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Q&A: Harrison Ford of 'Extraordinary Measures'

July 13, 2012|Matt Pais | RedEye movie critic

Originally published Jan. 15, 2010.

If there is anything hard about interviewing Harrison Ford, it’s that the actor has amassed such a varied filmography of legendary highs (“Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones”), genre classics (“Blade Runner,” “The Fugitive”) and some pretty big stinkers (“Firewall”). There are simply too many questions to ask in a 15-minute window.

Oh, and the other thing is that Ford, who grew up in Uptown and graduated from northwest suburban Maine East High School, is simply a tough interview. While promoting his new film, the inspired-by-a-true-story medical drama, “Extraordinary Measures,” Ford was more interested in spouting generic claptrap about the film and about the development of his character, Dr. Stonehill, a composite character based on several doctors who worked with John Crowley (played by Brendan Fraser) to develop a treatment for his two kids battling a neuromuscular disorder called Pompe. Insightful anecdotes and funny one-liners are not Ford’s forte.

Ford, 67, who lives in L.A. and speaks almost exclusively in a slow, hushed voice, says that he doesn’t remember much about Chicago but that the weather “breeds character.”

Let’s say someone tries to mug you on the street. You’ve got a light saber in one pocket and a whip in the other. Which do you go for?

[quiet laugh] I don’t know where to go with that. I think I would run away. As usual.

What do you mean as usual?

Well, I mean I’m reaching deep into the depths of my soul and I’m telling you that I’m not playing a guy with a whip or a light saber if somebody’s trying to mug me on the street.

It’s not a character; it’s just self-defense.

Well, the character choice I would be making is ... You’re asking me, and I would tell you I would run away.

It seems like a quiet drama like “Extraordinary Measures” is rare these days. What do you think about the industry’s tendency to do everything loud now?

Well, I think movies are made for the whole broad population of moviegoers. We didn’t think we would have a movie that 15-year-olds would go to three times. We understood what we were doing. But that’s why a film like this, that’s why you don’t spend $200 million or $500 million to make a movie like this.

Hopefully no one’s waiting for explosions.

I think people will know by the time they get to the theater, through articles they read in the newspaper and the ads, that that’s not the kind of movie [it is].

Do you have a favorite movie that was filmed in Chicago?

“The Fugitive,” I suppose.

How about one you weren’t in.

I’m not much of a moviegoer to tell you the truth. I can’t really remember.

How about between “Ferris Bueller” and “The Dark Knight”?

Oh, I never saw “The Dark Knight.” “Ferris Bueller,” if I remember, was a pretty suburban movie, wasn’t it?

He spent a decent amount of time in the city. At the parade, Wrigley Field, etc.

I don’t remember well enough. I’m sorry.

What stuck with you the most about growing up in Chicago?

I suppose the people. I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to characterize the people but I suppose it is the Midwest and Midwesterners are different to the people … I’ve been living on the west coast for 40 years.

Why did the last Indy film get people worked up? I thought it was entertaining.

Did they get worked up? I don’t understand.

There were definitely polarizing opinions with some die-hards disappointed by it. Yet it sounds like you’re interested in continuing the franchise whenever possible.

Sure, if we get a good idea. I think that over the four films that each of them has had a variety of different strengths.

Do you have a favorite?

Oh, I suppose the first one is my favorite in some ways. You know, I just work here. The audience can pick their favorites.

How different would Indiana Jones have been with the actor originally cast, Tom Selleck?

It would have been a lot of different. It would have been Tom Selleck instead of me.

How often do you go back and watch your own films?


Any you’ve never seen?

Um, couple. A couple, but I won’t name them.

What do people usually say when they recognize you?

“Hi! Hi, are you? Oh my gosh, can I take a picture with you?” Since the invention of the cell phone camera, that’s the most common question.

Do you get more questions about “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones”?

Uh, I don’t think people would often stop me on the street and ask me questions.

Alan Arkin has taken a few roles as the funny grandpa. Could you see yourself playing parts like that? What are you looking for right now?

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