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Dirk Pitt by Clive Cussler

Updated on December 19, 2017

Hero Dirk Pitt of National Underwater and Marine Agency

I can't remember when I first met Dirk Pitt, but it would have been somewhere around 20 to 25 years ago. He would have to be my most favourite fictional character.

Dirk Pitt is described as being a tall man (6 feet 3 inches at least) with wavy black hair and deep green opaline eyes.

However the actor who portrayed Dirk Pitt in the movie Sahara does not have black hair and green eyes. Matthew McConaughey dyed his hair and wore contacts. He is also not as tall - I think he is just 6 feet tall.

Image Source - Sahara Movie Poster


All about Dirk

Dirk is an expert and experienced pilot, a diver and a marine engineer. He collects old classic cars and loves being in and around the ocean. He has the best job in the world - as the Director of Special Projects for the Government Agency called NUMA - National Underwater and Marine Agency.

In the novels NUMA is a federal Government agency. In real life, NUMA is a private non profit foundation, founded and run by Clive Cussler. It's mission is to locate, find and salvage sunken ships - especially those from history.

Dirk Pitt's best friend is an Italian named Al Giordino. His boss is Admiral James Sandecker and his father is Californian Senator George Pitt. More recently Dirk has been married to Congresswoman Loren Smith.

Dirk also has 2 grown children, from a relationship he had with a woman back in 1980 - in the novel Pacific Vortex. His children are Dirk Junior, and Summer - twins - each named after their parents. Dirk did not know about his children until 2003 (At the end of Valhalla Rising).

Dirk Pitt has been described as a mix of James Bond, Indiana Jones and MacGyver.

Image Source - NUMA logo

Dirk Pitt Books by Clive Cussler

At last count, there are 22 books starring Dirk Pitt. Including the most recent book published in November 2012, called Poseidon's Arrow.

I purchased Poseidon's Arrow as an e-book and have just finished reading it on my Kindle

Dirk Pitt at the Movies

Sahara - the Movie
Sahara - the Movie

The first attempt at turning Dirk Pitt into a movie star failed dismally with the 1980 movie based on the novel - Raise the Titanic. The actor chosen to portray Dirk Pitt - one Richard Jourdan - did not match the description by any means, nor did he really act in the character of Dirk Pitt. And the cast list was missing Dirk's sidekick - Al Giordino as well.

Clive Cussler was so disappointed with the first movie, he refused to allow any studios adapt any further books for 25 years.

Finally in 2005 he was persuaded to allow another attempt. The result was the movie Sahara. This movie was better but the actor playing Dirk Pitt still did not fit the description, and Cussler still was not very happy. However Cussler still approved the two lead actors - McConaughey and Zahn.

Matthew McConaughey had been wanting to portray Dirk Pitt for some years and he had been actively pushing to get this project off the ground.

This movie was based on one of my favourite books, and I love both the book and the movie. Since I do like the book and the movie, I can overlook the fact that Dirk Pitt in the movie is not 6 feet 3 with black hair and opaline green eyes. This movie did much better at the box office than the first movie did.

As of 2012, there is no sign that Cussler will allow any further novels to be turned into movies.

Image Source - Sahara Movie Poster - 2005

Sahara Movie - The Official Trailer

My choice for Dirk Pitt

My choice for Dirk Pitt
My choice for Dirk Pitt

The first thing to note is that Dirk Pitt is at least 6 feet 3 inches tall. There are no actors in Hollywood who have all 3 features - being 6 feet 3, with black hair and green eyes.

The closest actor that I know of who can portray the character of Dirk Pitt - is IMO - David James Elliot. He played Navy Pilot Harmon Rabb on the TV series JAG for 10 years. Dirk is a pilot and loves the sea - as does Harmon Rabb.

Dirk is 6 feet 3 - David James Elliot is 6 feet 4.

Dirk has black hair and green eyes - DJE has brown hair and blue eyes - but hair can be dyed and green contacts can be worn. Its the height that cannot be disguised.

Image source - JAG season 4 - David James Elliot

JAG - In Country

The JAG TV episode called In Country where Mac and Rabb are in Afghanistan.

Another choice for Dirk Pitt

Timothy Dalton as James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987)
Timothy Dalton as James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987)

I have just found another actor who could have been cast as Dirk Pitt.

Other than the fact that Timothy Dalton was slightly too old to be Dirk Pitt, he could have filled the role almost perfectly. Back in the 1980s, when he was at his peak, Dalton had black hair and green eyes and he was 6 feet 2 inches tall.

Born in 1944 - Dalton was tapped to play James Bond in 1986. He made 2 Bond movies - one of which was The Living Daylights (1987). This particular movie is also my most favourite Bond Movie of all time.

At that time (1986), Dalton was just 42 years old and would have been perfect for the role of Dirk Pitt. These days (2012), Dalton is now almost 70 years old and his hair is quite noticeably gray

Timothy Dalton as James Bond - The Living Daylights - 1987 - The Car Chase and the Snow Chase. The very last words at the end of the Snow Chase are quite funny, in light of how they cross the border into Austria. "We've nothing to declare!! Just the Cello!"

Your turn to sound off on Clive Cussler - Do you love the Dirk Pitts novels?

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    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 

      5 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      I love Dirk in the novels, I loved Sahara, and I love your choice of DJ Elliot for the next Dirk, although if Matthew will produce and star in another one with Steve Zahn, I'm in.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I really enjoy the Pitt novels!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice character Dirk Pitt

    • Country-Sunshine profile image

      Country Sunshine 

      6 years ago from Texas

      I've read most of the Dirk Pitt books... I prefer the older ones to the new. Nice article with lots of information. Good job!


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