If you grew up in the 80s, you know that four actors form the Nerdcore Four — Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Michael Keaton and Bill Murray. These four actors have totaled almost ten billion dollars in box office receipts while playing unforgettable characters like Indiana Jones, Peter Venkman, Batman, Han Solo, John McClane, and Beetlejuice.
They have saved the world from asteroids, a beret wearing 100 foot tall Marshmallow, the dark side, Nazis, Alan Rickman, dancing gophers, and so much more.
How do we celebrate them? We put together four lists (which will run over the next few months) that will look at each member of the Nerdcore Four and discuss their careers and their most signature roles.
Up first is Harrison Ford — who can next be seen in Ender’s Game. Ford first made his name tussling with Ewoks in Star Wars, replicants in Blade Runner, and Kate Capshaw while playing Indiana Jones during the 80s before carving out a respectable career as a leading man in more grounded fare like The Fugitive, Witness, The Patriot Games, and 42.
Which role truly defines this legendary cinematic hero? Is it Indy over Han? Vice versa? Maybe Rick Deckard over both? We’ll have our say after the jump.
Honorable mention: 42, Witness, and Air Force One
5. Richard Kimble in The Fugitive
In the film, Ford turns the intensity up to 11 and tosses aside the mold that was established by David Janssen, the actor who portrayed Kimble in the 1960s TV show of the same name. Ford is broody as a man obsessed with trying to both clear his name and find his wife’s killer while on the run from Tommy Lee Jones’ Sam Gerard — a fox hound of a man that intially only cares for the chase and not for why he is chasing down Kimble.
Jones got most of the accolades following the release of The Fugitive — including an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor — but the actors both elevated each other’s games and a piece of material that could have felt trite without them.
4. Jack Ryan in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger
Though Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character is headed for its fourth big screen incarnation with Chris Pine taking the baton from Ben Affleck’s hands following the disappointing Sum of All Fears, it is Harrison Ford who most regard as the prototypical Ryan. This despite the fact that Alec Baldwin originated the role in The Hunt for Red October, which is unquestionably the best film in the franchise.
As Ryan in Patriot Games, Ford plays a teacher, a former intelligence analyst, and a family man who finds himself in the cross-hairs of a vicious and unrelenting IRA terrorist with a personal score to settle.
A cat and mouse game plays itself out as the terrorist (played by a young and mulleted Sean Bean) targets Ryan’s wife and young daughter (Anne Archer and Thora Birch). Once that happens, Ford’s Jack Ryan uncoils, drops the mild-mannered teacher act, and returns to the CIA where he proceeds to hunt down Bean’s character, Sean Miller.
While I like the sequel, Clear and Present Danger, that film falls too deeply into the political thriller genre for my tastes and the stakes — Ryan’s reputation and a far away drug war — pale in comparison to the personal fight with Miller from the preceding film. Basically, they magnified the international, sliced-out-from-the-headlines aspect that is more in the background in the first film and it just isn’t as satisfying a journey.
With that said, if there is one franchise that Ford could realistically service now that he is in his seventies, it is the Ryan franchise, and it is sad that that is not on the table thanks to the upcoming reboot.
3. Rick Deckard in Blade Runner
Now we’re entering into the vaunted trinity. Really, you could mix and match the order of these three roles and win wide support. Incidentally, these are also the three roles that Ford has, likely will, and could return to in some shape or form in this late stage of his career, for better or worse.
We don’t know much about Ford’s potential place in Ridley Scott‘s possible follow-up to the original Blade Runner, but it’s not hard to understand why there would be a desire to see Ford play Rick Deckard again.
A Blade Runner reluctantly on the trail of a gang of replicants, Rick Deckard is Ford’s first mature lead role, and the best work he’s done from a pure acting standpoint, though again, Witness deserves a mention.
This is the role that established the “Ford as a dogged pursuer” archetype, but really, it’s his relationship with Sean Young’s Rachael that hooks me into this noirish cyberpunk epic — a film well ahead of its time that allowed us a chance to see past Ford’s ample charm and movie star good looks for the first time.
2. Han Solo in Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope, Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: Episode VII (???)
I will never not want to be like Han Solo. He is the quintessential cowboy. Quick of wit, always scrambling, always hustling, and a hell of a brawler. He is a smartass demi-God and a heartthrob. Who among us has not Han-ed someone when they told us that they loved us?
Besides all of those things, Ford’s character (and it is inconceivable to imagine anyone else in that role) is also the MVP of George Lucas’ Star Wars verse (and the forerunner for characters like Mal Reynolds in Firefly).
Yes, yes, “What about Luke Skywalker!?”, but without Solo, Star Wars would have felt like a trudge. It would have been too damn heavy. Maybe that’s the real reason why the prequels underwhelmed — with the exception of an un-emotive little ankle biter in a podracer, no one seemed like they were having fun throughout those three films. There was no Han-like character.
Han brings the sense of fun that propels Star Wars and Ford provides the spark behind his eyes. His organic energy underwrites the adventure before us and establishes a connection to Solo that is still more than strong.
I almost feel like Han’s mark of approval is what allows us to even accept Luke as cool. A little bit of, “Well, if you’re alright with Han, then you’re alright with us, kid” (hair tousle).
So, with all of that said, how could I not list Han Solo as Harrison Ford’s most important role? Allow me to explain.
1. Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana and the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indiana Jones and the Not Quite Tragic Death of Mutt Williams (???)
Everything that Han is, Indiana Jones is, but there is also a masculinity and a timeless movie star quality to Ford’s performance, making Indiana feel like a progression for him as an actor.
Doctor Jones is also more intellectual and — dare I say — more charming than Han. He also fails more, but when he rises as a hero does, that heroism feels as if it is more legitimate and earned.
Ford’s performance isn’t more confident than his portrayal of Han — that isn’t possible — but it is more commanding, and that is vital in that with these films, Ford is front and center.
Besides, Karen Allen over Carrie Fisher, am I right? I’m right.
Disagree with this list? Take to the comment section and post your own… or don’t, Jason gets pizza bagels either way!
Source: Box Office Mojo