Interview with Kam Williams
Born in Chicago on July 13, 1942, Harrison Ford was a late bloomer who only developed an interest in acting during his senior year of college. After graduation, he moved to Los Angeles where he worked as carpenter for almost a decade while struggling trying to launch his showbiz career.
He was finally discovered in 1973 while installing cabinets in the home of George Lucas. The director cast him in American Graffiti, which in turn, led to his landing the iconic character Han Solo in Star Wars, and the rest, as they say, is cinematic history.
Ford went on to play the title role in the Indiana Jones franchise, and to make memorable outings in such hit movies as The Fugitive, Witness, Air Force One, What Lies Beneath, Presumed Innocent, Blade Runner, Frantic, Apocalypse Now and Clear and Present Danger, to name a few. Here, the Oscar-nominated thespian (for Witness) talks about his latest outing opposite Chad Boseman as Brooklyn Dodgers’ general manager Branch Rickey in 42, a biopic about Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier in baseball.
Kam Williams: Hi Mr. Ford, thanks so much for the interview. I’m very honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.
Harrison Ford: That’s kind of you to say, Kam.
KW: I was moved to tears several times by the movie. If 42 were released in December, I’m sure you’d be a shoo-in for another Oscar nomination.
HF: Again, you’re very kind. Thank you. I credit the wonderful material. It was very well-crafted, well-written and well-directed. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to be involved with the project.
KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams says: You have been my favorite actor for many years, as were you my Dad’s ever since he saw you in Hanover Street. Thank you for bringing us so much joy.
HF: How sweet!
KW: Why did you decide to play Branch Rickey?
HF: First of all, I read what I thought was an amazing script with very high standards, telling an important story with a character for me to play who was colorful and dramatic and different from any I’d ever played before, and with a director [Brian Helgeland] I admired who had written this wonderful script. So, I had a multitude of reasons to want to do this character. I also saw this project as an opportunity to fully ascend to the rank of the noble calling of character actor. I thought that I could best serve the film by not bringing any of the audience’s history with Harrison Ford into the scene. So, I did everything I could to create a character that truly resembled and was attendant to the real-life Branch Rickey.
KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: You’ve earned some much-deserved acclaim for playing serialized fantasy figures—thank you big time for Han Solo and Indiana Jones. How different is the preparation for doing a one-shot biopic of an historical figure?
HF: The truth is… the job’s always the same. It involves helping to tell the story and creating an alloy between character and story that serves the film. And it also involves creating behavior that brings the information in every scene to life, and investing emotionally in the communication of those ideas.
KW: Gil Cretney asks: Will Han Solo be in JJ. Abram’s upcoming Star Wars sequel?
HF: I think you’ll have to ask somebody else that question. I’m not ready to commit or talk about that at this time.
KW: Kate Newell asks: How did it feel shooting on location at some of those venerable, old baseball stadiums?
HF: To tell you the truth, I didn’t pay much notice because in many cases the stadiums were recreated through computer graphics after the fact. We really only had the first 10 rows, and the rest was added during post-production. The places where we shot were not historical or so impressive. But given that this film takes place over 60 years ago, it’s amazing how much different the world was back then. It’s seen so many changes in a relatively short period of time.
KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I am honored to ask you a question because I have admired your work since I was a child. Jackie Robinson is special to me because his minor league career began in my hometown, Montreal. What does his legacy mean to you?
HF: This is a country which has always proclaimed itself to be founded on and to be pursuing high ideals. I believe that the racial injustice which existed such a short time ago probably would have persisted longer if the color barrier had not been broken in baseball, since the Civil Rights Movement might not have blossomed when it did, had it not been preceded by Jackie Robinson’s joining the Dodgers. You have to remember that baseball really was the American pastime in the Forties, not football, basketball or any other sport. Baseball was a metaphor for America, both here and in terms of how it was understood by the rest of the world. So, the legacy of Jackie Robinson and the part he played in this very important chapter of our history is very compelling and very meaningful to me personally.
KW: My father took a photo of me with Jackie when I was a kid in the Fifties, and I kept that picture on my bureau my entire childhood.
KW: Well, thanks again for the interview, Mr. Ford.
HF: It was my pleasure, Kam.