Over the years, Harrison Ford has gotten such a reputation as someone “bad at interviews” that the moniker stuck with him even though, now, he’s become very good at interviews. In fact, he’s now actually pretty great at interviews and it’s about time he deserves that credit. It’s gotten to the point that I actively look forward to a Harrison Ford television appearance. He’s, now, legitimately fun. Let’s now, forever, agree to end the idea that he’s bad at interviews. From now on Ford is, officially, great.
On Monday night, Ford visited Jimmy Kimmel and it was pure joy. Ford is quick-witted, trading jokes, and uses his reputation as “grumpy” and “bad at interviews” to his comedic advantage. Ford is legitimately funny. I reached out to Jimmy Kimmel after Monday’s show about this “grumpy” misconception and Kimmel said, “I think that, unlike most who visit a talk show couch, Harrison is totally secure. He does not crave approval, at least not from me, and would be quite comfortable without it. Because it is rare, that can easily be misinterpreted as grumpy.”
Now, he’s been using this trick for a while, but a big difference is he isn’t trying to hide it as much – basically the biggest difference is he has a huge smile on his face the whole time – so it comes off more and more like a “gruff” act as opposed to just being gruff. The perfect example of this is when Kimmel compares Han Solo’s return in The Rise of Skywalker to that of Jesus. Ford, without missing a beat and with a big smile cuts him off, ‘Well … not like Jesus.”
The best part comes when Kimmel shows Ford a mockup of the poster for The Call of the Wild, with a bunch of added pull quotes from Donald Trump using different variations on, “the perfect Call.” Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Harrison Ford laugh that hard. He’s having a great time! And he’s having a great time because he’s now great at being a talk show guest!
I asked Kimmel if he’s noticed Ford loosening up over the years, “I always had fun interviewing him, even before he got comfortable with me. He challenges you to ask questions he hasn’t been asked a hundred times, which isn’t easy with a guy who played so many iconic characters. I enjoy that. He is also more open to fun ideas than most. Once, around Halloween, he came dressed as a pea pod and we shot a series of videos in which he reunites with Chewbacca that rank among the funniest bits we’ve ever done.”
(Another one of my favorite Ford appearance of all time was when Conan O’Brien asked him, basically, why he wants to make another Indiana Jones and Ford answered by just making the “money” gesture with his hand.)
Okay, now let’s back up a bit. The most glaring example is an early appearance on Late Night with David Letterman to promote Blade Runner. Now, imagine sitting down all excited to watch Dave talk to the charismatic guy who has starred in Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and now is here promoting another sci-fi adventure, with Return of the Jedi still coming a year later. And there’s a better than average chance that this interview is the first time a person is seeing Ford away from his or her local cineplex. This would probably seem like a pretty exciting moment. And then the interview starts…
When watching now, Ford comes off stiff, rarely cracks a smile, and, frankly, comes off standoffish and a little rude. Now, what’s interesting here is a similar moment happened Monday night with Kimmel. Ford is talking about being a contract actor in the studio system and Dave cracks that Ford probably owns a couple of studios now. Today, Ford would smile and laugh and do an exaggerated bit about how that’s not right. (Or, maybe, joke that he does own a few.) But, here, he uses similar language, but he doesn’t laugh, just mumbles, “No, no,” and changes the subject.
A few minutes later, Letterman asks Ford if he gets any money for the merchandise that’s sold in support of Indiana Jones. Ford shuts him down, “Let’s not talk about money,” and it’s as awkward as it sounds because I, nor Dave for that matter, can tell if it’s a joke or not. I think it might be, he was just bad at it then. (A far cry for the guy who would later make the money gesture when Indiana Jones is brought up.) Today, Ford could use the exact same words, but he’d use his comedic timing, lean in, and slowly say with a big grin, “Let’s not talk about money.” (During this exchange Ford does make a joke about stealing the merchandise, which isn’t bad! But immediately negates it with his not wanting to talk about money line.) It’s a fascinating interview to watch now because, yes, it’s bad, but now I think I can tell he was trying to be funny. But humor – and especially Ford’s dry humor – just came off poorly then. (In the future Letterman and Ford would go on to have a pretty good rapport because Ford became good at interviews!)
Yes, Ford used to be not great at this. This isn’t a case of someone being secretly good at something, but just no one got what he was doing. Yes, Ford earned his reputation. But over the years has become a pretty great talk show guest, yet the reputation of being bad has stuck with him. Enough!
Jimmy Kimmel adds, “He seems to be most interested in talking about subjects unrelated to acting. Can you imagine how many 55-year-old men open their shirts to show him their Han Solo tattoos? At a certain point, it must feel like you’re living at Comic Con.”
Ford, today, is never boring and is legitimately hilarious. (I can’t end this without mentioning Ford’s appearance on Today when he said he doesn’t want to see anyone else play Indiana Jones and quipped, “This is a hell of a way to tell Chris Pine this.”) Honestly, if you watch talk shows, you know there are a lot of bad guests. Harrison Ford is not one of them. He’s a great guest. So, yes, let’s end this misnomer forever.
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.