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What happened to Harrison Ford?

November 15, 2010 |  7:00 am


He traversed distant galaxies with Chewbacca, shot sword-wielding assassins with Marion Ravenwood and outfoxed federal marshal Samuel Gerard all by himself.

But these days all those things may as well have happened to a different actor than Harrison Ford, who in the last decade has robbed banks, sought rare cures, captained Russian subs and investigated murders of hip-hop stars, all in the land of obscurity. ("Firewall," "Extraordinary Measures," "K-19: The Widowmaker" and "Hollywood Homicide," if you were trying to guess what movies those were.)

This weekend's release of "Morning Glory" painfully underscored Ford's marginality. The actor plays a grizzled, serious journalist who's forced, through the unique power of Hollywood cause-and-effect, to take a job as a bantering morning host. The comedy-drama  about the state of the news business was marketed heavily using Ford's name and visage, and the actor gamely went on the likes of "The Late Show With David Letterman" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" to promote it.

For all the critical jibes, Ford is actually not bad in the role, stalking around with a dour face while doling out digs to his co-anchor like, "Do they have rehab programs for bitter beauty queens with self-esteem issues?" But few, apparently, wanted to see him do that. The movie failed to reach even $10 million in domestic box office this weekend. If you show some chops but no one is there to see it, did you really show them?

What's most disappointing about "Morning Glory" is that, after a decade without a comedy, Ford's turn in something more spry was supposed to mark a new chapter by getting him back to his crowd-pleasing ways. But the movie's disappointing performance adds one more nail in a coffin that's been enveloping Ford's career, "Buried"-style, for years. The actor has been striking out repeatedly as the heroic action figure and didn't fare better when he went somber as a medical miracle worker in "Extraordinary Measures" earlier this year. Now it turns out we don't want to see him in a comedy either, not even when he's playfully riffing on his own taciturn persona.

In his heyday, Ford was much more than an action hero, of course; he was winning over audiences with dramas such as "Regarding Henry" and even gaining decent notices in romantic comedies like the "Sabrina" remake -- exactly the kinds of roles he should be excelling at as he nears 70 and can't leap into waterfalls anymore.

What happened? Did we outgrow Ford? Or was his range never as great as we thought it was?

Some would say that this is all a function of bad choices and that, to salvage his career, the actor should go back to action roles, maybe self-deprecating ones. (The Jack Ryan reboot is a natural candidate). The one time he did that in the last few years, after all, was with "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," and the fans turned out. But with the bad taste that movie left in some mouths, it's hardly clear that would work either.

In a sense, Ford has had the opposite career of his "Star Wars" costar Mark Hamill. Unlike Ford and his prolific output, Hamill hasn't been in a major motion picture in more than two decades. That's not exactly Hamill's own choice, but it's had an oddly positive effect on his reputation. While Ford's series of poorly received movies has lately relegated the actor to self-parody, Hamill has paradoxically remained in a good pop-culture place, his image unravaged by time or bad roles.

Ford next stars in the science-fiction-western hybrid "Cowboys & Aliens," a movie that stays close to his trademark action heroism but branches out in enough new directions that we might be willing to embrace him again. He should hope we do -- he's running out of genres to come back with.

Photo: Harrison Ford in 2008's "Crossing Over." Credit: Dale Robinette / The Weinstein Co.

--Steven Zeitchik



Movie review: 'Morning Glory'

The force is still with Mark Hamill

'Megamind' stops 'Unstoppable,' 'Morning Glory' in their tracks


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Hey, you forgot to mention his excellent rolls in Working Girl, Blade Runner, and, the best of the best, Witness. He was great in The Devil's Own, Air Force One, and K-19 was underrated. It's not that he isn't a draw, it's that Morning Glory isn't a draw for me. It's a netflix movie. Why am I going to spend $10 on a netflix movie? Put him in a Jack Ryan movie...hell yeah! Get him into a Clint Eastwood vehicle.

Harrison has the chops, but the movie industry doesn't want to work hard enough to put him into something that's not typically trite where there's no effort on their part and the audience doesn't realize they're seeing something regurgitated.

Harrison Ford fans want to see him in something better. Something more worthy of Harrison Ford.

Slow news week, Steve?

Mr. Ford has not only been in a score of iconic movies, he was awfully good in them. But how can an actor in his mature years get decent roles in a movie industry that has devolved into a shrill amusement park ride? Few intelligent people over 30 even go to movies anymore, leaving most older actors out in the cold. Sure, Ford made his share of "popcorn" movies, but most had a subtext and cleverness that has all but vanished from the screen.

Many so-called "A-List" actors have fallen on hard times at the box office. The people who go to the top grossing films are not the Harrison Ford crowd. Though he may be considered Hollywood royalty for Star Wars & Indiana Jones, it's isn't enough to bring out the masses for his films.

Wasn't it this same rag that bitched about both Sabrina and Regarding Henry?
Yeah so there are misses but what a string of Hits-including What LIES Beneath and Indy/Crystal Skull.His misses are still more interesting than the stuff Clooney or Costner or Tom Hanks are churning out lately
No ,we have not out grown Mr.Ford,Its that audiences have gotten more stupid-thanks to garbage like Jackass or any Vin Diesel movie and the Saw /Scream stuff

If Ford hadn't been helped -after SW- with another Lucas vehicle( Indy) where would he have gone? He's got one schtick- monosyllabic grumpiness- little versatility. Now age has caught up with him. To try to be a 70 year old 'action figure' is pathetic. Kids don't want to play with grandpa toys. So aside from Solo and Indy, what has Ford done, really? Hamill is MUCH more versatile an actor- as well as better liked and more affable- he deserves his positive image.
Face the facts, Harrison- you're as typecast as anyone else. Welcome to 'old' in Hollywood! Try not to embarrass yourself further.

Ford has never been good in comedies. His best work - and very entertaining - since Star Wars & early Indiana Jones - has been in the Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger movies. I watch those again and again and he is so credible.
Homicide was excruciating to watch. Just awful. Don't do comedy Harry!

Well Melanie, I guess you showed your age with the "Kids don't want to play with grandpa toys" comment and your gushing over Mark Hamill who, seriously now, does cartoon voices. "Hamill is MUCH more versatile an actor- as well as better liked" REALLY??? I'll take an old Ford and an old Connery over any of the clowns "playing" actors today.

Worth noting that at one point Harrison Ford was THE biggest box office star of all time, headlining more $100 million hits than any other actor with the Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Jack Ryan franchises, as well as Air Force One and The Fugitive. For all of the Zeitchik's musing about Ford's career downturn ("What happened? Did we outgrow Ford? Or was his range never as great as we thought it was?"), it seems like the elephant in the room that the guy is pushing 70 and is old enough to be most moviegoers' father, if not grandfather.

I am not sure this blog is completely fair. Some of Ford's films that were listed weren't exactly pushed hard to the moviegoing public. For example,the film "Crossing Over" is one I happened upon when checking for new movies at the time it was released. I never saw any advertisement for the film whatsoever. The blogger also conveniently doesn't mention the Indiana Jones movie. Hollywood pushes young actors & aims for a young audience.Actors over 40 normally get very little to no push with their films with only a few exceptions.

Harrison was not marginalized! Neither was Diane Keaton. They both took lesser roles and made the movie better by their presence. I would not have gone to this movie if these actors were not in it. They are wonderful to see on screen in any capacity and add to the success of any project.

I met Mr. Ford once in the parking lot of a Whole Foods. He tried to sell me an old bag of oranges he found in his trunk.

His range in Hollywood Homicide is legendary, Mr. Zeitchik. Give him a line of a guy who's doing the average joe sturggle and he practically lives the lines. He was a huge draw for that film and it was definitely a film that wasn't it's own draw so he's defintely not a sleepwalker. And the role in "Morning Glory" only shows that Harrison Ford actually shows a ton more depth than a morning show host. In fact, he looks alot like the news anchor from CNN.

Harrison has gotten old and his choices are following suit. It seems to be the natural progression as an artist gets old. The same for Speilberg. I grew up with Close Encounters, Superman, Indiana Jones, ET, ect....an amazing era of films. Did anyone see the most recent Indiana Jones? It suuuuucked. I remember thinking, how could Harrison sign on for this and how could Speilberg, with his whole body of brilliant work, peddle such crap on us? Chalk it all up to old age. My $.02 cents.

Wow, a very unfair article. Personally, if the only film Harrison Ford had ever done was Blade Runner, I would consider him a succesful actor. A fantastic film and he was absolutely perfect in it. I can't imagine anyone else in that role. And Mark Hamill isn't a bad actor, but George Lucas is a terrible director. He made Natalie Portman look like a hack.

Hatchet job.

If there ever was an actor who defined the term 'has-been', Ford is the man. It has become downright painful to watch anything he's done over the past 15 years. There is definitely something to be said for fading out while the fading is good...

Might have a certain wizard done him in this week?

Isn't he one of those left minded liberals that believes in global warming, rising sea levels, pending doom, gotta buy a prius to save the Planet types? aka: a kook?

Somewhere along the line he lost his sparkle. His delivery was always a little dry, but underneath you sensed some charm and wit. Now he's just wooden and crabby. On talk shows he barely moves his head and seems like an ancient lizard-man. Somehow Clint pulls off the Charming Geezer thing...Harrison can't manage. He had a pretty good run.

Ford was always a conundrum for me. I too grew up in the '70's and '80's and saw him only as an ensemble character actor (like Matthew McConaughey) who, due to looks, was offered leading rolls over and over where in the end they fail to make it interesting. Blade Runner was great for so many reasons and nearly the full cast was very good. But, he's really not an engaging lead actor which I believe has always been the case as you can see him over-think nearly everything he does...except action scenes where he is truly fully engaged and seems mindless of the audience. Although he pursued acting when younger, he'd often pass on jobs if they paid less that his construction gigs. So, in a way, he's always waited for the industry to serve him, not the other way around and I think that work ethic still shows.

I think that Mr. Ford still has a lot of box-office left in him. It's just that the audiences want escapist/fantasy films, because of the recession. He was excellent in the recent Crossing Over, but it was too realistic for today's environment. He's still a powerful actor who will eventually show some more box-office muscle.

We saw 'Morning Glory' and it was entertaining. Not all movies are going to be blockbusters. Maybe the movie producers (and critics) need to accept that there are "B" movies and let that be all right. I am not as demanding as a critic. If the movie is entertaining and pleasant I am usually happy with that. I recently re-watched 'Air Force One' on TV and we were laughing about the corny special effects. But that was OKAY. We like to laugh. WE also watched 'Michael Clayton,' which is a realy great movie. But it was a different experience than a light, romantic comedy like 'Morning Glory.' I think there is room for many genres and movie experiences. I still like Harrison Ford. Diane Keaton is also aging, by the way, and has had some success with her later films but nothing like Annie Hall, of course. The movie was a cute, rather light romp. Good luck to all actors, BTW. It's a tough business. At least I didn't feel I wanted my money back as I have when I have paid to see a real turkey of a movie. I would not consider Harrison Ford in decline unless a critic pointed it out and I still reserve the right to think for myself about what and who I like to see.


The real problem here is not Mr. Ford, rather the truly marginal material Hollywood is desperately seeking and/or creating a Frankenscript from which is obvious from its re-hashing old stuff and making pretty bad remakes out of them (The Taking of Pelham 123, Purple Noon, Day of the Jackal, to name a few). No star power can work miracles for cemetery stories and dead horse scripts, except for Steve King. As one famous mogul once quipped " A good movie is all about "...story, story, story..." the one thing that seems to be missing today. Even Count Dracula is bored...to death.

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