In “Firewall,” his new modern-day thriller, the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” star plays Jack Stanfield, a bank computer security specialist whose wife (Virginia Madsen) and two children are taken hostage by criminals trying to manipulate him into helping them steal $100 million from his employers.
Helmed by “Wimbledon” director Richard Loncraine, “Firewall” co-stars that film’s lead, Paul Bettany, as the mastermind of the scheme, a man who has studied every move Jack and his family have made for a year and who knows exactly how to get to them.
Asked how he felt tackling the physical aspects of the role now that he is 63, Ford told reporters in Los Angeles that he was fine with it.
“It was fun,” insisted the Chicago native, who attended Ripon College in Wisconsin before moving to L.A. to pursue an acting career. “I enjoyed it.”
And that fight scene at the end of the movie?
“It was like a big choreographed dance,” he declared. “It was simply a matter of making decisions about where the camera would be and how we would accomplish each element of the fight and then doing it.”
Never overly happy to meet the press, though friendly enough, Ford cut short a journalist who suggested a scene, in which somebody is thumped by what looks like a 2-by-4, then keeps coming back for more, might have been a pinch over the top.
“They were thin pieces of siding. They were 3/8-inch siding,” clarified the former carpenter. “Apparently, you think the fight scene was unrealistic. Well, we disagree, then.”
So we know Ford is peerless when it comes to battling bad guys, but how is he with a computer?
“I have the basics of it down, I think,” revealed the actor, whose paternal roots are in Ireland. “I’ve been using computers for years for basic tasks and doing research. I’ve been doing my educational programs for flight training and so on and so forth on the computer and I’m fairly comfortable with it.”
What he and the filmmakers did need help with, Ford concedes, was in determining how the robbery could really happen within the context of the movie. For that, they sought “qualified advice” from banking professionals and computer experts, he says.
While the idea of having one’s life hijacked via computer has long been a concern, Ford says he doesn’t much worry about identity theft since his identity is so distinctive, it would be difficult to forge.
“I’m perhaps less fearful than some,” he said. “It doesn’t concern me that much. I think that, under most circumstances, whatever happens on a computer can be set right. I’m not concerned about someone stealing my identity. It’s unlikely my identity would be as useful as some anonymous person’s identity might be.”
While Ford admits he and the filmmakers worked hard to make the plot of the movie seem plausible, he brushes off criticism that the movie might offer an accurate blueprint for how to stalk or steal using technology.
“I think if you correctly understand the mechanism of the theft, the part you shouldn’t try is home invasion and taking people hostage and holding guns to their heads because that’s what makes (the heist) work,” observed one of the few A-list actors who has said he has no desire to direct.
An actor who is so well-respected in Hollywood, Ford is usually afforded some kind of casting approval but said he doesn’t really keep a list in the back of his mind of actors with whom he’d like to work, but rather takes each new project and its casting opportunities as they present themselves.
“I think it is always a question of who is available, who is interested and who is appropriate,” he reasoned. “I don’t keep a running tab. I am aware of the work of a lot of actors and I admire the work of a lot of actors and I admire the work of a lot of actors when I meet them that I wasn’t aware of before. There are casting professionals and they come up with lists of people and you sit and look at the lists and you discuss amongst the film-making group what the best decision might be.”
Once someone is cast, Ford says he has no trouble separating the actor from the role he plays, unlike some of his counterparts who say they stay in character whenever they are on set, so their true feelings about their co-stars don’t affect their performance.
For instance, when the cameras stopped rolling, Ford insists he saw no need to continue any ill will towards Bettany’s alter ego.
“We’re professionals,” Ford explained. “We have a professional relationship. We work hard together and we work well together. (Staying in character when you’re not working) is outside my experience. … Those are different people (that do that.)”
While Ford reportedly has several new films in the works, the one most fans really seem to want to know about is “Indiana Jones 4” and if it will be helmed by Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg.
“The Internet is full of false information,” Ford warned, when asked if he will don the adventurer’s trademark fedora one last time.
“We have an ambition to make the film. We have a possible time to make it. We have a script that is undergoing some revision and that’s as much as I can say at the moment.”
Whatever the future holds — be it a fourth outing as the whip-snapping archaeologist, the chance to play another hero in the planned space adventure “Godspeed,” or a lawman tracking Abraham Lincoln’s assassin in the historical drama “Manhunt” — one thing is for certain: Ford is showing no sign of slowing down or taking smaller roles than the star turns he has long been used to.
“(They are) movies I think I’d like to be in. That’s about it. There’s no genre restriction or type of role or type of character that I want to play. I’m just looking for a good ride,” Ford said of his career choices.
“I’m developing several things in which I would play a supporting role, but normally I’m like a fireman who when you roll out on a fire, you don’t want to go to a trash fire in a dumpster; you want to go and meet the beast.”
“Firewall” is in theaters now.