Within 20 months and in the midst of a pandemic, Harrison Ford filmed Raiders of the Lost Ark in England. He shot a 10-part comedy called Shrinking in Burbank, California. He herded cattle up a mountain in the sub-zero temperatures of 1923 Montana, the latest in Yellowstone’s striking western range.
He also celebrated his eightieth birthday.
“I’ve pretty much been working side by side, which isn’t what I normally do,” said Ford, unshaven, dressed in blue jeans and boots and taking a chair at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel here earlier this month. He was in Los Angeles for one night, for the 1923 premiere, debuting Sunday at Paramount+. From here, it was the flight to Las Vegas the next morning for the next show, but another stop after a period of filming, travel, and promotion that would exhaust the actor half his life.
“I don’t know how that happened,” Ford said, taking a sip from his coffee cup. “But it happened.”
I love the challenge and process of making a movie. I feel at home. This is what I’ve spent my life doing
It’s been 45 years since Ford jumped off the screen as Han Solo in the first Star Wars movie, laying the foundation for a successful career in which he fleshed out some of the most commercially successful films in movie history. He has appeared in over 70 films, with a worldwide box office total of over €8.5 billion. So far, it seems, he has nothing left to prove.
But in an age when many of his contemporaries receded from public view, Ford didn’t slow down, let alone stray away to spend more time on his ranch in Jackson, Wyoming. He’s still trying new things – 1923 marks his first major TV part – he’s still looking for another role, and he’s still driven to stay in front of the camera.
He said, “I love him.” “I love the challenge and the process of making a movie. I feel at home. It’s what I’ve spent my life doing.”
And why does it slow down? Ford showed no sign of fading physically or mentally — he was fleet and agile as he walked into the Luxe Hotel for our interview, cover pulled down, and later, as he worked the room at a premiere after-party at Mother Wolf in Hollywood. . In his pacing and eclectic selection of roles, including grueling squire Jacob Dutton in 1923, he seems more determined than ever to show that he can be more than just the swashbuckling action hero who gave the world Han Solo and Indiana Jones.
said Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars and who, at 71, never misses his 5 a.m. wake-up calls and the next hustle and bustle of the job. “To do another Indiana Jones—I’m in awe of it.”
Ford is known for being gruff and unresponsive, an actor who isn’t given to self-reflection and has little patience for “put me on the couch” questions. There were flashes of that during the 45 minutes we spent together. He once said, “I know I got into that dark alley where you now have to ask me to describe the character.” “And I don’t want that.”
But for the most part, Ford was candid, relaxed, and reflective. This was a roadshow, and after half a century in the business, he knows how to do it. “I’m here to sell a movie,” Ford said, though, of course, he was there to sell a TV show — and to some extent, himself.
He said, “I don’t want to reinvent myself.” “I just want to work.”
Ford has always been More than just another charismatic Hollywood action star. He can act. There were swagger and smirks, but they were put to service in presenting complex heroes with flaws and self-doubt, including John Book, the witness investigator; Jack Ryan, the CIA analyst at the center of the Tom Clancy novels that inspired the movies; and Rick Deckard, in “Blade Runner”.
The style has set him apart for most of his career from monosyllabic, muscular action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jean-Claude Van Damme, and has always been an integral part of his appeal: Hamill said he was struck by it the first time they acted together.
“He was impossibly cool, world-weary, cautious, a little smug, fickle,” said Hamill.
Television isn’t exactly new territory for Ford. When George Lucas portrayed him as the white cowboy-hat-wearing drag racer in 1973’s American Graffiti, Ford was 30, making a living as a part-time carpenter in Los Angeles. By then, he had already begun taking on modest roles in series like Ironside, The Virginian, and Gunsmoke from the late 1960s.
His role in 1923 was not modest: he is the uncle of John Dutton III, the patriarch of the family portrayed by Kevin Costner in Yellowstone, TV’s most famous drama. As with Yellowstone, the scope of 1923 is broad—the western horizons, the sweeping aerial shots, the complexity of the characters and their stories. It also features another major star, Helen Mirren, as his wife, Kara, the tough matriarch of the family.
Ford watches little TV—he said he doesn’t have time—and didn’t know much about Yellowstone when his agent first brought him the role. (In preparation, watch some of 1883, the first Yellowstone prequel film, which follows an earlier generation of Duttons as they travel west by wagon train to establish the family farm.) Based on an advanced screening of the pilot, the cinematic ambitions of 1923 will be familiar to anyone who has watched Game of Thrones or Breaking bad. But in the past four months, it has been a pleasant surprise for Ford.
“They keep calling it TV,” said Ford, pointing with a touch of his upper torso to a TV screen in the next room. “But it’s not TV. It’s, you know, a huge spectacle. It’s an incredibly ambitious story that it tells on an epic scale. The scale of the thing is massive I think for TV.”
Ford said he accepted the role after Taylor Sheridan, the main creator behind the Yellowstone franchise, brought him to his ranch outside Fort Worth, Texas, and drew the character. “I’m 80, playing 77,” Ford said with a wry smile. “It’s kind of a stretch.”
Ford is infatuated with Dutton, a stoic and somber farmer who must fight in the last years of his life to protect his land and family.
“The character is not my typical character,” Ford said, likening his role playing a psychiatrist to Jason Segel in Shrinking, which is created by Segel, Bill Lawrence, and Brett Goldstein (of Ted Lasso), and which debuts next month on Apple TV+.
“I have never been to a psychiatrist in my life.”
The 1923 film tested his resilience and love of craft. Montana proved to be a brutal place to work; The cast and crew faced blizzards and freezing temperatures during the 10-hour days spent almost entirely outdoors.
“It was a nightmare,” said former James Bond Timothy Dalton, who plays a rancher who challenges Ford for control of the land. “We’re on top of a hill with a gusty wind coming towards us. The cameras are freezing. Your toes are freezing.”
Ben Richardson, who directed most of the 1923 episodes, described Ford riding horses up steep mountains, against knife-width winds, while Dutton herded cattle to higher elevations and promised fields for grazing.
“I’ve never had a complaint from him,” Richardson said. “I can’t express what a team player he is – so shocking. He’s Harrison Ford. He could do anything. I’m sure there are people who would rather have a dual status. He didn’t.” He added that he had “probably seen Blade Runner 20 times”, examining how Ford presented himself on screen.
“There’s something really compelling about watching him deal with tough situations,” he said.
From Ford’s early days as Han Solo, he was wary of being typecast as a favorite hero. He agreed to do the films Lucas or Steven Spielberg urged him on, but he also sought more than laser guns and slugs, and was drawn to films such as Peter Weir’s Witness (1985), and to directors such as Alan J Pakula (An Innocent Presumption, The Devil King).
“It always went from a movie for me to a movie for them,” he said, referring to directors—and audiences—who have a taste for action and superhero movies. “I don’t want to work for just one audience.”
So Ford will play a farmer in “1923” and a therapist in “Shrinking” — six months before his fifth Indiana Jones movie, “The Dial of Destiny,” opens in June.
“He doesn’t take credit for the diversity of his choices that he made,” Hamill said. “Everybody loves ‘Indiana Jones,’ but we know what it is, and we’ve seen it before — he could do that for the rest of his life. The fact that he’s doing something more challenging and more thought-provoking is something he admires about him.”
Central paradox From Ford’s biography is that Star Wars, the franchise arguably most responsible for remaking the industry in its image, made him one of the last true movie stars, a man whose name alone could sell tickets; Hollywood’s shift from stellar vehicles to intellectual property, from the big screen to the small one, can now be traced precisely along the trajectory of his career.
Star Wars has united a country–across geographic, class, and political boundaries–stirring audiences who gather in theaters to take part in its fantastical tale of love and adventure. These days, the audience consists of friends and family gathered in the living room, and Ford is faced with questions about whether the Yellowstone concession is a paean to America.
“I’m aware of the characters’ interest in politics,” he said, adding that he had no interest in Jacob Dutton’s political beliefs. Ford, who was born in Chicago to Democratic parents and supported Joe Biden against Donald Trump in 2020, noted that Yellowstone’s audience was so broad that it was unlikely to consist of only US Republicans.
The important thing is to go into a dark room with strangers, experience the same thing and get a chance to look at your common humanity
When Ford got down to business in 1923, Sheridan told him to approach it as if it were a 10-hour movie. “And that’s the way it feels for me,” Ford said. “But we work at a television pace. There’s just something about movies that allows for, you know, a little bit, a kind of luxury for time and some…”
He hesitated when he considered the dangers of the road better not to follow, weighing Harrison Ford’s merits in films versus television. “I don’t think I really want to go too deep into this because there’s nowhere for me to go, for me.”
“I do the same job,” he said. “It’s just packaged and distributed differently.”
Ford is not a pioneer. He resisted television for many years, eventually reneging on his approval of other major box office stars—Kevin Costner in Yellowstone and Sylvester Stallone in The Tulsa King—who joined Taylor Sheridan’s TV production.
Yet as he prepared for the 1923 premiere, on a big screen tucked away at Hollywood’s American Legion Hall, it was clear where his heart lay.
“The important thing is to go into a dark room with strangers, experience the same thing and get a chance to reflect on your common humanity,” Ford said. “With strangers. And the music – the sound system is better, isn’t it? The darkness is deeper, isn’t it? And the ice chest isn’t so close.”
Ford pauses when he detects a reference to a kitchen appliance from another era—the one he grew up in. He couldn’t help but laugh at his defeat. “Refrigerator!” He said. – This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
The year 1923 is now broadcast on Paramount + Ireland
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