With Indy cracking his bullwhip on DVD this weekend , Movies.ie chats to the man beyond the iconic character, Harrison Ford.
It’s been a while since Harrison Ford cracked his bullwhip as Indiana Jones, but it’s a role he’s always played for laughs as much as thrills. When it was announced in February of last year that Indiana Jones was indeed going to step into our multiplexes once more, the title given out to the world by director Steven Spielberg, co-writer and producer George Lucas and leading man Harrison Ford was Indiana Jones And The Ravages of Time.
Unsurprisingly, that particular name turned out to be just a little in-joke, as Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull rolls out on DVD this weekend. But the point was made. This is a movie that wasn’t about to take itself seriously.
Which suits Harrison Ford just fine. Ford knew, once he signed up for the fourth outing as the high-flying archaeologist adventurer, that he was about to walk into a hailstorm of jokes about, well, being too old for this shit. To quote the great Henry Walton Jones, Jr. himself.
“The fact that this guy never really wanted to be running around, dodging bullets and eyeballing snakes, that’s always been kind of the point,” says the 65-year old actor. “It was that very idea that appealed to me from the start. It’s not like I went into these movies pretending to be the perfect hero, the dashing young gentleman who always does the right thing at the right time, and in the right way. Indiana Jones has always been a little out of his depth, and a little tired of the matinee adventure stuff. And that’s what we have fun with in The Crystal Skull. It’s what we had fun with in the previous three outings.
“We just needed to find a way of turning that up a little, now that I’m really, really, really old. Not that I would ever want this guy to become a laughing stock…”
It’s been pretty much the season for old action heroes coming out of retirement, with Sylvester Stallone resurrecting Rocky after 16 years, and Rambo after 20 years, whilst Bruce Willis revisited his most famous character, John McClane, last year in Die Hard 4.0, after a gap of 17 years.
It’s been 19 years since Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. Which, hey, turned out not to be the last after all.
“I know,” says Ford. “Where does the time go, huh? On the one hand, it feels like at least a generation ago when I last played Indiana, but, on the other hand, it feels like only yesterday. Well, in fact, it was only yesterday, or pretty close to it. We’ve only just finished this film really…”
Funny. That the new Indiana Jones movie will clean up around the world over its opening weekend is a given, just as next week’s Sex And The City is destined to have everyone who’s ever carried a handbag rushing out to their local fleapit. The latter is a crock of crap (being nothing more than an extra-long and not-particularly-inspired episode that you just paid €8 to see), but what about The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull?
The good news is, it rattles along (well, them bones is old) just as fast as the previous three, and is as bonkers Boy’s Own as ever. Another major plus – besides the fact that the 56-year old Karen Allen looks surprisingly 30-year old self – is Cate Blanchett’s striking Russian baddie Irina Spalko, boasting a look, and an attitude, that will guarantee her a place on gay parades and in the better S&M clubs for decades to come.
“Irina is one of the better arch villains we’ve had in quite some time, isn’t she?” smiles Ford. “But then, Cate is one of the best actresses we’ve had in quite some time too. For any action hero to look good, you’ve got to make the enemy look as cool and cruel as possible. Just ask James Bond. I think we got ourselves one of the best in Irina Spalko.”
Yeah, but does that make The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull one of the best Indiana Jones outings? While its not quite Raiders Of The Lost Ark, the latest adventure certainly offers up plenty of crash, bang, wallop, and retains the sweet tongue-in-cheek cheesiness of the previous three.
Depending on your expectations – and some are going to be Star Wars sky high – this is either a fittingly rousing coda, or a crushingly slight return.
Either way, Ford is keen to point out that he’s not revisiting a former glory just for the box-office glory.
“It took me quite a while to say yes to this,” he offers. “I’m not keen on going back to old characters, to old movies, and trying to continue their story, as I feel it’s very, very rare that sequels get better. I can see the logic from Hollywood’s point of view – again and again, people go back to the characters they love, even when they know the latest movie is probably no good – but I don’t really need the money, or the aggravation, that comes with making those kinds of movies.
“So, yeah, it took some time here, but I think the script works, I think Steven and George feel exactly the same way I do about the project, and, you know, we got a great cast around me too. Besides Cate and Karen, there’s John Hurt, Ray Winston and Shia LaBeouf…”
The latter plays Indiana Jones’ young sidekick. Which would suggest spin-off potential. In Hollywood, the golden rule is, if Lassie dies, make sure you leave a puppy.
“Who knows?,” says Ford. “There’s been a lot of spin-offs from Indiana Jones already, and I think Steven and George would only go ahead with another one on the big screen if, again, they thought they had something to say. There’s no point in making a quick buck with another installment when you end up lessening the value of the originals.”
As anyone who’s ever sat through The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions will understand.
Having made a good impression in Distubria and Transformers, the 21-year old Shia became something of a protege to Spielberg. Even still, LaBeouf was petrified about leaking any plot points about the new movie after Spielberg sued a big-mouthed extra. He also cut the part of 24-year old Tyler Nelson from the film. LaBeouf joked that he reckoned Spielberg had snipers following him.
“These are the times we live in,” laughs Ford. “The internet gives so much away all the time, and there’s such a wealth of half-truths, rumours and outright lies, it does kind of ruin the surprise of the actual truth sometimes. We were keen that people would sit down to Crystal Skull with a blank sheet, and then we could just surprise them again and again. If you know someone dies, or that the whole things ends up on the Alps riding elephants – which it doesn’t, by the way – then it takes away from the thrill of the chase a little.
“By the way, Shia was right about the snipers. And, if you look closely, there’s a few red dots floating around this room too.”
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull isn’t the only show in town this year for Ford. There’s also the border drama Crossing Over, co-starring Sean Penn, Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd. Having turned down roles in Syriana and Traffic, it seems Ford is finally ready to tackle a difficult issue.
“I felt the story about immigration in America today was timely, you know,” he says. “I wanted to do something that wasn’t expected of me too. Playing this immigrations officer chasing down those without a green card, it gave me an opportunity to flex a different muscle.
“It reminded me a lot, in that sense, of The Mosquito Coast, which is one of my own personal favourites. Largely because, again, it was something that wasn’t expected of me.”
Time to squeeze in the Oirish question. Thanks to a Russian-Jewish mum, Dorothy Nidelman, and an Irish-German pop, Christopher Ford (both former actors), young Harry once stated that he feels “Irish as a person but Jewish as an actor”. Which might explain why he’s managed to generate over $6billion in worldwide grosses.
Even though, when we last met, I recommended the Shannon as the perfect spot for Ford and his woman, Clarista Flockhart, to take one of their beloved barge trips, the man still hasn’t made it any further into Ireland than a few whistle-stop visits to Dublin. And a few hours on the tarmac at Shannon airport.
“Well, I know a lot of New York cops,” he says, “so, I feel as though I’ve been to Ireland many, many times because of them. I’m never friendless on St. Patrick’s Day either, but, yeah, want to try and get over there and spend some real time in Ireland…”
Our time is just about up – so, what about getting too old for this shit? Cinema is kind to its OAPs, with the likes of De Niro, Pacino, Eastwood and Scorsese all enjoying full employment when they could be enjoying the benefits of a free bus pass. Still a thrill for Harrison J. Ford?
“I guess the trick is to just play your age,” finishes Ford. “I don’t plan on being in any movie where I get to snog Jessica Alba, you know what I mean? There’s always been room for every age in cinema because life doesn’t just happen to teenagers. I think it’s gotten even better over the years too. Hal Holbrook was incredible in Into The Wild, and the guy gets an Oscar nomination for it at 82. Richard Farnsworth got an Oscar nomination for The Straight Story when he was 80.
“People don’t think twice about a novel centred on an older person, or a play, and I don’t think they really care about what age the protagonist is in a movie all that much either.
“As long as the story’s good, who cares…?”
WORDS: Paul Byrne
‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ is released on DVD in Ireland on November 7th 2008.
We have copies of the DVD to giveaway later this week, stay tuned…