With Morning Glory, Harrison Ford plays directly to his strengths. And with Cowboys & Aliens heading our way, Paul Byrne reckons old grumpy-boots is making a comeback.
If you’ve ever had to wonder how Harrison Ford fits into the great Hollywood scheme of things, all you really have to do is look at his three seconds of screen time in 2009’s Bruno.
From the very start, Ford wasn’t interested in shaking hands and kissing fat studio chief’s cheque books to get ahead in acting. In the early years, when the scripts weren’t there, Ford turned to his carpentry, happier to make a chair than play third fiddle in a second-rate movie. Being happy with the work is what it was all about. Being on screen just for the sake of being on screen was not.
Ironically, it’s an approach that would help turn Harrison Ford into America’s biggest box-office grossing star, his films taking in a tidy $3.4billion. Thanks, in no small part, of course, to such roles as Hans Solo and Indiana Jones.
This is the man who, at one point, had a role in three of the top five grossing movies of all time. The man who has five of his films inducted into the National Film Registry.
But, I digress. Back to Sacha Baron Cohen’s overcooked and underperforming spoof about a clueless, Austrian fashionista who is trying to make a pilot TV show in Hollywood. By ambushing stars big and small. The biggest on his radar is Harrison Ford, who Bruno eventually manages to catch on camera as he leaves an LA restaurant one night.
And this is where you can sum up Harrison Ford’s attitude to Hollywood, to celebrity, to the flashing lights that are always popping on the pavements of Tinseltown. Turning to Cohen as the jabbering, mic-weilding goon excitedly approaches his hugely famous prey, Ford simply turns his head and spits out a short but firm, “Fuck off”. And he’s gone.
“Well, I don’t like being accosted in the street like that,” smiles Ford today, as he sits back in his Claridge’s Hotel suite. “And no, I’m not particularly fond of that side of the business, where it’s all soundbites and high fives. I’m not that kind of guy, and I never have been. What’s the point of all that stuff? And it’s corrosive. You can only take so much of that mindless fluff before it starts to wear you down. I’d rather use all my energy on the work, and then just go home.”
It helps, of course, when home includes the love of your life – in Ford’s case, actress Calista Flockhart, the couple having gotten married in Santa Fe, New Mexico last June, after eight years together.
There’s no denying that Ford’s approach to this business we call show is an admirable one though. Life on the clear blue ocean sea is always going to be healthier than life on the backbiting, bitesized, forced buddy-ism of the red carpet.
Just look at the state of those Xpose girls.
The one part of the dog and pony show Ford realises is important though is doing press, stars having the distinct advantage of rising above the colossal white noise that today’s 24-hour entertainment media has become. Thanks largely to the internet. And QVC journalism. Like Xpose.
Which is fitting for today’s interview. The reason Harrison Ford is holed up in a London hotel this fine afternoon is Morning Glory, a sharp comedy set amidst the chirpy, chirpy, cheap cheep world of breakfast television.
Having hit rock bottom, and in danger of being cancelled, Daybreak on IBS takes a gamble on hiring young workaholic Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams) to try and steer the show away from the iceberg. Recognising almost immediately that long-serving co-anchor Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) has been playing cuckoo in the nest by constantly driving every new co-host barmy, and away, Colleen spots a way out when she realizes that Pulitzer Prize-winning, hard-hitting newsman Mike Pomeroy (Ford) may be semi-retired, but he’s also under contract to IBS. Which means that she can force the cantankerous old goat into co-hosting Daybreak – otherwise, he’ll forfeit the rest of his lucrative contract.
Ford and McAdams (one of cinema’s smarter pretty young things) are wonderful together, the comic sparks between the duo recalling the classic screwballs comedies of the 1930s. And if today’s great battle between real news and fluffy kittens on stilts is ultimately avoided here (thanks to a group hug ending that reads entirely false), there is a lot of well-aimed fun to be found in Morning Glory.
Which must have been a treat for Ford. Especially after last year’s double-whammy of true-story medical drama Extraordinary Measures (a $31m movie that enjoyed a $15m worldwide gross) and border drama Crossing Over (worldwide gross: $3,466,762).
“This was a lot of fun, yeah,” nods Ford. “You’ve got a great script, some wonderful people to work with, a subject that’s topical – it’s very easy to go to work in the morning when you’ve got all that going on.”
And McAdams too. If there wasn’t 36 years – and a wife – between them, these two leads, you feel, would make a great couple. At least, on screen.
“Rachel was fantastic,” says Ford. “And she’s a real talent. She knows what she’s doing, and that makes you up your game. It keeps you on your toes, and just encourages you to fly that little bit higher. Loved working with her, and I think she’s someone that’s going to be around for a long time. Probably even longer than me.”
Not that Harrison Ford is about to hand in his badge any time soon. Also coming out this year is the highly-anticipated Cowboys & Aliens, a wild ride based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s 2006 graphic novel.
Due for release in the US in July, Cowboys & Aliens is already beginning to look like one of the year’s biggest hits. Directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf, Swingers), co-produced by Spielberg and Ron Howard, and co-starring Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwel, it’s a film about cowboys. Being attacked by aliens. In deepest, darkest Arizona, back in 1873. How could it fail?
“Well, here’s hoping it doesn’t,” laughs Ford. “There’s a lot of excitement already about this film, and that’s always heartening to see. No one wants to make movies that no one goes to see.”
Despite the devilishly silly title, and the deliciously delirious premise, Ford played his gruff Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde completely straight. As did everyone else involved in the movie. Even the aliens. This is no Men In Chaps.
“This has been in development since 1997, and it’s gone through a lot of changes,” he explains. “It was a very broad comedy at one point, but, eventually, it was decided that taking the story seriously would be the best approach.”
Co-writer Roberto Ocri said of that final approach, “Imagine you’re watching Unforgiven and then aliens land”. Last July, at Comic-Con, Favreau cited Sergio Leone and John Ford, mixed with Alien and Predator.
“Yeah, that’s the approach we took,” nods Ford. “You can’t take it too seriously, of course, but you’ve got to be true to your character, and the story that’s been told.”
So, with two fine Harrison Ford movies heading our way in 2011, and both looking like bona fide hits, can we call this a comeback?
“Well, you could call it that,” muses the man himself, “if I’d been away for a few years. But I’ve been here all along, making the movies that I want to make. Whether they’re hits or not isn’t really the issue.
“All that really matters is, are they good movies? That’s all I really care about.”
Morning Glory hits Irish cinemas Jan 21st/ Cowboys & Aliens lands on August 12th