Harrison Ford's 40 Years in Film

Indiana Jones 4 has been, in the parlance of Hollywood, "announced," meaning that director Steven Spielberg, producer George Lucas, writer Jeff Nathanson and, oh yeah, star Harrison Ford have all agreed they want to make the third sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

But beyond that announcement, everyone is mum about it. Well, Ford isn't completely mum.

"We hope to get it started this summer," he says, while promoting his new thriller, Firewall, his first film since the double flops of Hollywood Homicide in 2003 and K-19: The Widowmaker in 2002. Then he adds, in something just above a whisper, "But I can't tell you anything about it."

And he doesn't.

He's about as evasive -- and infuriatingly non-judgmental -- on the subject of the three Star Wars films that were made after the three he starred in.

"I think they're a very different kind of movies than the first three were," he says. "They're full-on digital movies, and the ones we made were analog movies. The first three were like '50s Saturday serials, so these are a very different kind of film for a very different audience."

Ford, never appearing disingenuous, comes across as a guy who is simply uncomfortable discussing his career. About all he'll say concerning Firewall is that it was enjoyable, but hard work; that Paul Bettany did a great job as a villain, and that in playing the role of a bank security specialist whose family is kidnapped as part of a heist, he made the right choice in having a stuntman, instead of himself, take a particularly difficult fall.

Yet he will talk about acting in general, and how it came to be part of his life. It usually starts with the pile of scripts that's always at his door.

"I do most of the ones I get all the way through," he says of how he picks projects. "I'm looking for a good story, something different from what I've recently done -- another genre, a different kind of character. If I've done a bunch of dramas, I'll want to do a comedy.

"I do what I think will please an audience," he adds. "I think this is a service occupation. We're storytellers, and there's no use telling a story that people don't want to hear. I look for things that have a degree of challenge for myself and for an audience. I'm looking for something that I think would be a good ride."

Ford often has said that his plan of action in his early days was just to make a living, that he thought he would be a character actor, that he'd be lucky to get television roles.

"I never thought I was going to be a leading man," he says. "I was as surprised as anybody was at the roles in films that were so successful -- that I was a valuable piece of a valuable machine. I just wanted to make a living at it, but I guess I knew that I was doomed when Star Wars was as successful as it was."

Having been at it for almost 40 years now -- his first uncredited part was in Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round in 1966 -- he believes that he's able to stay fresh, and to not carry over pieces of one character into another role by "wearing different clothes.

"And I'm not being glib about that," he insists. "First of all, I do a lot of research just to stumble around in the world that the character I play is meant to live in. And I see little snatches of behavior, in people, and the way they dress. That starts it. I get fixated on what it takes to tell the story; that's the process. I don't get it confused with other characters in other films."

He seems to get a kick out of telling how he actually got started in the acting game.

"I was in college," he says, and he's smiling at the memory. "I was a philosophy and English major. And I was not doing very well. And in an effort to try and find something in the courses book that sounded like it was a cinch -- something that would help bring my grade average up -- I picked drama. Having failed to read the course description all the way through, I didn't realize that it involved standing up on a stage and acting. I was terrified at first, and that made me a little angry at myself. But I was determined to get over the knee knocking. And when I did, I also found out that what I was engaged in, with people trying to tell a story, was something that felt better than anything I'd done before. It felt like I had found some kind of, if not purpose, then at least a cultural utility. I was comfortable. I found an outlet for my emotions and my need and ambition to work with other people. It was a good fit."

But does he ever think about returning to the carpentry work he did in his early, hungry days of acting?

"Oh, I still enjoy doing it a little bit," he says, smiling. "But I have a better job now."

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