Ford up to "Firewall" challenge
LOS ANGELES-Firewall director Richard Loncraine knows that journalists waiting to talk to the movie's star, Harrison Ford, in an L.A. hotel room are going to ask the actor whether he can handle the action in the fourth Indiana Jones film, which is currently in production. Ford will be 64 in July, and could be a pensioner by the time the film begins principal photography.
"In Denver, some kid at a university asked Harrison if he thought he was too old for the inevitable fight scenes in Indy 4," Loncraine says. "Harrison offered to step outside with him to show him that he could hold his own in a fight. All I know is he did the action in this film and there was a lot of it."
In Firewall, which opens on Friday (February 10) in Vancouver, Ford is Jack Stanfield, the vice president of security for a bank in Seattle (played by Vancouver). His daily routine is interrupted by a man (Paul Bettany) who tells him that he is holding Stanfield's wife (Virginia Madsen) and their two children captive in their house. Stanfield has to steal $100 million from the bank or his family will be killed.
When Ford arrives in the L.A. hotel room to talk about the movie, he looks fit and ferocious enough to make short work of any of the six journalists who have assembled. (When one unfortunate soul remarks that Ford has a goatee, the actor responds with a growl: "It's a good thing I showed up here or I never would have known.")
The question about his age and ability to do his own stunts inevitably comes up. Ford says that he always expects to be allowed to do the stunts. He says it is unlikely that he would make a movie if he felt that the camera couldn't zoom in on him during the action sequences.
"I do as much of the action as possible and I have from the beginning of my career, because I believe that it is really important to look into the face of a character and feel his fear or his triumph or his pain or his exhaustion. I know how to make that happen and I have been doing it for years, and it's no big deal. It's not like I wanted to do the action in this film. All of the action was stuff I knew how to do. If you know how to keep it safe, and if you know how to do it without hurting other people, you just do it. No one has ever told me that I couldn't do it, because they trust me. There have been times when I have said, 'I can do it if you want me to do it,' and the director might say, 'You know what, we think it might be better if your stunt double did it.' There is this one shot in the fight sequence in this film that I did not do because I knew it was going to hurt. The stunt guy knew it was going to hurt, and we were both right. It hurt."
Ford liked the Firewall story and felt it could find an audience in an age when most people use bank and credit cards on a daily basis. His only concern, he says, was that the story is driven as much by how his character reacts to his dilemma as by the crime itself.
"I found it interesting to do a story based on contemporary issues of computer privacy and identity theft. I think people are interested in that. I also saw it as an interesting acting problem: how to sustain the tension that this character is under for 97 minutes. There are a few brief moments where he is in a restive state. Then we come to the point where he is under pressure, and for me it was interesting to figure out how to phrase that."
Of course, Ford, who in 1994 was named "star of the century" by the National Association of Theatre Owners in the U.S., has been in enough money-making movies that he doesn't have to work (which would certainly allow him to avoid interviews, which he has never appeared to enjoy). He says that he keeps going because he still has an appetite for challenges.
"When you start working with minutiae and detail, and you are taking something apart and then putting it back together and getting your hands dirty, it becomes exciting again. I have spent my life learning how to do this, so it's where I am most comfortable. It is what I have experience in and learned about. It is my discipline and my profession and I love a challenge. I love to work with a group of people that can set a challenge. I love working with the crew and the actors, and that is what I do. I want to keep doing it."