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

The legendary actor would also like to work with Spike Jonze

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

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.”