Tag Archives: harrison ford

Harrison Ford

So I’m watching the Joan Didion documentary on Netflix the other day and who pops up but Harrison Ford. Double take. Harrison Ford?

Harrison Ford was born in Chicago in 1942. His paternal grandparents were Irish Catholic and his maternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Minsk. When asked which religion he was raised in, he often answers “Democrat” but if you press him, “As a man I’ve always felt Irish, as an actor I’ve always felt Jewish.”

Ford was active in the Boy Scouts of America and earned its second-highest rank, Life Scout, which is how Indiana Jones came to have the same rank in The Last Crusade. He worked at Napowan Adventure Base Scout Camp as a counselor for the Reptile Study merit badge. No wonder he was a “late bloomer.”

He studied philosophy at Ripon College in Wisconsin and took a drama class in his senior year as a way to get over his shyness. He caught the acting bug and moved to 727f29dfc0dc6a384507c9b1f560298c--harrison-ford-young-harrison-ford-carpenterL.A. but it was a long, long time before the acting bug caught him back. He had a contract where he did a lot of background and bit parts, and most of those are lost to the either; his first known role is of course uncredited but he played a bellhop in Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966). His first credited role was a year later in the western A Time For Killing – he appears as Harrison J. Ford. He needed the initial to distinguish himself from a dead silent film star but in fact, Harrison does not have a middle name and so the J. stood for nothing and was soon dropped.

Frustrated with the crappy roles, Ford became a self-taught carpenter (he had a wife and two sons to support). He became a stagehand for a little band you may have heard of, The Doors, and he built a sun deck for actress Sally Kellerman, a recording studio for Brazilian band leader Sergio Mendes, and did a home renovation for, ahem, Joan Didion, with whom he remained close friends. He also expanded an office for a certain Francis Ford Coppola who then found roles for him in his next two films, The Conversation (1974) and Apocalypse Now (1979) in which he played an army officer named “G. Lucas.”

Coincidence or not (not), George Lucas hired Harrison Ford  – get this – to read lines with actors who were auditioning for his next film, Star Wars. Lucas was won over by Ford’s excellent line reading and eventually offered him the part of Han Solo, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher on Fifth Ave outside The Plawhich would make him a star of a franchise that has now spanned 5 decades. Jesus. He was paid somewhere in the neighbourhood of $20M for the last installment, plus a 0.5% share of revenues; he was paid $10k for the first one, and was glad to have it.

Then of course came Indy. Spielberg wanted him from the get go, but Lucas, having just worked with him in both American Graffiti and Star Wars, preferred Tom Selleck. Selleck fell through and another iconic role landed in Ford’s lap, not to mention another decades-spanning franchise (with another scheduled for 2020 – with a new Blade Runner currently in theatres, this guy has to hold the record for the most absurdly spaced sequels ever).

Sequels are a theme common to his personal life as well – he is, after all, on his third wife. He was married to Mary from 1964-1979 and they had two sons, Benjamin and Willard. Then came Melissa (who wrote the script for E.T. – Harrison had a cameo as the school principal but it was cut), married from 1983-2001, with whom had two more kids, Malcolm and Georgia. Presently he’s with #3, Calista Flockhart, whom he met at the 2002 Golden Globes. He got around to proposing on Valentine’s day 2009 and they were married in June 2010 in Santa Fe, because that’s where he was filming Cowboys & Aliens at the time. They coparent her adopted son Liam together. He’s got 3 grandkids.

Harrison Ford has adopted many interests. From the set of Indiana Jones, he took up an interest in archaeology and now serves as a General Trustee on the Governing Harrison-Ford-Calista-Flockhart-Cute-PicturesBoard of the Archaeological Institute of America. He’s also the  vice-chair of Conservation International, an American nonprofit environmental organization, which as led to two species being named after him: a newly discovered spider now called Calponia harrisonfordi, and an ant henceforth known as Pheidole harrisonfordi. He also got to name a butterfly, and he named it after his daughter, Georgia.

He’s also really into flying. He’s a pilot, licensed to fly planes and helicopters. He’s got a big ole ranch in Jackson Wyoming – 800 acres, although he’s donated half as a nature preserve. Local authorities often call on him to pilot rescues for distressed hikers (one such rescue was later mortified she learned she’d barfed in Harrison Ford’s plane). He started his training in the 1960s but couldn’t afford the $15\hour cost; it wasn’t until the mid-90s when he bought himself a used plane and asked his pilot to give him lessons. This time his money held out until he was a confident pilot. He’s had a few critical incidents; in 2015 he broke his ankle and his pelvis in an accident. Not to make light, but he’s also been injured on the Millennium Falcon, and that one was definitely grounded at the time.

Harrison Ford has been nominated for an Oscar just once, for Witness, but lost to William Hurt.

Star Wars costar Alec Guinness could never remember his name:  “I must off to studio and work with a dwarf (very sweet – and he has to wash in a bidet) and your fellow countrymen Mark Hamill and Tennyson (that can’t be right) Ford. Ellison (? – No!) – well, a rangy, languid young man who is probably intelligent and amusing. But Oh, God, God, they make me feel ninety – and treat me as if I was 106. Oh, Harrison Ford – ever heard of him?”

After having lunch with friend Jimmy Buffett, Ford found himself jealous of his stud. So, at the age of 55, he went to the mall and had his ear pierced at Claire’s Accessories, just like all the 11 year old girls. Speaking of Jimmy Buffett, Ford once provided whip cracking sound effects on Buffett’s song Desperation Samba (Halloween in Tijuana).

The Mosquito Coast is his favourite of his own films.

He is credited with “creating” a fan favourite scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) because he was suffering from a bout of dysentery at the time of filming: during the scene in Cairo with the swordsman in black, the script called for a much longer fight, but because he was sick, he quietly asked director Steven Spielberg if they could shorten the scene. Spielberg’s reply was that the only way it could be done would be if Indy pulled out his gun and “just shot the guy”. The rest of the crew, unaware of the change, laughed heartily, and it made the cut.

He plays golf with Bill Clinton and went to high school with Hilary.

Harrison Ford turned down a part in Jurassic Park, which went to Sam Neill. He turned down Kurt Russell’s part in Vanilla Sky. He turned down Schindler’s List. He turned down the role of Mike Stivic on All in the Family, citing the bigotry of Archie Bunker was too offensive. He turned down the Jack Ryan role in The Hunt for Red October. Dragonfly (2002) was written specifically for him but he turned that one down too. He turned down Michael Douglas’s role in Traffic. He turned down Proof of Life, The Perfect Storm, JFK, Dick Tracy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and The Patriot because it was too violent. He turned down Syriana, and that’s the one he regrets.

 

 

 

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Blade Runner 2049

blade4Has there ever been a more beautiful vision of a dystopian society than what Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins serve up in Blade Runner 2049?  Even a photo of a dead tree will be captivating to those around you.  Nuclear wastelands, city-sized garbage dumps, and coastal dams will all amaze.  Visually, this is exactly the sequel that Blade Runner deserved.

Story-wise, Blade Runner 2049 is probably the sequel that Blade Runner deserved as well, though that’s not necessarily a compliment.  The story is muddled right from the hard-to-read title cards that try to bring us up to date on what’s happened in that world’s last 30 years.

The facts in the title cards turn out to be quite important to keep up in Blade Runner 2049’s world as we follow an LAPD officer (Ryan Gosling) trying to solve a 30-year-old mystery involving our old friend Deckard (Harrison Ford).  Though it is unfortunate that the title cards are as dense as they are, I would not have wanted the movie to try to retell its background story, as the 163 minute run time is plenty long enough already!

Refreshingly, Blade Runner’s world is not our world.  It is an alternative future, so there is no attempt to revise the original’s timeline (as you may recall, Blade Runner is set in 2019 in a world where robot slaves are fighting space battles and colonizing other planets for humans, so things did not exactly turn out in our world as the first film predicted).  Interestingly, those differences make it easier for the view to focus on the similarities between their world and ours.  Villeneuve has delivered another very thoughtful, deliberate and satisfying sci-fi film, and it’s easy to analogize to our world every time a replicant is treated as disposable property (which happens a lot).  The film also offers a lot to chew on regarding memory and the nature of reality.  Honestly, I’m still digesting it all as a I write, while also trying to sort out a few of the story’s finer points, and this film is one that I’m going to have to watch again to get everything sorted.

It’s remarkable how closely this sequel resembles the first movie,  in style and substance, despite being released 35 years later.  More remarkably, at the same time it is paying tribute to the original, Blade Runner 2049 is telling a fresh story set in this familiar world, and manages to leave the original movie’s largest question unanswered in a surprisingly satisfying way.  So while Blade Runner 2049 is not the best movie of 2017, it is a good movie made great by its technical excellence, which naturally makes it the perfect sequel to Blade Runner.

Blade Runner

Jay provides an excellent litmus test anytime I’m unable to separate nostalgia from quality.  It happened with Star Wars, it happened with Indiana Jones, and it has now happened with Blade Runner.  As I write this, it occurs to me that Jay may just hate Harrison Ford, but let’s leave that aside for now.

Yes, because Blade Runner 2049 is on the horizon, I was able to convince Jay to watch Blade Runner with me earlier this week.  Anytime I can get Jay to watch what I will call nerd-fi, a category that includes most movies I saw in the 80s and 90s, it feels like a major brunner4victory.  But only until the movie starts, because so far, about 5 minutes into each movie I proudly show to Jay, she wonders why I bothered to beg her to watch this one, asking things like, “Do you remember it being this bad?” when the flying cars first come into view.

Maddeningly, I can’t even argue against her assessments.  In 2017, Blade Runner is not a great movie.  It’s not really even a good movie.  It’s a movie with vision, it’s beautiful to look at (though the flying cars do look as horrible as Jay pointed out), it brought dystopian futures and particularly Philip K. Dick to mainstream cinema, and it has an ambiguous ending that becomes even more so with every new cut issued by Ridley Scott.  But it’s also a movie with cornball acting, disposable characters that we are barely introduced to, and a ton of sequences that are beautiful but: (a) extremely repetitive (how many times do we need to see a car fly by a Coke billboard or the offworld blimp ad);  (b) essentially silent (like Ford’s visit to a food cart/open air diner); and (c) do nothing to advance the plot (which, let’s be honest, is probably about 35 minutes worth of movie without being padded by all the beautiful shots of futuristic Los Angeles).

brunnerStill, there is something to be said about Blade Runner and something reassuring about its continued relevance.  A big reason that the movie feels thin today is because it has been so influential.  We’ve seen so many films build on what Blade Runner started, and in comparison, Blade Runner is like a wheel made out of stone.  In that way, it’s important but if choosing between the original or the best that the genre has to offer today, the modern film is going to be the better one.  But there is still room in my heart for the rickety original, the one that was ahead of its time (and ahead of ours, as Blade Runner is set in the “distant” future of 2019).

And in some distant future of our own, maybe I will find a movie that I feel nostalgic for that also stands up to Jay’s critical eye.  Your suggestions are welcome!

The Age of Adaline

We missed this screening while in Paris, and I was okay with missing it, although our proxy did give it a one-word rave review: “fine”.

On our return flight from California, it was the only New Release I hadn’t already seen, so I gave it a go, and came up with much the same conclusion: it’s fine.

Adaline gets into an accident that causes her to stay 29 forever. And then she has the gall to TheAgeofAdaline2complain about it.  So that’s annoying. And she may have the glowing complexion of a 29-year-old, but she tells a story like a 129 year old: it’s long, rambling, often pointless.

Adaline, that is to say Blake Lively, looks gorgeous in every era. But her “problem” has made her selfish and I had a hard time finding anything likeable about her, other than having Ellen Burstyn as a daughter, and wondered why yet another of her “problems” was having all these handsome men fall in love with her. Wow. Poor Adaline. Tough life.

Anyway, you know exactly where this movie is going, and it goes exactly there, eventually, after a lot of plodding along.

I did love that it was set in San Francisco, since I had just been holidaying there myself, and recognized her digs in Chinatown. Actually, San Francisco is maybe the most interesting character – it’s often shot beautifully, almost noir-ish, which almost makes me sad. It looks and sounds like a movie that was supposed to be so much better than it was. Unfortunately it’s just another bland romance with a light and improbable sci-fi twist – basically, a very pretty fashion show. And the thing is, I don’t buy Blake as anything more than a mannequinn. She’s a clothes horse, but her eyes are blank. Her face is incapable of communicating anything to the audience, and she pales next to Harrison Ford, who gives off some mega wattage in a hammy performance I didn’t expect from him.

Verdict: missed opportunity.