get mad when people call me an action movie
Jones is an adventure film, a comic book,
Harrison Ford -
As all the world knows by now, Harrison
Ford is set to finally return to the role of Indiana
Jones. Mostly, this news has been met with excitement.
But, not an insignificant number have wondered
if, after all these years, the sixty-something
year old Mr. Ford can pull it off.
Clint Eastwood made Unforgiven
and In The Line of Fire
after turning sixty. John Wayne made True
Grit and The Shootist.
These are films that poignantly dealt with characters
of advancing age. They are each classic. However,
the Indiana Jones series, whether we call them
action films or not, always dazzled with spectacular
stunts. The above mentioned classics are hardly
stunt-driven vehicles. So, the comparison is not
perfect. The fourth installment of the Indiana
Jones adventures will be different. The fact is,
with a sixty-something year old star, it promises
to be something never done before.
It may be a difficult pill for some
skeptics to swallow, but the truth is Steven Spielberg,
George Lucas and Paramount Pictures are taking
a bit of a chance. There have been successful
"re-imaginings" of franchises lately
and if Indiana Jones
4 was only about cashing in (as has been
suggested), that's likely the route Paramount
would insist upon. The easiest thing to do, if
the studio simply wanted to rake in revenue, would
be to recast the role with a young star and do
a whole series of new films. It has been suggested
for many years that Indiana Jones could be like
James Bond. So, why cast Harrison Ford? And, is
he too old?
Call me naive, but I think this
will be one of the rare times when Hollywood is
willing to spend tens of millions of dollars to
produce something that will not just turn a profit
but will actually be a worthwhile contribution
to cinema history. Harrison Ford is one of America's
greatest actors and as far as the perception that
it's all about money goes, why spend ten years
developing a single script?
Of the three previous Indiana Jones
films that starred Ford, Indiana
Jones and the Temple of Doom was the most
physical. The new one will likely compare as the
polar opposite to that film. It will probably
play out more as mystery than actioner. Therefore,
the issue regarding a lot of old man action will
be nonexistent. George Lucas said the new film
will deal with the character's advancing age.
Putting the same amount of physicality into the
script as there was with Temple
of Doom, would not be dealing with the
character's age. The new film would be denying
it. This is not what Lucas has promised.
Obviously, there will be a certain
amount of stunt work but those worried about Ford's
ability to pull it off should understand there
are actors and there are stuntmen. These are separate
professions. Also, it has been reported that Harrison
Ford is preparing for the shoot with months of
physical training; more likely to reduce the risk
of injury than to beef up like Conan. Still, he
is working hard to meet whatever physical demands
there may be.
of the Lost Ark
(1981) - Blade
So, I don't think anyone need worry
about Ford's age being a detriment to the film.
But still, why bother, one might continue to ask?
Why not make an old fashioned, action-packed Indiana
Jones that doesn't have to deal with advancing
age? Even if Ford can meet the physical requirements,
who needs him?
For those of us old enough to have
seen Star Wars
and Raiders of the Lost
Ark when they were originally released
it can be a strange and depressing experience
to review the message boards of movie web sites
and find so much cynicism aimed at one of our
greatest movie icons.
What’s wrong with these people,
I wonder? I’d like to just call them names
and be done with it (stupid idiots!). But maybe
it's a tricky thing today, properly assessing
an actor’s value. With baseball players,
one can look at batting averages. With attorneys,
one can look at cases won as opposed to lost.
But, what do we do with an actor?
Do we judge based on oscars? Extraordinary
talents like Cary Grant and Richard Burton never
won oscars. Paul Lukas won one. The film was Watch
on the Rhine. He beat out Humphrey Bogart
Some are impressed when an actor
is different in every role. While variety can
be nice, when an actor decides to display extreme
range it often serves his or her own needs with
little regard for their films or audiences.
One obviously necessary componant
in determining an actor’s value is the real
person an actor brings to a role beyond the ability
to creatively interpret the script. This element
can cause a fictional character to transcend beyond
a film’s parameters because the performance
seems so real. For example, Sylvestor Stallone
as Rocky Balboa. Something in the natural make
up of Sylvestor Stallone brought a reality to
his performances in that role. Harrison Ford is
possibly the only actor ever to be successful
at this with more than one character. And, unlike
Stallone, Ford created neither of these characters.
The reason is because he has a remarkable ability
to seem real.
It was not the success of Star
Wars that launched Harrison Ford’s
career. It was his success at playing Han Solo
that launched his career.
Force One (1997)
Ford’s acting is so deeply
rooted in reality, so solidly down to earth, that
a filmmaker can cast him in the wildest fantasies
and audiences will believe what they are seeing
is real. His acting offers something familiar
for audiences. We relate to him. He becomes the
vehicle for transporting us far, far away. His
performances are so true that we forget they are
performances and easily follow him into worlds
of pure fiction.
One example of a creative choice
typical of Harrison Ford is how he plays up the
feeling of reluctance. In Blade
Runner, his Rick Dekkard is reluctant with
just about every move he makes. As Indy, Ford
often shows reluctance before beating up bad guys,
not because he has any reservations about whether
or not he is right to do so (certainly not!),
but because it’s likely to be difficult.
In Star Wars,
he’s reluctant to believe in the Force or
be friendly to droids. Much of this is conveyed
by Ford in ways aside from what is written in
the scripts. We, as the audience, identify with
reluctance. It rings true to life. It makes sense
for the charcaters in those circumstances. Today’s
young action stars, too stupid to steal from the
best, leap into action with such cocksure arrogance
that we are constantly reminded we are just watching
It is this special quality of Harrison
Ford’s that has served the needs of Steven
Spielberg, George Lucas and many other great directors.
and Clear and Present
Danger are only a few more films with extraordinary
stories where the director needed an actor who
could carry an audience into worlds far from familiar.
It has been a problem with Ford’s
career that this special ability has not been
necessary in films where the worlds are already
so familiar, in settings too common. His greatest
strength has been wasted in a number of films
that offered a stage that simply wasn’t
But, for as long as there are films
about ordinary guys in extraordinary circumstances,
Harrison Ford’s great gifts can and should
be utilized. He will not grow too old to make
successful movies. Youth is not his genius. It
is absurd to assume Harrison Ford won’t
be as effective as ever playing Indiana Jones.