Evidence that age is nothing but a number is provided in spades by Harrison Ford. For many, having seven movies inducted into the prestigious National Film Registry would be reward enough, but even at 77, the actor’s current swathe of moviemaking output is intriguing. This is a man who won’t fade quietly into retirement.
His ‘ big thing’ for 2020 is the role of John Thornton in director Chris Sanders’s adaptation of the Jack London novel ‘The Call of the Wild’, starring alongside Karen Gillan and exploring the mystique and madness of the great outdoors. It’s an environment not totally alien to the Chicago-born actor – he has a house near the Teton Mountain range in the Rockies, east of the Idaho state line.
While the switch back to adventure fodder may be a world away from the likes of ‘Blade Runner: 2049’, it perfectly sets up Ford for his reprisal of adventurous archaeologist Indiana Jones in 2021 – here, he reveals to RSNG if he really does have a fear of snakes, shooting rapids and where his work ethic comes from…
RSNG So, first, Indiana Jones is coming back. You said the character dies with you, a comment that made a few waves. Do you stand by that?
HARRISON FORD, OUTWARD BOUND AGAIN ‘Err… what did I say now? Haha! Well, yeah… I think that it’s the truth. That’s what I think about it and the role itself.’
‘I think when you’ve played a character for a long stretch of movies, and when that character has lasted in that image for three or four, it’s natural for you to think that you are the character – to a certain degree.’
‘Obviously, I don’t walk around in the hat, I don’t have a whip and I actually do like snakes. In fact, I have no problem at all with snakes. Indy on the other hand, hates them.’
‘For the first part of your question, on the fact that I will be coming back to play Indiana Jones for the fifth and possibly last time, yeah, that is looking good, so far. I can confirm the rumours and with everything going smoothly, that should be right.’
‘As for the rest, Indy will always be a big part of who I am. That role came at a time when I had done a lot but was looking for a change of tact from the sci-fi stuff, and it really turned me into a much better actor. I am grateful for that.’
‘I’ve always taken a lot of time out and away from movies – it certainly isn’t the one thing that fuels me and gives me my purpose’
RSNG You’ve never been someone who takes the industry too seriously?
HF ‘I think a lot of that is to do with the fact I’ve always taken a lot of time out and away from movies. I don’t feel I need to keep feeding this thing and it certainly isn’t the one thing that fuels me and gives me my purpose.’
‘In the Seventies and Eighties I stepped it up a bit, sure, but there’s been a lot of other stuff I’ve wanted to take care of outside of film, so I’ve built a life around that too.’
RSNG Like what?
HF ‘I think environmental matters are really at the forefront now and have been for a while. I’m old, but it’s really refreshing to see a new breed of young people coming through with a genuine voice, and the ability to raise genuine concerns about the world out there and the change they feel we should be making.’
‘Twenty, maybe even 10 years ago, there wasn’t this strength of movement. I think there is now and that’s good to see. It’s reassuring that the power to change doesn’t just come from movie stars or pop stars or politicians – it’s from real people living real lives, and that fills me with a lot of optimism.’
‘Sergio Mendes asked me to work on his recording studio and it cost $100,000 but I was working from a book on how to get it right!’
RSNG Is it true your career didn’t go off straight away? You were forced to wait for more and bigger roles, weren’t you?
HF ‘That’s right – I worked around Hollywood as a carpenter and thought that was what I was always going to be. Sergio Mendes asked me to do work on his recording studio and it cost $100,000.’
‘But what was funny is that it was pretty much the very first time I had done a job of that size and I was working from a book on how to get it right, which thankfully, I did.’
RSNG You've often stated how you have a very strong work ethic and take great pride in getting things done right. Where does that come from?
HF ‘I grew up in the Midwest (Chicago) in an era when hard work was something that was ingrained in your upbringing. My ancestors were all farmers. I lived in a big city because my father was working in an advertising agency.’
‘My first job as a kid was cleaning snow off sidewalks and driveways. I must have been eight or nine years old. And then I learned to mow the lawn. I did all these things to earn myself some extra spending money which I usually spent on chocolate bars and candy.’
‘But the idea of learning to work when you are young and maintaining certain job responsibilities while you grow up is something very typical of the Midwest, and it is something that has stayed with me my entire life.’
RSNG Call of the Wild is certainly a film full of ambition and experience?
HF ‘There’s so much wrapped up in it that I had to take it. You’ve got the gold rush, a great story about a man and his dog; you have a survival, escape-type theme, and for me the chance to perform all my own stunts, including going down the rapids haha!’
‘Joking aside it was a great movie to do – it is a movie of hope, and I do believe that’s what we all need right now.’
RSNG It does feel like a sort of prelude to Indiana Jones as well...
HF ‘If it does that’s unintentional. I think people will quickly realise Indiana Jones is a bit older than the last time they saw him and that won’t need a long intro.’
‘When Sean Connery came in to do The Last Crusade, I remember thinking this was the only time Indiana would really be looking at someone of that age and working that into the whole thing – that was a nice angle we took and it was very original to step up a generation like that.’
‘I now turn around and that older generation is back again – except this time it’s me!’
RSNG Sean was 69 when he did that movie – you are now 77. Does that worry you?
HF ‘I’m too old to worry… and so is Sean.’
WHAT NEXT? Read our exclusive interview with Scarlet Johannson to find out how she’d use Black Widows superpowers in real life…