‘The welcome is unimaginable’: Harrison Ford reduced to tears in Cannes over Indiana Jones’s return
In an emotional press conference, the 80-year-old star talked about seeing his younger self on screen, his latest topless scene and why he is hanging up his fedora for good
A visibly upset Harrison Ford has spoken of the psychological pain that accompanies an acting career, after the Cannes film festival premiere of his latest – and probably final – outing as Indiana Jones. Many actors, he claimed, feel themselves to be misfits.
“They don’t find an easy fit in life,” he said, adding that “they can be very unhappy if they can’t work, and they can’t work unless they are asked to work.”
When asked on Friday how he felt about the response of the fans on the streets and the reaction of the audience inside the gala screening, Ford’s eyes filled with tears and he found it hard to speak for some seconds.
“Indescribable,” he eventually said. “I can’t even tell you. The welcome is unimaginable and it makes me feel good.”
For early scenes in director James Mangold’s new film, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the 80-year-old star appears on screen as his de-aged younger self, but Ford said he did not feel wistful looking at his youthful face.
“That is what I looked like. It is not magic, or CGI, Lucasfilm have hundreds of filmed images of me over the years and this was the result of the scientific mining of the library. But I don’t look back and wish I was that guy again. I am real happy with age. I could be dead, after all, and I am still working.”
He argued the careful use of digitally regenerated footage poses no artistic problems: “But it is just a trick if it is not supported by the story. It sticks out like a sore thumb if it is not honest.”
Emphasising his desire to continue accepting screen roles, Ford said: “I just want to work and tell good stories. Satisfaction comes from the work that we do. There is pain when we disappoint and joy when we are adequate or successful.”
So why is he giving up his most defining role? “Isn’t it evident?” he said, gesturing at his body.
His self-deprecation was swiftly rebutted by one journalist at the press conference, who thanked Ford for a topless scene in the film, adding: “You are still hot.”
“Thank you for noticing,” replied Ford.
His co-star in this latest instalment is Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who plays his unpredictable English goddaughter, Helena Shaw. The plot pivots on the idea of time travel and Waller-Bridge said that taking her place alongside the character of Indiana Jones on set did feel like time travel. “Particularly, of course, in the scenes where we are actually showing that. It was quite scary.”
The “magnitude” of joining a film series with such fame around the world was daunting, she admitted. “It is only now, here, that I remember what a huge franchise it is. But being part of this gang was so calming.”
Learning lines of Doric Greek for a crucial scene alongside Ford was a struggle, she said. “It was incredibly hard to learn.” But a compensation was her character’s habit of punching people. “I loved the fighting more than I can possibly describe. I don’t think I had realised how freeing it is to let go and really throw yourself at someone else,” she said.
The villain in the film is played by Mads Mikkelsen, who said he saw the first film when he was 15 and modelled himself on Indiana Jones: “There is a charm in the character. He lies, he steals; we want to be like him.”
Ford said he had been persuaded to return to the franchise because the new story was good enough to give the character new life – albeit in a jaded, battered form.
“I wanted to see the weight of life on him,” he said. “I wanted to see him require a relationship of support and one that was not a flirty relationship.”
Fielding a question about the meaning of the word “destiny” in the film’s title and plot, Ford said he sympathised with actors who do not get a big break. “There are so many people with talent who never get to see the light of day… I had to wait for luck to come along. I had the opportunity in that time to learn from my experience, to learn a bit of craft. Because luck will not save the day.”
Mangold admitted that he had hesitated before taking the directing job which could let down lifelong fans. He was persuaded, he said, by the acting talent and the script, co-written by Jez Butterworth, the British stage and television writer who is best known for his plays Jerusalem and The Ferryman. Mangold talked, he said, to Indiana Jones’s original creator, Steven Spielberg, throughout filming, but claimed that at a certain point the new story took over and began “to steer” itself.
In an unsentimental moment in an otherwise emotional press conference, Ford said that he is unconcerned about a future that doesn’t include wearing Jones’s trademark fedora.
“I do have a hat,” he said “but I am not nostalgic about that. It is the experience that stays with you. The stuff is great, but it does not matter to me afterwards.”