Harrison Ford on emotion, the Blade Runner way
Reprising his role from the 1982 sci-fi cult classic, Harrison Ford lauds the 'emotional story'
In an unprecedented move, Harrison Ford is revisiting three of his most iconic characters in his storied career decades later.
The Hollywood veteran has already reprised his Han Solo role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). He will again play Indy in the fifth Indiana Jones movie, out in 2020, and he will return as Rick Deckard in the new Blade Runner 2049, which opens here next Thursday.
In our interview at The Ritz-Carlton hotel in downtown Los Angeles, Ford was not sentimental about the good old days.
The 75-year-old US actor said: "I am happy to be here... If I look back at my career, I think about how lucky I have been.
"I have worked with extraordinary people who have given me extraordinary opportunities. They have given me fulfilment beyond my wildest imagination, and they have given me purpose."
Obeying a mandate from Blade Runner 2049's producers, Ford was not going to go into detail about his latest film. Trying to get him to talk about his life off-screen was also a no-go.
He was irascible and sarcastic in turn. But he had to be here for 30 minutes, so we persevered.
In the original Blade Runner, which came out 35 years ago, Ford's Deckard is a Los Angeles police officer known as a "blade runner", whose purpose is to kill off replicants, or humanoids with four-year life spans who were created in laboratories to work as slaves in off-world colonies.
But he falls in love with one of them, and it upends everything he believes in, leading to the central question of the movie: What does it mean to be human?
I have worked with extraordinary people who have given me extraordinary opportunities. They have given me fulfilment beyond my wildest imagination Harrison Ford
That same question is carried forward in Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Prisoners and Sicario).
The old replicants are gone.
The replacement Nexus 8s, with open-ended lifespans, are on the run, hunted by yet another new breed, Nexus 9.
Our new protagonist, LAPD officer K (Ryan Gosling), is on the trail of a Nexus 8 targeted for "retirement", but he stumbles on a mystery and that quest brings him to Deckard, who has been in hiding.
"I was grateful for the scripted opportunity to take the character into a different place. I was grateful for the 30 years that had passed and the narrative accounting for that time," Ford said.
"I was glad that this deep emotional story, which is one of the signatures of this film for me, is full of all of the spectacle and the epic scale of it, but there is intimate human emotion.
"I say human in the 'Blade Runner' way. It is complicated, and it is rich, and it is a pleasure for an actor to have that emotional access."
Ford has long been interested in conservation and ecology.
"Nature can live without us, but we as human beings cannot live without nature. And this film (presents) a world where many challenges are environmental, and the environment is so critical to our lives, we can see some of the effects of not maintaining a healthy world."
He is referring to the dystopic Los Angeles of the movie, complete with acid rain, lack of vegetation and vast wastelands.
As there are a few action and fight sequences in Blade Runner 2049, has staying in shape been difficult for him?
Here was the non-answer: "I do like physical acting, and I have always enjoyed that."
But an unexpected long answer comes from talking about replicants.
"The thing that distinguishes a replicant is the way in which they are made... they are manufactured in a medical factory. They are owned and they are property (and) merchandise.
"The science that we posited in the first film has proved to be eerily on the mark. We now know, with crisper technology and the other methods of splicing genes and our understanding of DNA, our capacity has advanced to be able to grow human beings in a petri dish," he said.
"And it is only the moral imposition that keeps us from completing the job. And so that morality is what keeps us human."
Ford ended the interview with a parting bit of wisdom, when asked if he has advice for young actors.
"(The late film-maker) Mike Nichols, who was a great man, funny and smart, said about the business - do not let them turn you into a 'thing'. I am not going to explain it, because it is all for us to think about," he said.