Harrison Ford is 63 years old but still playing the big-screen action hero. In Firewall, his button-down, banking-security character goes fist-to-fist with a wily villain nearly 30 years his junior.
"There's a real scrappy fight at the end and what happens is that I win. That much you can give away," Ford said.
And win he does, without even taking off his coat and tie.
Harrison Ford is one of the biggest movie stars on the planet and now here he is, cradling a coffee cup in a quiet room at the Ritz-Carlton and recounting the bumps and scrapes that come with the territory.
"I have been hurt from time to time over 30 years," he said, "and they're like athletic injuries. They're not like getting injured by some explosion or getting crunched in a car. On the first Indiana Jones, I tore the ACL (the knee's anterior cruciate ligament) in my right leg while I was in Tunisia. On the second one, I had a problem in my back with herniated discs that were caused by riding elephants for a long period of time and irritated by continual action sequences, but that's all cured. I tore my ACL in my left leg shooting a trailer for The Fugitive." But the senior
citizen action-hero was not injured in his Firewall fight scene with the 34-year-old British actor Paul Bettany.
"There was only one stunt, and that was when the guy goes backwards off the railing to the bottom of the trench. I knew that would hurt. He knew it was going to hurt. So I let him do it," Ford said. "But there was no other shot that couldn't be staged so I could do it."
He stays in shape by playing tennis four or five hours a week with a teaching pro. He never wins, he said, because they play points, not games.
He does seem fit, looking slender and tan in a neatly pressed dress shirt, slacks and a sportscoat. He was, after all, named People magazine's "sexiest man alive" in 1998, at age 56. And although he looks every bit of his 63 years in Firewall, he could pass for much younger in person.
"Firewall is a well-made movie with good actors, good story, well-directed. That's what my ambition is, every time, to make a good movie of whatever stripe. I hadn't done a thriller for a while, so I wanted to do one that was good."
In the new movie, directed by Richard Loncraine, Ford plays computer-security specialist Jack Stanfield. He works for a Seattle bank and is married to an architect (Virginia Madsen). They live with their two children in a fabulous oceanfront house that she designed.
A gang of high-tech bank robbers, led by Bettany's character, has been spying on the Stanfields for a year and know every detail of their lives. One stormy night they invade the Stanfield home and announce that they're holding Beth and the kids hostage until Jack circumvents the bank's foolproof security system and steals US$100 million for them from cyberspace.
There are complications, of course, one being that Jack's bank has been acquired by a larger bank and the security system, which he set up, is under close scrutiny.
"The circumstances are quite dire within the first 10 minutes (of the movie)," Ford said. "The character (Jack) has a few light moments at the beginning of the film, and then it all goes wrong. That's an interesting dramatic problem for an actor, to sustain the tension for an hour and 40 minutes, and I think I was well-equipped by the script to do that."
It wasn't tension, but humor, that Ford brought to last month's Golden Globes telecast. He had a cocktail in hand when he walked on stage with Madsen to present the best movie screenplay award. He passed the drink over to a bemused Madsen so he could open the envelope.
"I was holding it actually for, oh my god, I'm just all of a sudden blanking," he said, scowling. "Emma Thompson. I was holding a drink for Emma, who was in the green room. I was having a wee tipple, as is the case at the Golden Globes. It's one show where there is always a drink on the table. So, Emma said she would have a drink when she came offstage, and I was holding the drink for her, and then she went off the other side, and there was no place to put it or hand it off, so I forgot I had it until I got halfway across the stage."
Befitting the cool characters he plays in the movies (including police detective John Book, his 1986 Oscar-nominated role in Witness), Ford handled the Golden Globes moment with aplomb.
"Thank you," he said.
In the film Manhunt, due out in 2007, he will play Everton Conger, the real-life army detective who hunted down John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of former US president Abraham Lincoln.
And, as soon as the script is completed, he'll step back into the boots of archaeologist-adventurer Indiana Jones. Steven Spielberg will again direct. There is no working title yet, and Ford isn't divulging the plot.
"Hopefully we'll be able to go fairly soon. The movie is eagerly anticipated, and it's fun to work with Steven.
"I like to work," he said. "I enjoy the process. Whether the movie turns out, or not, it's fun to work."
Particularly when there's a big-screen fight scene with his name on it.
"It makes a nice change to work up a sweat."
Directed by: Richard Loncraine
Starring: Jimmy Bennett (Andrew Stanfield), Paul Bettany (Bill Cox), Beverley Breuer (Sandra), Matthew Currie Holmes (Bobby), Harrison Ford (Jack Stanfield)
Running time: 100 minutes
Taiwan Release: Today
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