered it multiple times. So it works on a personal level and on the protagonist’s professional level and then overall on the plot.

It’s very true, the cast of Rabbit Hole even had a hard time explaining their new series quickly because of all the twists and turns it takes, and we have ‘70s spy thrillers to partially thank for that. Watching all the twists and turns unfold, a la old-school thriller, is so fun, and it’s also fascinating to see how plot devices from these older movies are used in a series made for the 2023 TV schedule.

To see how these influences come to fruition on screen, be sure to check out Rabbit Hole every Sunday with a Pararmount+ subscription.