Harrison Ford Talks ’42,’ ‘Anchorman 2’ and What Matters to Him

harrison-ford
Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

The legendary actor would also like to work with Spike Jonze

Harrison Ford always wanted to be a character actor, but stardom got in the way. “It was never my intention to be a leading man, I always wanted to play character parts,” says the 71-year old superstar of the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” franchises, before quipping: “I guess I had bad luck.”

Ford is finally getting his opportunity, thanks to his stellar turn in the Jackie Robinson biopic “42.” Ford plays Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey, who made the historical choice to allow Robinson in the minor leagues in 1947. Ironically, the only hitch in Ford landing the role was that writer-director Brian Helgeland didn’t want a star. “Brian was really looking for a character actor,” recalls Ford.

So the actor researched Rickey before sitting down to lunch with Helgeland, where he plead his case. “I was able to speak to him not only about the character, but my ambition to play him. It wasn’t audition. It was lunch. But I did pay.”

Once Ford landed the role, he reveled in obscuring his famous visage under makeup and prosthetics. “I thought it would serve the movie best if I weren’t dragging any of the baggage of previous incarnations into the movie,” he explains. “I wanted to make clear from the get-go that this was not about the actor, it was about the character.”

He also listened to tapes of Rickey to capture his gruff voice. “I often find that when I’m walking down the street and talking to someone, people will recognize my voice as much as my face,” says Ford. “So I felt strongly I had to do a voice characterization for the part.”

“42,” which was released in April, kicked off a busy year for the actor, who also appeared in “Paranoia,” “Ender’s Game” and can currently be seen as a seasoned newsman in “Anchorman 2.” All roles could be qualified as character parts, which is largely why he was drawn to them. “I enjoy character parts because I don’t feel such a burden to wear the film on my face—I don’t need to take the blame if the movie doesn’t do well.”

Ford is considered one of the most bankable stars in film history, but he dismisses such talk with a wave of the hand. “They just make that kind of shit up. We have no idea if it’s even true. And it doesn’t matter,” he says. “And at the end of the day, you can’t really give a shit.”

So what about this business does Ford, for lack of a better word, give a shit about? “I give a shit about the work I do. I give a shit about my investment in something, how hard I work. I’ve said this before: This is a service occupation and you want to leave the impression that your customer, your audience, was not taken for granted.”

Ford certainly seems to be enjoying himself more and more these days, whether popping up in a cameo in “Bruno” or a David Blaine magic special. He took the role in “Anchorman 2,” despite the fact he hadn’t even seen the first film when he committed to its sequel. He explains his reasoning for taking the gig simply: “I was on my way somewhere and it in between and I thought, Why not? I’ve got nothing to lose, nothing to hide, and I thought it might be fun.”

There are directors Ford would love to work with—Spike Jonze and Derek Cianfrance come to mind—but at this point, Ford says it’s all about enjoying himself. “If acting was hard, I wouldn’t do it. I do because it’s fun,” he says. “That doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of hard work but the actual acting part has always been pure fun for me.”

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  1. sanman$ says:

    I went to acting school with Diane Keaton and took her to the movies twice in 1966. I wasn’t lucky like her and had to work as a waiter, bartender, doorman and finally for 24 years as a garbage man. I worked with morons and crazy people and I wrote a play all about it called “The Sanitation Chronicles” which I’m now turning into a screenplay starring me. Because it’s never too late to be what you might have been.

  2. john says:

    Who will be playing Indiana Jones? I know that Harrison Ford would be the best choice for the part but if you saw him in the new Star Wars maybe a prequel would be better.

  3. Frank W says:

    THIS IS A TRADE PUBLICATION PEOPLE! THIS ISN’T HUFFINGTON POOP. IT’S A STORY OF AN ACTOR TALKING ABOUT ACTING AT THE TIME IN HIS LIFE HE’S AT NOW. IT’S NOT ABOUT SELLING OUT, IT’S ABOUT CAREER CHOICES, WHAT HE’D LIKE TO DO AND HIS LOVE OF ACTING. NOTHING MORE. IF YOU’VE NEVER WORK AS OR WITH ACTORS, OR HAVE ANY ARTISTIC INCLINATIONS, YOU JUST WON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT HE IS SAYING.

  4. davo says:

    If only people cared about world hunger then they do a multi millionaire actor. I’m shocked how many people have no lives.

    • Frank W says:

      You do know he flies Search & Rescue missions in his own helicopter at his own expense, don’t you? Obviously not. Yes he has actually saved people.

  5. Calvin says:

    After claiming that his intention with the role of Branche Rickey was to honor the character, not himself, he contradicts himself immediately when he explains that the voice choices were spurred on because he didn’t want people to recognize him. What? Through out this interview he is one of the most self conscious and yet successful actors I have read an interview from. You hear of a lot of actors who are obsessed with their self image, but they very rarely remain in the spotlight because that is the mark of bad acting. An actor who is more concerned with himself than the story he is telling can never truly serve the story. He says in leading roles he feels “the burden to where the film on his face.” THAT is bad acting. That explains why, if the film does not have a huge following or built in audience, he doesn’t work. His charisma and good looks got him through some early films. Blade Runner, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and the Fugitive are all essentially the same guy in different situations. Yes, his character in The Fugitive is a little less snarky and more reserved, but that is because he is wanted for murder! If he wanted to be a character actor, why didn’t he use his countless opportunities in behemoth films to, you know, make some interesting and engaging choices as an actor? No formal training, gave up after a few years in Hollywood to become a carpenter, then he gets a big shot. No Lucas, no Ford. Why? Ford can’t act!

  6. Theodore Pride says:

    I love Harrison Ford as an actor. His only downside is that he owns the screen whenever he’s on it – often making him a bad choice as a supporting actor. His best roles are when he’s the lead. I’m sure most actors wish they had that problem, though.

  7. Alex says:

    You guys got nothing better to do than diss the Ford? I’m just here to bring some Ford love. I love everything he’s in, i’ve seen all his films and dislike non of them purely because he is in them. My favourite actor ever. Even named my son after him.

  8. John says:

    One of the most bankable stars in Hollywood history? “42” bombed overseas; “Ender’s Game,” “Cowboys and Aliens,” and “Paranoia” bombed worldwide (and he was only advertised in “Anchorman 2” ads overseas, and completely abandoned from the marketing material domestically). The guy is a grouse whose bitter, snide quips worked in his favor early on as a rogueish anti-hero (a la Han Solo and Indiana Jones), but as he’s gotten older, he’s turned into something of an unlikable grump who sneers his way through every film (and interview) with the same discontent look on his face, as if everyone around him is unworthy of his presence. And he’s solely in it for the cash these days, hence films like Paranoia. The only reason he came back to Indiana Jones – a series he repeatedly swore off for over a decade – was because he needed a hit to re-justify his hefty per-film paycheque. The guy is the definition of a hack, and these kind of glorified articles serve only to further inflate his ego.

    • Dee says:

      Dude, you really need to get a sense of humor. Ford’s gruff manner during interviews is part of his humor. And besides, the guy is 71 years old, naturally at that age, an actor is not going to get the roles he once had — did you really expect that? He’s 71 for godsake! And furthermore, he’s been in this business for YEARS and he’s earned a right to present himself in any way he chooses, he may not be bankable as he once was but at least he’s still working.

      • Frank W says:

        Dee, did you see his appearance on Graham Norton? HuffyPoo ran an article about how grumpy he was and stupefied over Benedict Cumberbatch’s Chewbacca imitation and it was anything but that. He was playing. I was worried at first that it was true, but then you saw he was doing a “wink wink nudge nudge” when he dropped the “character” several times–mostly though when the camera was not on him. I love he fooled everyone–and on Norton’s show, that’s a regular pre-arranged thing to get more laughs

  9. Rick says:

    Harrison Ford doesn’t really care what you think, folks. Right about now he’s probably flying around in his Twin Otter and enjoying his life.

  10. Davyjc says:

    Sell out!? So making “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” makes Ford some sort of indie darling or a member of Hollywood’s upper crust? The guy admits it. He’s a character actor that got lucky. It seems like now he’s doing what he came to Hollywood to do. Act. Looks like he’s buying into his own ambitions than selling out.

  11. Gary says:

    He’s a complete sell out — I always suspected him to be something of a phony. His desire to do Anchorman 2… some of the stinkiest crap from Hollywood EVER. Sell Out Harrison is what I’ll call him.

  12. DG says:

    My heart just bleeds for Harrison Ford.

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