Film - Hero Harrison

Indiana Jones

With OK maybe a little bit of Star Wars, Susan Omand is holding out for a hero as she looks at the film roles that made one man a hero in cinema's eyes...

What do Richard Kimble, Rick Deckard, John Book, Allie Fox, Richard Walker, Henry Turner, Rusty Sabich and Quinn Harris have in common?  They are all heroes in their respective films and they were ALL played by one man - Harrison Ford.

The list above misses out a lot of roles, including the "big three" for Harrison Ford... the heroic roles for which, in my view, he is most famous.

Indiana Jones - the hat, the bull whip, the leather jacket, the snakes (why does it always have to be snakes...) Mild mannered archaeologist and university professor Dr Henry Jones turns dashing action hero in a series of four films (soon to be five if rumours are to be believed) that took him all over the 1930's and 40's world saving priceless artefacts from nasty thief types intent on using them to rule the world.

Han Solo - Reluctant hero of the Rebel Alliance and owner and pilot of the Millennium Falcon which, as we all know, made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs.  A rogue with a heart of gold, his story plays out over the original three films of the StarWars saga (IV, V and VI) and he will be back, bigger and better in the first of the new trilogy.  

Jack Ryan - maybe not quite as familiar a role for Ford as the other two, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan has been the hero in five films so far and for two of those he has been Harrison Ford.  As an ex-marine turned CIA agent, Ryan is every bit the hero albeit in a far more "modern" political arena.

So why is Harrison Ford always cast more hero than villain?  For me, he has the hero "look", even now - strong, masculine jaw, quick, genuine smile, a good head for hats... but, more than that, he can portray the necessary attitude for a film hero.  Unshakeable self belief and belief in "doing the right thing".  He gives his characters an air of total confidence and being utterly comfortable in himself so you are never left second guessing him.  His heroes are not whiter than white, which makes them all the more believable; you know that he got that scar on his chin (mentioned in so many films) from somewhere.  Actually it was from a car crash in 1964, as he has said in many interviews "a very mundane way of earning it" but it gives him that slight roguish touch essential in all good heroes.

For all the films in which Harrison Ford is a hero, I can only think of one wherein he is essentially  the villain - as Norman Spencer in What Lies Beneath - the renowned scientist who commits murder.  In American Graffiti, his first major movie role, he had a small but pivotal "bad-guy-ish" role racing against the hero and in The Conversation he is basically a henchman for the real bad guy.  But three roles out of the seventy or so he has covered is a pretty good ratio.

And he could have been a hero in so many more films when you look at some of the roles he turned down...

He got the chance at two more Jack Ryan films - he was unable to take the first one, which went to Alec Baldwin and creative differences with screen writers meant the other eventually went to Ben Affleck.

Imagine him instead of Kevin Costner in The Untouchables or JFK - he turned down both.

It could have been him rather than George Clooney in Perfect Storm, but he didn't want it.  He also turned down Clooney's role in Syriana and claims it now to have been one of the few career decision he regrets.

He was also considered for Superman instead of Christopher Reeve and as the Six Million Dollar Man back in the day but producers said he was “unsuitable as an action hero”.

How wrong they were...

Image - Amazon