Harrison Ford is not an “80 is the new 40” kind of guy. He’s very aware that he is old, and he has no problem with everyone else being aware of it as well. In fact, his decision to dust off the ol’ fedora and resurrect his most famous character in “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” was not an attempt to defy age, but to explore it.
“I wanted to round out the story,” he told journalists the day after “Dial of Destiny” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. “To see this man who depended so much on his youth, the vigor of youth, I wanted to see him feel the weight of life. I wanted to see him require reinvention, and support,” he added, motioning to Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who plays Indy’s fearless god-daughter. “I wanted him to have a relationship that wasn’t a flirty kind of relationship, that was a deep relationship.”
“I saw ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ when I was 17,” said director James Mangold. “It’s one of the reasons I’m a movie director. Harrison is an actor, always looking for what he’s going to play. He was looking for ‘Why does this movie exist?’ beyond all the business reasons for it to exist.”
“I cannot have been better served,” Ford said. “With the script, with the kind of actors that we have been lucky enough to get, the passion and skill that Jim brought to it — everything has come together to support me in my old age.
It was a highly populated news conference; in addition to six of the film’s actors and Mangold, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and husband/collaborator Frank Marshall fielded questions from a crowd that had risked a literal stampede to get in.
Mangold came out strongly in support of the writers’ strike, noting that although “no movie happens without a great script and no great script happens without a writer, writers, because they are first in the process, are often first to be forgotten.” Waller-Bridge rhapsodized her new role as action hero: “I loved the fighting, more than I can possibly describe,” she said. “I loved the stunts and the action, I was surprised at how freeing it was as an actor to just throw yourself into something.”
Not surprisingly, though, most of the questions were for Ford. His love of, and need to, work became the leitmotif of the event.
“Actors are not happy when they aren’t working and they can’t work unless someone asks them to,” he said when asked about destiny and luck. “I had to wait for luck to come along, but before that, I had the opportunity to learn a bit of craft. Because luck will not save the day. There’s a craft skill involved in what we do … the pain that we feel when we disappoint, the joy that we feel when we’re adequate, successful — you’re in the process of re-creating your own history.”
Whether his history will include another Indiana Jones movie, well, “Isn’t it obvious?” he said, grimacing. “I need to sit down and rest a little bit.”
Co-star Mads Mikkelsen quickly took issue with that.
“The first time we had a night shoot, we wrapped at 5 a.m. We all wanted to go to bed because we were exhausted and Harrison picks up his bicycle and goes for a 50-kilometer ride. We were like, ‘Come on Harrison, what are we supposed to do?’ So I think there’s a few more Indys in there.”
By turns emotional and wise-cracking, Ford appeared to be the only person in the room who didn’t consider Harrison Ford a cinematic icon. At one point, an Australian journalist (you gotta love the Australians) informed him that she thought he was still very hot, especially in the film’s shirtless scene, before asking him what he did to stay fit. Oh, and can he actually ride a horse? “Let me tell you, I can ride a horse,” he said emphatically. “If it will let me.”
As for the other, Ford first took issue with the bike story, calling it “partial truth” — before leaning toward the microphone to say in a dramatic whisper: “I’ve been blessed with this body. Thank you for noticing.”
He is happy with the scenes that include, for flashback purposes, a younger iteration of Indy — “I know that is my face because Lucasfilm has every frame of every film we’ve ever made together. But it’s just a trick if it doesn’t serve the story, and I’m very happy with it.
“But,” he said, pausing for effect. “I don’t look back and wish I was that guy because I don’t want to be that guy. I’m very happy with age. I loved being young but I could be dead and I’m still working.”