During a recent appearance on The Hour, Harrison Ford told George Stromboulopolous with a certain air of artistic integrity that he never sees his own films. Really? Never? Mr. Ford, with all due respect, we all love your work and we all know you see yourself as an artist, but if you’ve never seen movies like Blade Runner, Raiders of the Lost Ark you can’t really have a complete understanding of how pop-culture (and by extension, the world) works. Having been a part of some of the most significant films of the modern age is nothing to sneeze at, but I get the impression that he might have any idea of what I’m talking about if I told him “Do, or do not. There is no try.” I’m sure we’re all very impressed that he knows how to fly a helicopter and has his own collection of airplanes, but what good is that if he has no idea what the Millennium Falcon looks like?
I think it would be naive of me to believe that he’s never even seen dailies of the movies he’s been in, but that’s probably the thing that bothers me the most about all this. An off-hand remark like this seems like posturing by an already respected actor trying to be taken seriously as an artist by giving the impression he only puts a value on the performance and doesn’t hold any stock in the final product, i.e. The film. This kind of willful ignorance for the sake of appearances infuriates me, and it’s even worse when it’s insincere.
I’m working myself into a pit of a fever here, so let me take a deep breath and run down a shortlist of some of the films that you’ve likely seen in the course of your life, but Harrison Ford professes never to have laid eyes on. Behold his ignorance!
5. Clear And Present Danger (1994)
What he’s missing: Ford’s work in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger represent the best adaptations of Tom Clancy’s work, with Danger being the more quotable of the two. The films represent more of an everyman approach to the kind of Bond and Bourne films we have come to love, and as such are a great example of effective genre bending to bring in a more diverse audience. While Patriot Games tends to get a lot of love for involving the IRA, Clear and Present Danger has quite a bit more tactical action – and 100% more Willem Dafoe. Ford reprises his role as CIA boy scout Jack Ryan who unwittingly backs a back bag operation to wage war against drug cartels in Columbia.
How might that affect him: I’ve always considered that Jack Ryan was the character nearest to Harrison Ford himself, so that would indicate to me that he might not have any idea of how people actually perceive him. There’s something very nihilistic about that (“We believe in nossing!”). It might also prevent him from getting the irony of him piloting rescue missions in his own helicopter while on duty for Teton County Search & Rescue. Most importantly, he’s probably blind to the role he’s played in the popularity of Modern Warfare and Rainbow Six as video game staples.
4. Blade Runner (1982)
What he’s missing: We’ve said it before and I don’t hesitate to say it again, Blade Runner is one of the most influential Science Fiction films of all time – all time. It established conventions and ideas about how we see the future and technology, and our relationship with it, that continue to reverberate in all corners of pop-culture to this day. As Richard Deckard, Ford plays a kind of bounty hunter that seeks out artificial humans and “retires” them. Deckard is called out of his own self-imposed exile one last time to seek out a particularly dangerous band of “replicants” who have made it back to Earth from deep space to seek an audience with the man who made them. Besides probably being Harrison Ford’s best work, it also represents the best things that Sean Young and Rutger Hauer have ever done.
How might that affect him: Ford’s disdain for the time he spent working on this film is well documented, so we can afford him some understanding in having missed out on the film. But having never seen this movie means that he doesn’t know the origins of cyber-punk, neo-noir, or the importance of a downer ending. Perhaps if he’d seen the film (which if you look at other interviews he’s given, he very well might have) he’d be able to formulate a proper perspective on whether or not Deckard was a replicant. Essentially though, this renders Ford practically inert when it comes to discussing anything related to science fiction, but we’ll get to more of that later.
3. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
What he’s missing: He’s only missing one of the greatest adventure movies of the 80s, and one of the only movies parents were bringing their kids to featuring Nazis with melting faces. Han Solo might have been the coolest guy in a galaxy far, far away, but Indiana Jones was one tough as nails archaeologist who could speak Aramaic and hit like a brick shithouse. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a tribute to the pulp adventure movies and novels that were way before my time and takes place during the second World War. Dr. Jones is enlisted by the United States government to beat the Nazis in discovering the Ark of the Covenant – “a radio for talking to God”. There are great chases, a wicked airfield fistfight, plenty of snakes, and the aforementioned melting of Nazi faces.
How might that affect him: Beyond just having a poorer quality of life for not having seen it, his ignorance of the Raiders and it’s first two sequels place in the film canon would likely be a contributing factor in him allowing a film like Crystal Skull to be made. It might not have kept Shilo LaBeef off the set, but he would have at least had a picture in his head of what the finished project should have looked like. A far more serious effect this might have is that Ford probably has no idea that his face is one of the most universally associated with John Williams’ music, and the secret of how listening to John Williams’ music while jogging, swimming, flying, gunfighting grants Harrison Ford superhuman strength and renders him nigh invulnerable.
2. Apocalypse Now (1979)
What he’s missing: Ford’s role was minuscule, but according to his actor’s code of conduct he wouldn’t have seen this brilliant reinterpretation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the context of the Vietnam war. Special Forces Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent into the jungle to assassinate the rogue Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando). The journey up the river and into the seething heart of the Vietnam war rattles an already rattled mind and takes Willard to places in his soul he’d probably wish he’d never seen.
How might that affect him: Beyond not knowing what it means to love the smell of napalm in the morning, he likely has no idea why one of the greatest American directors of the “New Hollywood” generation put himself through one of the most agonising productions in the history of film. He probably thought Coppola was kicking heroin addiction rather than crafting an enduring indictment of war. What’s worse, he probably doesn’t even get what Tropic Thunder was making fun of. At least Ford chose this movie to do for his one war movie ever, which leaves him open to seeing Platoon, The Deer Hunter, and Saving Private Ryan. Come to think of it, why hasn’t he done more war movies? (K-19: The Widowmaker doesn’t count ’cause that’s the Cold War.)
1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
What he’s missing: I can think of no greater affront to the Star Wars legacy than Harrison Ford saying that he never watches his own films. I mean, I get that he might have taken a pass on watching the Star Wars Christmas special, but the greatest sci-fi trilogy ever made, let alone one of the greatest examples of a sequel surpassing its predecessor? Blasphemy! The Empire Strikes Back was Solo’s time to shine, with the riveting asteroid chase, eviscerating a tauntaun, and Harrison Ford’s most famous improv of all time: “I know.”
How might that affect him: Could it really be that Harrison Ford didn’t know who Luke’s father was, or that his love interest had been snogging her own brother on screen? Having not seen Star Wars, I’d be wondering what he makes of the legions of nerds out there who hold him up as the standard by which all men are judged. Does he really not get what the conventions are about, or that how many action figures are out there bearing his likeness? Alec Guiness cursed his own involement in Star Wars, and perhaps it was because he, apparently like Harrison Ford, had never actually seen the films or the effect they’ve had on the world at large.