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Classic 60s television comes to the big screen with The Fugitive. Alan Morrison caught up with its star, Harrison Ford.
At 5]. he‘s still one ofthe top screen hunks. but unlike Cruise. Gibson and the rest. Harrison Ford is more popular with male fans than female. From the tips of his boots to his action-man scar. he‘s the ready-made boyhood hero who. as Han Solo and Indiana Jones. guided a generation of young movie- going males through their screen fantasy adventures. But Ford is also legendary in his rejection of the star status thrust upon him. At every opportunity. he stresses his detachment from the glitzy trappings that come with being an actor in some of the top-grossing films of all time.
Trying to pin him down, trying to discover exactly what it is that draws him to any particular role, proves fairly difficult, as
he screens Harrison Ford the man, behind
answers from Harrison Ford the actor.
‘l have no resistance to the film community. i don‘t hate Hollywood as is often said in the press. ljust prefer to live close to nature in a quiet peaceful place.‘ he says. setting the record straight. ‘And after twenty years. l‘ve earned the right to run away.‘ His refuge is an 800-acre ranch in Wyoming. which he shares with his second wife. Melissa Mathison (writer of ET and The Black Stallion). and his two youngest children. it is this juxtaposition of the action hero and the ordinary bloke that is the foundation stone of the unique Harrison Ford appeal — the sense that these derring-do figures aren‘t entirely beyond our grasp. Journalistic convenience usually puts this down to his ‘working-class roots‘ — he spent several years as a carpenter - although this has become almost as much a part of modem Hollywood mythology as the adventure icons he has created. ‘1 did not have so much satisfaction as a carpenter because it was not as fulﬁlling intellectually or as challenging as this kind of work is.‘ he points out. ‘l do enjoy doing it from time to time. but i don‘t envisage going back.’
And when you can command around a fee of around $10 million a movie, who needs to pick up the hammer and nails again? The deal that Ford ﬁnalised last year for the series of Tom Clancy adaptations that began for him with Patriot Games is unprecedented in Hollywood: 350 million over ten years for five more appearances as CIA analyst Jack Ryan. This. of course. won't be the first time that his
presence has formed the basis of a successful set of movies. although he recognises the dangers that lurk in repeated roles. ‘The obligation, which we took seriously in Indiana Jones. was to advance the character.‘ he explains. ‘lfyou‘re going to do it
again. as well as giving them an entertaining story.
we have to advance their understanding of the
character so that it‘s not the same old stuff.‘
There is no real threat of a sequel to The Fugitive. Ford‘s latest movie. the 90s big-screen version of the much-appreciated 60s television series which starred the late David Janssen. In it he plays Dr Richard Kimble. a Chicago surgeon who is wrongly convicted of his wife‘s murder. but escapes the death sentence when the prison bus taking him to a penitentiary crashes. Thus begins a two-pronng cat- and—mouse chase. as Kimble tries to track down the
: one-armed man who is the real killer. while himself being hunted by Deputy US Marshal Sam Gerard (a
scene-stealing performance by Tommy Lee Jones). This is an action movie that doesn‘t rely on gun-play
. and ever-bigger explosions; it's a supremely well-
acted thriller that gives Ford the opportunity to get
physical again. Although this had its drawbacks.
‘l tore the anterior cruciate ligament in my right leg
3 and damaged the medial meniscus.‘ he relates. , showing that at least some of the time spent 5 researching the role of a surgeon has paid off. ‘The
only time taken off was the time it took to get the icebag on the set; I had my knee operated on after the movie. It was an accident: I was running toward the camera for a shot for the trailer — a long lens shot. trying to make it last as long as possible. and I ran very close. putting all my weight on my right leg as i cut left. And that‘s when it tore. Later on. after it had healed. we were doing the scene in the city hall and it went out again. sending me tumbling downstairs. The physical stuff is fun 90 per cent of the time. and when it‘s not fun. it‘s maybe discomforting. But the
opportunity in the midst of physical action to give expression to character is too great to give up.‘
iiarrison Ford in The Fugitive: ‘ready-made boyhood hero’
‘I did not have so much satisfaction as a carpenter because it was not as fulfilling intellectually or as challenging as this kind of work is. I do enjoy doing it from time to time, but I don’t envisage going back.’
The building up of sweat was only one aspect of the project‘s appeal for Ford. But trying to pin him
1 down. trying to discover exactly what it is that draws j him to any particular role. proves fairly difficult. as he screens Harrison Ford the man. behind answers
from Harrison Ford the actor. ‘I had an emotional reaction to the character and his circumstances.‘ he explains. ‘That‘s what I always look for as an actor.
r that‘s my hook into the material. that‘s the greatest
resource we have at our disposal to encourage the emotions of the audience and seal them into the story. It was the actor‘s imagination that l engaged when l
-_ read the script. it was the mind of the actor. not the
mind of Harrison Ford. that had an emotional relationship to his dilemma. We only have our own experience and imagination to draw upon as an actor. This is not pan of my experience. so i had what aid I had from my imagination. We didn't think it was an action picture when we started: it has action in it. but that‘s only one aspect of the interest that this has for an audience. There‘s a mystery story going on. there‘s the discovery of the motivation of the killer. there are a lot ofdifferent elements. Good movies are what people want to see.‘
The Fugitive opens in Scotland (in Friday 24 September.
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18 The List 24 September—7 October 1993