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Whether Harrison Ford acts or not, that “it” quality is back in Firewall

The year: 1970. Cary Grant strides across the stage, dapper as always in his black tux; he’s a bit heavier than when he retired in ’66 and his famously black hair is easing into later-life platinum. He’s still charming as ever, though, and, after being nominated twice for Academy Awards and four times for Golden Globe Awards, he graciously accepts an Honorary Oscar as old friends and colleagues such as Alfred Hitchcock — who was snubbed himself six times by the Academy before they gave him the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1968 — applaud thunderously. The golden statue, which looks right at home in Grant’s big hands, is basically the Academy’s way of saying, “Whoops, we screwed up. Can you forgive us?”

Forty years later, one has to start wondering if maybe an Honorary Oscar is waiting in the wings for Harrison Ford. After all, he’s 64 this year; Grant was 66 when he received his. Just like Grant, Ford has been nominated for four Golden Globes. In addition, the Hollywood Foreign Press gave him the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2002; in 2000, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute; and ShoWest named him the Box Office Star of the Century in 1994. But still no Oscar. There was that Best Actor nomination back in ’85, but one gets the impression Hollywood still views his performance in Witness as a fluke. After all, we’re talking about history’s biggest movie star: Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Jack Ryan. This guy doesn’t act, right?

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Manqué or masterful actor? The many faces of Ford: Indiana Jones, Han Solo, a husband in Firewall, an undercover cop in Witness, a Fugitive Dr. Richard Kimble.

Except for maybe Mosquito Coast you’d be right. And Frantic and Presumed Innocent. And hell, might as well toss Regarding Henry onto the list, too. Come to think of it, Harrison Ford is the consummate actor: Whatever the scenario, you believe it’s really happening to him, plain and simple. Does he pack on 40 pounds or fake a physical disfigurement to prove how committed he is to the craft? Absolutely not. Like Grant and Bogart, Ford makes acting look easy, and maybe that’s why it’s so hard to rank these three among the Brandos and De Niros of the world.

Ford’s latest, Firewall, won’t win him any Oscars, either, but it’s not because he didn’t give it his all. Consider co-star Paul Bettany, 34, who spent three days filming the thriller’s climactic brawl with the aging action superstar. While Bettany did his best not to walk away a bruised mess, Ford begged to be hit harder so he could “feel it.” How else was he going to react to it convincingly, right? It’s doubtful Grant ever risked damaging his pretty mug, but you can’t say Ford isn’t dedicated to his craft.



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Still, the guy’s star power has dwindled since 1995, beginning with that summer’s abysmal failure, Sabrina. Except for Air Force One, he didn’t score another hit until What Lies Beneath (2000) and even then “hit” is generous terminology. Stinkers like Six Days, Seven Nights and The Devil’s Own left a bad taste in audiences’ mouths, while the good-but-grim Random Hearts was too much of a downer for most fans to embrace. K-19: The Widowmaker and Hollywood Homicide (the worst movie Ford has ever made) followed, while rumors of a fourth Indiana Jones film began to spread. Firewall, perhaps a test run to see how much old fans still want to see the 60-ish action hero whop bad guys before he puts the hat back on, is supposed to be his return to old form.

As computer-security specialist Jack Stanfield, Ford plays the every-man again; a family man, desperate to protect his loved ones from crooks who would use them to make him commit a multi-million dollar bank heist; a husband and father pushed to the brink and forced to take matters into his own hands. Familiar stuff, harking back to his days as a fugitive Dr. Richard Kimble. Stanfield doesn’t jump off any dams here and Bettany ain’t Tommy Lee Jones, but the film delivers. If anything, it shows Ford still has that elusive “it” quality: When he takes that punch, you know he felt it. Hell, you feel it, too.

By Cole Haddon


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