Monday, December 7, 2009


The Fugitive was on the other night. I turned it on about halfway through and caught the rest of it. When it was over, it started up again right away. Not having anything else to do, I started watching it again. And I watched it all the way through. There are three reasons for my doing this.

1) I don't have much else going on. Well, that's not technically true. I do, I just have a tendency to put it all off until the last minute. As I'm writing this, I should be writing another City Weekly article, but Clear and Present Danger is on and it got me thinking about this.

2) The Fugitive is just a very well-crafted chase movie. It's entertaining as hell.

3) Harrison Ford is the man I want to be when I grow up.

But the main thing I was thinking the entire time I was watching The Fugitive (twice)?

What the hell happened to Harrison Ford?

This is a guy that's had an amazing career in movies. Not many actors can say they have a place firmly cemented in film history, but Harrison Ford can say that a few times over. I mean, he was Han Solo for Christ's sake. Not only that, but he's Indiana Jones, too! Two of the most iconic characters ever created and he played them both. You add in Jack Ryan and Dr. Richard Kimble and that's a god damn legacy.

But as I watched Ford jump from the top of a bus just before it's hit by a moving train, I started to wonder what happened to him. He hasn't really done anything that great in close to 15 years. Take a look at his IMDB resume:

American Graffiti (1973) - Bob Falfa - While he didn't knock anyone's socks off, people at least recognized him after that. I think so anyway, it was like 7 years before I was born.

The next few years were kind of quiet, but then, BAM!

Star Wars (1977) - Han Solo
Apocalypse Now (1979) - Colonel Lucas
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - Han Solo
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) - Indiana Jones
Blade Runner (1982) - Rick Deckard
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) - Han Solo
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) - Indiana Jones
Witness (1985) - Det. Capt. John Book
The Mosquito Coast (1986) - Allie Fox
Working Girl (1988) - Jack Trainer
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) - Indiana Jones
Patriot Games (1992) - Jack Ryan
The Fugitive (1993) - Dr. Richard Kimble
Clear and Present Danger (1994) - Jack Ryan

A few of the low-key movies were left off, but look at that list! That has to be one of the most impressive bodies of work any actor has ever had. For damn near 20 years this guy was making good movie after good movie.

Harrison Ford was the ultimate badass. If he and Bruce Willis had starred in a movie together somewhere around 1993 with Ridley Scott, James Cameron (pre-True Lies) or Richard Donner directing, it would have topped the all-time great action film list hands down.

But after Clear and Present Danger, he just fell off completely. Air Force One was alright, but nowhere near the quality of the others. Hollywood Homicide? Six Days, Seven Nights? Firewall? What the hell happened?

Here's what happened - he got too old and either didn't know how or didn't want to adapt the the changes. At some point around the late 90s, there was a shift in what passed as a believable action hero, and Harrison Ford wasn't it anymore. People wanted to see Will Smith battling aliens in a suit or Keeanu Reeves dodging slow motion bullets. As soon as that happened, Harrison Ford was hung out to dry.  But he didn't take that too lightly, so he started taking starring roles in movies that were mediocre at best just so he could play the hero. The other big stars of the decade either fell away completely or adapted to remain successful. Then again, a few of them decided they wanted to play politics or make torture porn starring Jesus, but that's a whole different story.

There was a section in the book Rebels on the Backlot where author Sharon Waxman writes about Steven Soderbergh and the preparation of Traffic. Everyone wanted Harrison Ford to play Robert Wakefield (a role that ended up going to Michael Douglas), but he wouldn't commit because Wakefield didn't win in the end. He wanted the script to be rewritten (I think) to make him the hero.

The thing is, the entire point of that movie was to shine a big light on what everyone seemed to be ignoring at the time: The war on drugs is one of the most pointless wastes of money ever. No one is going to win because it's never going to end. At no point in time will anyone ever be able to clap their hands together and say "Well, we got 'em all." Not going to happen.

(And yes, I did just steal a David Cross joke.)

That story sums up exactly what happened. Ford refused to play anyone that was remotely vulnerable. He has the chops to play these characters, he just won't.

And it's too bad, because he needs to do something. God knows no one wants to see a 70-year-old Indiana Jones swinging through the jungle again. We already had to sit through that once.

Now excuse me, The Fugitive is starting again.

And I still want to be him someday.

1 comment:

  1. Haha, I happened to catch the first half then rewatched the full thing when it was over as well! Totally agree with everything you said