Solo. Jones. Ryan. Deckard. Harrison Ford has played many iconic roles over the last 35 years. Dicaprio and D.D. Lewis may be my favorite actors, Arnie and Sly may be my favorite action heroes and Luke Skywalker was my first on-screen hero. But Harrison Ford has always and will always be my favorite. Favorite what you ask? Let’s just say, for a lack of a better word, Favorite Movie Star. But in truth, he’s just my favorite. Like Jerry Rice in Football, Will Clark in baseball, Patrick Marleau in Hockey, Michael Jordan in basketball, he is my favorite all around ball player in his sport.
Those four names at the top there, those are very recognizable names from 3 well known franchises and probably the biggest Sci-Fi cult classic that has had so many different cuts released it’s a franchise in itself. I love all those characters, but that’s what they were characters. Harrison Ford plays those heroes just as well if not better than anyone, but what of Harrison Ford the actor. Because he can do that really well too, and has done it many times before.
I seem to be one of the few out there that liked COWBOYS AND ALIENS a lot. However, like WATCHMEN, I can understand why I liked it, just as much as I understand why most people didn’t. Ford was by far, and he is the only thing most people like about C&A, the best part of the movie. He plays a grizzled old cowboy whose first impression kind of masks what your final impression of him may turn out to be. Ford’s best movie since AIR FORCE ONE.
His two finest acting moments came in back to back films with TRUMAN SHOW auteur Peter Weir. One, playing the romantic hero role he’s known for in WITNESS(1985) and a complete 180 on anything he has ever done before and even since in MOSQUITO COAST(1986).
WITNESS is his most universally hailed and only Oscar nominated performance. As John Book, a Philadelphia by the books homicide detective, whose only witness to a murder is an 8-year old Amish boy. Problem is, the murder the boy witnessed was done by a celebrated narcotics officer with friends in high places. Weir and the screenwriters create a great juxtaposition with two different fish out of water stories. The first is young Samuel’s introduction to the world outside his sheltered Amish village.
The bulk of the movie is John Booth trying to adjust to the minimalist, antiquated living of Samuel and his kin. Part thriller, part romance, this is a complete movie with a complete Harrison Ford performance, not to mention his singing and dancing seduction of Samuel’s Amish widow mother. There’s also the scene where the Amish villagers build a house with Book’s help. A scene in which Ford was able to showcase skills from his original trade, carpentry. Kelly McGillis, Danny Glover, Lukas Haas as Samuel and if you look closely Viggo Mortenson, co-star in a much needed addition to any Harrison Ford as well as best of the 80’s, collection.
MOSQUITO COAST has Ford starring as a brilliant scientist/engineer who borders on the edge of insanity. His state of paranoia represents a popular type of couch revolutionary in the 80’s. The people worried about our dependency on foreign products, the people who have lost faith in the way our country runs and longs for simpler times. Only difference is, Allie Fox takes his revolution from his coach to the third world. Moving from a technology superior super giant to middle of the forest Central American Village, Allie Fox takes upon himself to become a god amongst men. As he descends deeper into Ahab like obsession and begins to lose what’s left of his sanity. By the end of the movie, I guarantee by the end of this flick, it will be the least liked Ford character you have seen. You’ll love the performance, you’ll hate the man performed. Dragging his Wife(Helen Mirren) and his children led by the oldest Fox sibling, Charlie(River Phoenix). Seeing River and Ford side by side as father and son, you understand why Ford handpicked him to play the young Indy in LAST CRUSADE.
WORKING GIRL, a romantic comedy, was just a bit o‘change of pace after two cerebral and serious Peter Weir Flicks. Ford plays a slick yuppie businessman who gets involved in a love triangle between him, Melanie Griffith, and Sigourney Weaver. In a female dominated cast, Harry is the eye candy and throughout the movie hears catcalls and given the up/down, more than once. Directed by acclaimed comedy director Mike Nichols, WORKING GIRL was a surprise smash hit in 1988 that netted 6 academy award noms including best picture and nods for Nchols, Griffith, Weaver, and Joan Cusack(My personal fave part of the movie, other than Mr. Ford of course.)
The only one it won though was for the Carly Simon song “Let the River Run.” Check for blink and you’ll miss him Oliver Platt, a hilarious turn from a young and thin Alec Baldwin as Griffith’s sleazy boyfriend and Kevin Spacey as coke snorting sleazebag businessmen. This movie is a fun date night movie that is better than your average chick flick. Top notch talent in prime form, WORKING GIRL is a reminder of why going to the movies in the 80’s was so fun. And the hair, oh the big hair. Who was the first person to think that was a good idea?
Peter Weir, Mike Nichols, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Ridley Scott all of these giants of the directing fraternity cast Harrison Ford as their leading man or in the case of Coppola, discovered him and convinced George Lucas to give him the small but memorable part in AMERICAN GRAFFITI. Bob “I ain’t nobody, dork” Falfa led to his huge break as Han Solo in that little indie called STAR WARS.
During the mid to late 80’s, there was no bigger star in the world than Harrison Ford. Big name directors continued to cast him in their projects, like Roman Polanski in his thriller FRANTIC. Ford had become the king of the thrillers, starting with WITNESS continuing with FRANTIC, PRESUMED INNOCENT, and THE FUGITIVE. In Polanski’s FRANTIC, Ford plays an American whose wife goes missing in Paris and with the help of a beautiful young French student sets off on a dangerous search to find her.
A by the numbers thriller but with Ford’s everyman charm and Polanski’s slick style.
PRESUMED INNOCENT was a movie a couple of years before it’s time. Meaning it just missed the lawyer craze created just two years later in the adaption of John Grisham’s THE FIRM. It was still a big hit, yet who knows what kind of money it could have made just two years later. It’s also got a bit of the wrongfully accused good guy element that will prove very successful for Harry Ford only three years later.
THE FUGITIVE, based on a 60’s TV series, is H.F.’s biggest box office hit that isn’t called STAR WARS or INDIANA JONES. Dr. Richard Kimble’s search for the One-Armed man who actually murdered his wife, became a huge runaway box office smash. Getting Tommy Lee Jones an Oscar for his federal marshal so good at his job he checks every warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse searching for his man. When he finds his man, he is immune to Kimble’s pleas of innocence. You see, federal marshals could care less about the crime you committed. They’re job is to catch you and transport you to jail. That’s it.
Legend Alan J. Pakula(TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN, SOPHIE’S CHOICE) reteams with Ford, the first being PRESUMED INNOCENT, on his last film 1996’sTHE DEVIL’S OWN. Teaming Ford with his heir apparent, rising star Brad Pitt should’ve been money in the bank, but OWN struggled to find the big audience it should’ve, making it to me, one of Ford, Pitt and Pakula’s most underrated flicks. 1997’s AIR FORCE ONE came slightly behind THE FUGITIVE in the box office total, casting him as Kick Ass President James Marshall.
Harrison Ford has stumbled a bit in the last decade, and COWBOYS AND ALIENS was a return to form acting-wise, however his box office pull is definitely not what it used to be. Yet aside from a new INDY film on the way(Hate CRYSAL SKULL as much as you want, you’ll still be in line for Indy 5), and string of monetary failures(with the exception of CRYSTAL SKULL) in the last decade, look for Ford to reinvent himself soon.
I for one will Trust Him and follow him and his lopsided grin into any adventure he wants to take us on. Lead on Capt. Solo, You have the conn.
Cap Out.FBF with Captain Dan: Harrison F'n Ford (8-12-11),