The last time we saw Harrison Ford at Comic-Con, he was brought on stage in handcuffs, a nod to the actor's hesitation on doing anything fanboy-related. This year, he seems to have arrived under his own volition, as he looks to hype his upcoming film, "Ender's Game."
The movie, based on the popular novel by Orson Scott Card, takes place in the future, with Ford playing Colonel Hyrum Graff, an officer who helps recruit children in the hopes that they will become the next great military leaders and help the humans defeat the Formics, an alien race that has attacked Earth.
Before interviewing Ford, it was politely suggested to me that I not ask him about the new "Star Wars" movie. This was understandable, considering his previous responses to anything "Episode VII"-related. Instead we asked about his participation in a "Star Wars" skit on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" back in April, where he and Chewbacca got into a heated argument. Ford also discussed his role in "Ender's Game," the movie of his he wished got more attention, and his thoughts on "American Graffiti," almost 40 years after its release.
Last time we saw you at Comic-Con, you were in handcuffs.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
It must have been a good enough experience for you to come back, right?
Well, I think it's a great venue to begin to expose people to this kind of film, and I am happy to be here.
At this point in your career, you have freedom to choose the roles you want to do. What about Hyrum Graff made you grasp on to him?
I thought it was an interesting, emotional story that had a lot of thoughtful elements to it. Although it was written a quite a few years ago, it was very prescient about some of the issues and circumstances that we know and are struggling with.
What kind of issues?
Most of them are issues of morality and conscience and the unusual circumstances surrounding the utility and necessity to have young people involved in defending the world of an alien invasion. And, also, the complexity of the character of Graff struggling with what he was involved in and what he thought about his participation in this use of child soldiers.
In the book, Graff goes through a pretty physical transformation, gaining a lot of weight as the story unfolds. Will we get to see that at all?
No [laughs]. Been there done that for "42." I am not going in the fat suit again.
You've done movies based on novels before. Do those experiences help on a film like this? For instance, does your experience playing a cult sci-fi character like Rick Deckard in "Blade Runner" help with playing a cult sci-fi character like Hyrum Graff?
Well, if you read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" [the book "Blade Runner" was based on], the parallels between the book and the movie are tangential to say the best. And I think that's the same circumstance here. Although I think "Ender's Game" is very faithful to the ideas and characters of the book, I think that it's got to be a slimmer version of the book and the book's complexities. Also, the concentration on the internal thoughts of the character has got to be objectified and dramatized. I think Gavin Hood did a very good job with the screenplay.
We spoke with Asa Butterfield [who plays Ender] a little earlier. He called your performance in this movie "swashbuckling."
I don't remember any buckling and swashes. It's more or less a desk job.
I wanted to switch gears a bit ...
[Smiles] I thought you might.
[Laughs] It's not exactly what you expect -- at least I am hoping it's not. It may start out like that but ...
[Laughs] It won't end up like that!
OK, but give me a chance!
Take your best shot.
Your earlier movies still make news today -- "Star Wars," "Indiana Jones," etc. My question to you is...
[Harrison begins drumming on the coffee table in front of him]
[Laughs]... is there one movie of yours that you wish got more attention than those movies?
That I wish got more attention? No. Well, there were movies that I think were good movies that did not receive as much attention at the time. I don't think I remember any... oh, the one that comes to mind is "Mosquito Coast," which I think was a really good movie and perhaps didn't receive as much attention as it might have.
Do you know why?
Well, I think it was probably because I played a guy who was not as sympathetic as one might imagine. There was a complexity to the character, which was the reason I chose it, and the reason I believe the film was not so well attended, because people knew me for other kinds of work.
We're coming up on the 40th anniversary of "American Graffiti." At the time, George Lucas was a new filmmaker that Universal took a shot on. Do you think "American Graffiti" would get made today, particularly since studios put more of a premium on reboots and adaptations than original stories?
You know, the models have changed greatly. That was a movie that was made for peanuts. I think if you wanted to make that movie now, you could make it for peanuts. I think there will always be versions of movies made in and out of Hollywood that are commendable. The business model that the studios seem largely to be embracing are turning out not to be a perfect model. There are films that nicely fit the model, but the audience is not going for it. I think it's always changing and always shifting, and we always can hope for a perfection in people's judgements and taste.
I ask because George Lucas and Steven Speilberg gave a talk a few months ago...
...Yeah, I heard about this
...Yeah, they talked about the "implosion" of the film industry and the studio system. Do you feel like it is going that way? That studios are making bigger bets on tentpoles and less on smaller original stories?
Yeah, I don't really follow the business. I am only really interested in what I am involved in and I don't really pay too much attention.
Had you ever paid attention to it?
Not much [laughs].
I wanted to ask you about what you did on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" a few months back, when you and Chewbacca had a shouting match. I feel like you were playing with the reputation of being asked "Star Wars" questions all the time ...
...I think you got it right. That was the joke.
Was that your idea? Did Jimmy come to you about it?
I think we worked it out pretty quickly the afternoon that we shot it. We had done an earlier little skit with Chewbacca, so it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Last question. There have been rumblings about "Indiana Jones 5." Steven Spielberg said that he and George Lucas intend for that to happen. I realize there isn't a script. Are you up you for exploring the character once again?
It's a case-by-case basis. I'd like to see a really good script and like to make a really good movie.