Among certain circles of film journalists, there is an unspoken and unwritten blacklist: the names of the toughest interview subjects on the movie-junket circuit. Tommy Lee Jones, Robert De Niro, Tom Hardy. These are performers whose patience with the press has been tested time and again – they suffer no fools, and are happy to watch foolish writers suffer.
No name crops up quite as often on this unofficial list (and with no small amount of mythos) as Harrison Ford. The 75-year-old star doesn't carry a reputation for Jones-esque stubbornness, but rather for keeping a meticulously guarded front. He is a man of so few words and so much indifference to the promotional process that entire magazine features have been built around his reluctance to divulge anything close to resembling personal information or professional insight.
Yet when the opportunity came to talk with Ford about Blade Runner 2049 – his latest venture in revisiting his past, following 2015's resurrection of Han Solo and the upcoming resuscitation of Indiana Jones – I didn't hesitate. Partly because the sci-fi sequel is easily one of the most anticipated cinematic events of the year, but also because there was always the off chance that this would be the interview where Ford revealed a crack in his façade. Where the man broke down in my arms (metaphorically, across the telephone). Or, hoping against hope, where he revealed whether or not his Blade Runner hero Deckard is an android or not.
That didn't quite happen. But to my surprise, Ford was more revealing and generous with his time – well, the studio-allotted 10 minutes – than his history suggested.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today, Harrison ...
[After being informed I was calling from Toronto] You know, we've got to build a wall on our northern border to keep all these Canadians home. I'm sure we're going to get Canada to pay for it. I've been working with two Canadians [Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve and co-star Ryan Gosling], and I've been suffering Canadian content now for all this time, and talking about all the talented Canadians who've come this way to build our culture.
Speaking of Denis, in a previous interview he said you were signed onto this movie before he was, and you had to approve his hiring.
No, no. If he had a green card, or a work permit, I was willing. It wasn't a question of approval, but more an opportunity to see the ease of our communication. And whether or not he thought I was as good-looking in person. You know, working with a director, it's a bit of a marriage. It's not a question of approving your mate, but a question of, are we going to fall in love or not?
It's a courtship, then?
It's always a courtship. But it's also a service occupation, storytelling. That's what we do for the audience. And you know, it's a fraught environment, and there's a lot of pressure. I'd already known his movies and thought he was a wonderful choice. And I'm sure he wanted to meet me to find out whether I was tolerable.
The world that Denis and his team have created here is interesting in that it's continued Ridley Scott's vision of a world that's fantastical but also depressingly real.
Oh, but as depressing as it is, it forms an environment for questions about our culture. What it means to be human. Science, the future, the environment, all sorts of questions, and the answers to which engage us emotionally. Also, there's an indominability of the human spirit that's part of the telling of these stories. That's very strongly felt here.
So you see this as a hopeful movie?
I see it as a cautionary tale. It's an imagining. It's a glimpse into a future, and it allows us a consideration of the circumstances that have created that future, and what that might mean to our present.
The first film, when it came out, was largely misunderstood and underappreciated. Do you feel audiences will latch onto this vision more immediately?
I do, because the first one was ahead of its time, and now is the time for this one. The issue of its immediate acceptance proved not to be a problem, because in the long term, it gained an enormous following and had a terrific impact on a generation of filmmakers and visual storytellers.
Were you concerned going into this project that you'd subject yourself to yet another barrage of "Is Deckard a replicant" debates?
I couldn't give a rat's ass. I figured the fact that it's been a question for the audience is an intriguing result. A bonus, as it were. People only talk about things that they care about or that interest them, after all. It doesn't bother me.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Blade Runner 2049 opens Oct. 6.