Harrison Ford gets goofy in new movie

Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2003

LOS ANGELES Oh, that wacky Harrison Ford, rigging his cell phone to announce calls with the tune of ''My Girl'' and chasing a bad guy on a child's pink bicycle.

Ford whose lineup of tough guys includes the gunslinging ''Indiana Jones,'' dashing fly-boy Han Solo of the original ''Star Wars'' trilogy, and a terrorist-bashing president in ''Air Force One'' has some fun with his heroic image in the action comedy ''Hollywood Homicide.''

''I was looking for something where I had a chance to push it a little more. I didn't want to be the straight man again in a comedy,'' Ford told The Associated Press during an interview at his home in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles.

Lightening up from last summer's box-office lemon, the well-reviewed but gloomy true-life thriller ''K-19: The Widowmaker,'' Ford's new movie teams him with Josh Hartnett as Los Angeles cops clumsily cracking the slayings of a hip-hop group.

Ford, who turns 61 in July, made his first big splash 30 years ago with a small part in George Lucas' comedy ''American Graffiti,'' and he has had solid success with strait-laced roles in such romantic comedies as ''Working Girl'' and ''Sabrina.''

''Hollywood Homicide,'' though, is Ford's first attempt at madcap physical comedy. He croons and sways to Motown hits, snatches for a taxi receipt after swiping a cab to pursue a villain, and trades punches in a parody of the brawls that were all in a day's work for Indiana Jones.

Hoping to stretch the bounds of conventional crime chases, Ford himself volunteered the idea of tailing an antagonist on a child's bike decorated with streamers.

''It's the most antic kind of comedy that I've done so far. Maybe that gives you the wrong impression when I say antic. I just mean that the style of the film is maybe a little looser, the characters are under more pressure, and thus, when they crack, they crack in different ways.''

Even as Ford's character cracks amid the strains of police work and a part-time job as a real-estate agent trying to broker a huge sale, he maintains a kind of hard-nosed cool and reserve that marks many of the actor's past roles.

Ford maintains a similar aloofness in interviews, which he does graciously but grudgingly. He declines to discuss his personal life, including his two grown children from his first marriage and his two younger ones from his second marriage.

He ponders questions methodically before answering with austere courtesy, his expression rarely wavering from a tightlipped poker face. Ford's stoicism has prompted some interviewers to describe him as gruff and unsociable.

''I tend to be careful about what I say and how I say it,'' Ford said. ''I don't like to see mischaracterizations based on my sloppy technique. So I tend to be a little more focused and precise about what I say to people.''

Ford even told his girlfriend, former ''Ally McBeal'' star Calista Flockhart, that he would not discuss personal details when she interviewed him for the June issue of Interview magazine.

More so than many stars, Ford bristles at celebrity journalism. With visible distaste, he recalls a magazine article last year that detailed his and Flockhart's night out at the movies, right down to what they bought at the concession stand.

Ford also has been bemused by news coverage of his real-life good deeds over the last few years, such as piloting his helicopter to the rescue of a missing Boy Scout and an ailing mountain climber around Jackson, Wyo., where Ford has a home.

A licensed pilot since the late 1980s, Ford often has volunteered his services during forest-fire season, when rescue helicopters were occupied with blazes.

Those rescues ''had nothing to do with heroism. It had to do with flying a helicopter, that's all,'' Ford said. ''It's always forgotten that there are 25, 30 other people involved, maybe more, in these things. I happened to pick the kid up in a helicopter, and all of a sudden, it's characterized as a single-handed act of heroism, but that's never the case.''

Ford even challenges the notion of his heroic on-screen persona. He insists the only flat-out action hero he has played is CIA analyst Jack Ryan in ''Patriot Games'' and ''Clear and Present Danger.''

''Raiders of the Lost Ark'' and its two ''Indiana Jones'' sequels were half fantasy-adventure, half comedy, said Ford, who hopes to reprise the character with a fourth movie for release in 2005, reteaming with producer Lucas and director Steven Spielberg.

His other characters generally have been everyday sorts who must rise, sometimes heroically, to the occasion, or dark-tinged anti-heroes such as those he played in ''Blade Runner."

Ford was thrilled to learn that on the American Film Institute's recent list of top 50 film heroes, Indiana Jones was beat out by a character who ''never hit anybody.'' Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch, the noble father of ''To Kill a Mockingbird,'' rated No. 1 among heroes, with Indiana Jones coming in second, and Ford's Han Solo ranked No. 14.

Ford eventually would like to flesh out his roster of villains. He has only played one all-out bad guy, the deceitful husband in the ghost story ''What Lies Beneath.''

''Certainly, one is freer of the responsibility to the plot and story when you're a villain,'' Ford said. ''I'm sure sometime in the future, I'll have the opportunity to play other kinds of villains.

''I have never been interested in playing heroes. I've certainly never been interested in playing a character that didn't have a degree of complication, which I've always tried to bring even when they were meant to be, finally, heroic. ... I think that's much more interesting than playing the sort of unvarnished hero.''

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