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What happened to Harrison Ford?

November 15, 2010 |  7:00 am

For

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

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

RECENT AND RELATED:

Movie review: 'Morning Glory'

The force is still with Mark Hamill

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


 


 
Comments () | Archives (58)

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For the record K-19 the Widowmaker was a tremendous movie. It is a shame more people didn't go to see it.

have you seen him on kimmel, conan or any interview lately? he talks real slow and comes off like a serial killer. he has the energy of a 9o year old. who wants to buy into anything related to someone with that kind of energy.
he's creepy at best.

Basically, ever since the death of Ford's long-time manager, Patricia McQueeney, Ford has made poor choices with re: to his films. Obviously McQueeney must have had a good eye for the type of role he'd be good in. His range is limited, but what he can do, he does very well. Sure hope he gets back on track soon.

Ford was always better when doing comedy. The thing that made him marketable in the first place was his ability to inject some humor into somewhat serious situations.

I just saw this movie last night and it was a fun movie. Real actors for a change. We all age, so not surprising that he can't have his top billing status, and is probably very okay with that...why not?

Looks like Tribune fired the last editor. Will the last intern to be laid off please turn off the lights?

Snotty, poorly-reasoned, terribly-argued articles like this are available everywhere. It's depressing to see the Los Angeles Times emulate Perez Hilton.

The Tribune company must be trying to figure out how to keep people paying for journalism. Here's an idea: try journalism.

This guy is around 70, has a body of work that rivals any of the classic male actors (Gable, Power, Bogart) and doesn't owe anybody anything.... he has already done it all--- Star Wars, the Fugitive, Indiana Jones, Witness, Blade Runner, the Jack Ryan films.... plus just showing up for Apocalypse Now- what more do you want!!!!???... ok I'll throw in Air Force One, just for fun....

I think I met Harrison Ford in 2008 in Wichita Kansas. He would not verify
that it was him but he is a beautiful man and a wonderful actor. My very
favorite and he can pilot his own plane and helicopter

 
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