Harrison Ford’s business card just might not read “actor.” He likes the term “assistant storyteller” – and he’s pleased he was finally able to toss the ones that read “carpenter.”
“I'm an assistant storyteller,” Ford told PopcornBiz before he took the stage to collect the Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film (presented by no less than the ever-energetic Douglas himself) from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. “I think that's the actor's job. The director is the storyteller. We all have a story we agree is worthy of telling and I'm in the creation – I create a character to help tell the story.”
After enjoying warm reviews for his turn in “Morning Glory” and a stint next summer’s hotly anticipated “Cowboys and Aliens” on the way, Ford’s relaxed some of the unwritten rules of his superstardom lately by more tacitly acknowledging his iconic status, particularly among the geek cult he’s amassed through “Star Wars,” “Blade Runner” and the Indiana Jones films. He’s attended tributes, appeared at Comic-Con for the first time and discussed “The Empire Strikes Back” on stage for its 30th anniversary. But he characteristically underplays what his screen presence has meant to the people who’ve honored him recently.
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“What I mean to them is that I'm old and I'm available,” he deadpanned. “So that's why you get awards.”
“I don't think he's a reflective, nostalgic kind of guy,” offered Jon Favreau, who’s directing Ford in “Cowboys” and shared a slightly nerve-wracking Cessna flight into rainy Santa Barbara from the New Mexico set with Ford in the pilot’s seat. “I think he's always looking for the next act of his play.”
“Fans of genre like myself just love the guy,” said Favreau. “I don't think he's always exposed to his audience that comes from the sci-fi or action world. You're seeing a lot of Harrison Ford the actor, but there's also a lot of Harrison Ford the icon and the legend – the one who set the tone for all the films that have followed. He's created the archetype. So for him to come to Comic-Con, he got a taste of what those fans feel about him. To have 6,000 people jump to their feet and cheer for minutes on end for him, I don't know if he was moved by it, but it was one of the most memorable moments of my life.”
Over dinner Ford shared a table labeled “Air Force One” with his wife Calista Flockhart, Favreau, Douglas and his “The Fugitive” director Andrew Davis. A retrospective of scenes from his most memorable films unfolded – including a heretofore unseen “Cowboys and Aliens” clip provided by the director, in which Ford menacingly interrogates a man whose upper and lower halves are each tied to horses.
Douglas, 93, took the podium to offer a playful introduction: “When I was a little boy, I always wanted to be Indiana Jones,” he admitted, “but Harrison Ford got there first. Harrison Ford was a carpenter, a very good carpenter, and if he would have stuck with the trade of being a carpenter, I might have ended up as Indiana Jones.”
Accepting the trophy, Ford told Douglas “I never got an award like this because there was nobody like you that could have given it to me.”
“I’ve got the best job in the world,” Ford declared. “ As Kirk says I was an actor, then I was a carpenter, then I was an actor, then I was a carpenter. And then, finally, I was an actor. And I stopped being a carpenter. And it's because I came into the business at a time when there were enormously talented people that were challenging the Hollywood system. They were changing the way stories were being told, the way films were being made. “And I rode on that wave. My success is the success of other really talented people. I was lucky to be part of a really exciting time in this business."
"And as luck would have it," he continued. "I can still get a job from time to time and work for people like Jon Favreau, who is one of the most exciting filmmakers I've ever worked with. And I'm very grateful, and I'm very happy to not be a carpenter anymore.”