Harrison Ford – Still Unflappable After All These Years

                                                 June 1995 By Philip Berk       

Harrison Ford has appeared in more blockbusters than any actor in screen history. 

Has he an explanation?

“Luck I suppose,” is his ingenuous answer.

If he has a personal life, it rarely surfaces. He met his second wife, Melissa Mathison, through his friend Steven Spielberg, when she was writing E.T. The Extraterrestrial, and he was reprising his Indiana Jones role. They have two children, Malcolm, 7, and Georgia, 4, and make their home in Wyoming.

He has two sons from a first marriage, Benjamin, 28, and Willard, 25, neither of whom show any interest in show business. Benjamin is a chef, and Willard is studying to be a history teacher.

Does he always look for roles in which he plays the ordinary man? I ask him.

“I think of myself as an ordinary person. I’m not extraordinary in any way. I work with my own personality, my own experience. I choose roles that I feel strongly about. I may play ordinary people, but ultimately something extraordinary happens to them. We get to see this person in dramatic contrast to his normal behavior, and that I find  interesting.” 

Why doesn’t he ever play the bad guy?

“I’m not offered bad guy roles. If there’s a bad guy in a movie, there’s going to be a good guy. They don’t come to me to play the bad guy. They come to me to play the good guy. The bad guy roles are delicious for actors to play, and I would like to play them someday,  maybe later on, when I begin to slow down.”

Is there a reason why he chooses to live in Wyoming rather than Hollywood, where he makes his living?

“A great deal is made of my so called revulsion of the Hollywood system. It’s just not true. I very much admire a lot of the people who live here and who work very hard here. I just don’t like cities.”

Unlike other superstars, he never speaks out on social or political causes? Is it lack of interest?

“I’m very interested in a lot of issues, conservation, child welfare, women’s rights, and I support these as a private citizen, but I refuse to be a celebrity spokesman for any of them. There are experts in these fields and I prefer to hear what they have to say on the subject. These problems are far too important to be fought out on the battleground of celebrity. That’s why I’m not involved.”

Is that why he turned down the part that eventually went to Kevin Costner in Oliver Stone’s JFK?

“I had only one meeting with Mr. Stone, who I had not met before. He explained the project and gave me his point of view. I thought it fascinating but didn’t feel it was as clear as Oliver felt it was. I didn’t feel I could participate in it, although I admire him as a film maker tremendously and would enjoy working with him in the future. Not that I thought his point of view was wrong, but I didn’t think the feature film was the place to deal on a final level with a very important question in history. I must say also that if it has stimulated audiences to investigate further what happened so long ago, then that’s all to the good. But my fear was that young moviegoers would simply accept the whole cloth of Oliver’s argument and that it would remain with them because of the great power of film.”

Did Oliver offer him the role of Nixon?

“It never came up.”

Thirty years later he’s still the same reluctant superstar.

At his press conference for Blade Runner 2049, 75-year old Harrison Ford is a revelation

After his plane crash and the controversy surrounding that accident, you expect him to be all the worse for wear.

But ageless is how I describe him. 

I tell him so and ask him how old he feels today?

Jokingly he refuses to give a number.

Not only does he look inordinately healthy, he’s delightfully combatant and sharp as Indiana Jones’ whip.

When asked an impertinent question, he responds accordingly.

Do you know what suit you are wearing? Someone asks him 

“No.  And if I did know, I wouldn’t tell you. I am not here to sell clothes.”

How do you explain your love of flying planes?

“I am here to explain the love that I have for moviemaking.”  

Does fame make it more difficult to distinguish between what is real or not?

“No, it’s an opportunity to help you find out who you really are, which is not necessarily what people think you are.” 

Can you elaborate?

“No, I felt it was a pretty good answer.” 

What did it teach you about yourself?

“I mean this in the nicest way, but it’s none of your business.”

Of course Harrison was not always this curt?

I recall his first press conference – there weren’t many. In the early days he played hard to get, but when Mosquito Coast needed a boost he was there. 

At the time I asked him 

Why has he chosen as many big action adventure movies?

“Audiences obviously enjoy them. That’s why a lot of them are made. I’ve had a good track record with them, but I’m always ambitious to do different sorts of films.” 

What’s the secret of his success?

“It’s all luck. I just do the best job I can, and I work hard at what I do.” 

Does he think he has sex appeal?

“Everybody has sex appeal. It has nothing to do with what I am, It has to do with the great engine of a movie that makes it so.”

Does it bother him that he’s been nominated only once for an Oscar?

“I don’t take it personally. When I was nominated for Witness, I didn’t expect to win. I didn’t become part of the process. I don’t really believe that you should give awards. I don’t believe in this competition among artists.”

How much of a method actor is he?

‘Well, I don’t take the character home with me, if that’s what you mean. I usually settle on one approach to a scene, but I am very much influenced by what other actors bring to that scene. I enjoy the surprise. I don’t like to rehearse much. it takes away the spontaneity, and it gives the other actors a chance to see what you’re going to do. So I prefer going for a take to preserve the freshness of the experience for both of us.”

After watching a performance of his on screen, does he ever feel he could have done better?

“I’m not sure perfection is a righteous goal.”

A hallowed response, which I have thrown at many actors since, including Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, and they agree.

Since then I’ve interviewed him 23 times.

When asked last month what he would recommend to anyone attending the Golden Globes for the first time, he answered,  “Well unless they are already married I think it would be great if they could meet their wife there.”  

Which is exactly how he met Calista Flockhart. 

They’ve been together since 2002 and were married in 2010.

He was married twice before and is the father of four sons and a daughter, none of whom are pursuing an acting career.

Blade Runner 2029 deals with memory. Can you share a childhood memory that really impacted you?

“I have a very strong memory of my aunt coming into my room when I was about I guess, I can do the math, three years old, and telling me that I had a brother. My life from that moment on included a brother. Not just a brother, my brother.”

What thoughts went through your mind the first day of shooting?

“I was grateful for the scripted opportunity, to take the character into a different place. I was grateful for the 30 years that had passed and the narrative accounting for that time.” 

And after seeing the film? 

“I was glad that despite its spectacle and the epic scale of it, there is intimate human emotion, and I say human in the Blade Runner way. It’s complicated and it’s rich and it’s a pleasure for an actor to have that emotional access to the audience.”  

Do you still enjoy flying?

“I only fly to get to work on movies.  So I am trying to just talk about the movie and not about flying.  Of course I love flying and I continue to fly, and it’s an important part of life. But so is this. So yes, I love flying and I love the challenge of it and I love the blend of freedom and responsibility that it represents. I am deeply aware of what the airplane has brought us in respect to technology and how it’s advanced the world. It’s a complicated subject and I only have a little bit of time to talk about the movie, but I talk fast, and let it be noted, I talked about flying, okay?” 

Are you still able to handle action sequences?

“I do like physical actin, and I have always enjoyed that.” 

What was the last piece of art you encountered where you found yourself surprised by your emotional response to it?

“I was in Spain recently, and I had a chance to have a couple of minutes to go into a museum, and I saw Picasso’s Guernica in black and white, and it was amazing, an amazing work of art.”

What promted that?

“It was Ryan (Gosling)’s idea. He hadn’t yet seen it, and he thought that I would go along for the ride. We were on our way to the airport. The museum was closed. What a treat it was to go to a museum without anybody standing there. and in your line of sight it’s an amazing opportunity and it can’t be turned down, and as you know, you go to these wonderful places, and then you don’t get to see it because your hotel room is very much like the other. We are there to bring the news of the availability of our product and to talk about it in very guarded ways because we don’t want to spoil the opportunity for the audience who haven’t experienced these things yet. So it’s a wonderful symbiosis between the media and artists and we do intend to hold up our symbiotic part of it.”

What advise do you have for young actors?  

“I tell them to be useful. I once got a great piece of advice from (director) Mike Nichols, who was a great man, funny and smart. And he said about the business, he said, don’t let them turn you into a thing. I am not going to explain it, because it’s for all of us to think about.”

When you look back on your career what are you most proud of?

“If I look back at my career, the most I think about is how lucky I have been. I have worked with extraordinary people who have given me extraordinary opportunity, and they have given me fulfillment beyond my wildest imagination. They have given me purpose, and it’s better than a real job.”

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