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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Interviews: Indiana Jones's Harrison Ford and Karen Allen

27 years after Raiders of the Lost Ark burst onto movie screens, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull brings Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones and Karen Allen's Marion Ravenwood back to the big screen: Reunited, as the song says, and it feels so good. What felt less good was the timing of the press interviews for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; Paramount scheduled their Cannes publicity interviews the day before the press screening of the film. (Call me a traditionalist, but normally I like to see the actual movie before talking to the actors in it; I'm just funny that way.) Still, Ford and Allen were funny and disarming -- they seemed a little amused by the hypothetical questions and broad general inquiries the chain of events required -- and Cinematical was there to learn about Harrison Ford's take on the best part sof playing Indy, Karen Allen's musings on Marion Ravenwood's sex life and much more;

I'm just wondering how your own excitement level is, returning to the Indiana Jones character?

Harrison Ford: Well, I'm very excited to bring another one of these spectacular adventures to the screen, and to work with Steven and George again. For the last twenty years or so, these films have continued to appeal to an audience, and young kids, as it becomes age-appropriate, have been introduced to the films on DVD by their parents, and to have the opportunity for them to see it full-scale in a movie theatre, with a big screen and big sound, in the dark with a bunch of strangers, and have this common visceral experience is a brilliant opportunity, so I'm delighted to be a part of it again.

You've always resisted having a favorite character. I was wondering if you'd say that Indiana is now your favorite.

HF: Well, you've worn me down: Indiana Jones is now my favorite character. No, all I insist on is that the pleasure of the process for me as a professional is the work itself, and I don't have a favorite character. You have favorite characters. You're the viewer, the buyer, a customer if you will, and it's perfectly natural for you to have favorites. But for me, it's about the experience, it's about the process, it's about the challenge of it all, so regardless of whether or not it's highly successful or moderately successful or not successful at all, it's not about having favorites.

What about coming back to Indiana Jones ... you've been talking about it for years and kept saying, "Well, they're working on a script, we'll see ..."; Was there ever...

HF: Well, of course they were lying; they just made it up two weeks before we started. No, it was a long slog, it was a complicated process, it was, as it has always been. George works on the germination of the idea, he and Steven work with a writer they have agreed on, there are adjustments to be made – by the way, these guys, they're a little busy, they do other things, other than Indiana Jones movies – so it's not a full-time job to get one of these scripts together. But when it's ready, and we all agree, when they do their process, it comes to me, and I have my little say about it, and the recipe is adjusted. It's a meal for three, so maybe a touch more of this or a little too much salt ... we work it all out amongst us until we're all confident that we have something of the quality that we've done in the past.

And did you think it was always going to happen, that you'd come back for a fourth time?

HF: I didn't think about it much at all, until I read the script, a script that finally engaged me and I thought was a challenge and an opportunity.

Based on the trailer, it looks like you handle the age question with humor ...

HF: We don't handle the age question, we ignore it. Obviously, we've moved twenty years deeper into history, we're no longer dealing with Nazis but with Russian villains. It's 1957, the Cold War and the era of McCarthyism in the United States, a very interesting resonance to modern times that might engage us a little bit. And the character: the hair's a little gray – a lot gray – and...

And some of the stunts go a little awry, based on the trailer... in the sense that you can be more clumsy than you were in 1981.

HF: I beg your pardon. (Laughs) You're getting a little bit more clumsy too.

Yeah, I am.

HF: No, age has its virtues and it has its disadvantages, and I think we embrace the reality of the passage of twenty years of time. We're not coy about it, you know, constantly commenting on it, but the guy is twenty years older.

Did you ever worry that they might be waiting so long that they'd have another Indiana Jones come in and you couldn't do it?

HF: Oh, yeah, I was desperate about that. No, I was just hoping that Brad (Pitt) wouldn't be available.

You mentioned a couple of times about the challenges of doing this. What were the challenges?

HF: The challenge is always – ladies and gentlemen, Karen Allen – the challenge is the same as it always is, to bring a character and the situations to life, to manipulate and express the ideas of a story. Every scene's got a reason to be there. There's a germ of the story, there's a character opportunity, there's a relationship opportunity in every scene, and the actor does the best he can to give that life and expression and fiber for the audience.

Is it more or less of a challenge, doing a fourth?

HF: It's the same job, and I don't think it's more of a challenge. If you feel that you're equipped with a script which gives you the opportunity to do your best work – and certainly, everyone had that ambition – then you just go ahead and do it. You don't sit and think, "Oh, this is gonna be a challenge," you know? It's work, and it's fun, by the way; I hate to spoil everyone's enjoyment of their own job, but... this is a better job. It's really fun. I get to work with really smart people who are amongst the best in the world at what they do, including this young lady. ...

What was it like going back twenty-six years after the first one, after you first worked together?

HF: I was delighted that Karen could rejoin us. She's the original relationship for Indiana Jones. We know Indiana Jones through the character that Karen played in the original film, and we learn more about him.

Karen Allen: Well, they have a history even before the film begins. We know that they've known each other, which comes forward right away, when she socks him in the jaw, we know that there's some history that never gets filled in, but they go back a long way.

HF: That's how we progress the relationship, in the understanding of the characters through the relationships that they have.

When you were talking about the script, you mentioned the McCarthy era and hinted on contemporary resonance, and I wondered if you could expand on that, and does this film have some kind of message or is it pure entertainment?

HF: No, it's not a message. Every bit of history has an opportunity for resonance to current times, and it was a period of time in American history when academia was under a real challenge for the freedom that makes people who are part of the academic process flourish, and so, well, I think we'll leave it at that and let you draw what you will from the film, but it's not a message and it's not a pointed sort of reference to the current day, but everything is the past is an opportunity to learn from the past and deal with the present.

You've just been named to the board, in Boston, of the Archaeological Society there?

HF: Yeah, I've just accepted...

The board of directors?

HF: Honorary, I think, board of directors.

Isn't this because you've been playing Indiana Jones, or is it something with your personal life as well that...?

HF: No, it's because Indiana Jones is the only archaeologist in current film history, and it has been good for archeology to have a contemporary representative of that profession on the screen.

Cinematical: Ms. Allen, Mr. Ford, have the scope and nature of the filming experience changed significantly from the first one? Were you just able to go back into working relationships with people, or was it different on a technical level, on a resource level, or even on a level of expectation?

HF: You mean, were the trailers bigger?

Cinematical: Not necessarily, but if that's what comes to mind...

HF: They were a little bigger, yeah...

KA: When we made Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven was working with a lot of people for the first time, and my impression coming onto this set in the very beginning was, they have an amazing kind of team. Janusz Kaminski and all the people that Steven works with, it just felt so seamless, just like a well-oiled team of people, so there was something in that that felt really great to me, you know. They almost don't even have to speak; they make hand signs to each other across the room and people are moving and doing things, and that felt kind of different, because I remember Doug Slocombe, who was doing the first one... everybody was kinda trying to learn everybody's language. One thing that was so extraordinary to me coming onto a film like this for the first time, in London at Elmstree [Studios] when we were shooting Raiders, was just the extraordinary craft of the building of the sets, which just blew my mind. I'd never seen anything like that before, and I have to say that the craft of the sets in this film also blew my mind, almost on a daily basis. You'd walk into these sets that were being built, and I felt just like a little kid a lot of times. It was just like, "Wow! How'd they do this, and aren't we lucky to be working on these sets?" So those are the things that jump to mind...

Did you two stay in touch since Raiders? Have you seen each other at all in the last twenty years, or was it just on the set, like you picked up where you left off before?

KA: We'd seen each other a couple of times, when we did a promotion for when they came out with the box set of the films together. They brought Kate Capshaw and myself and Alison Doody together, and Harrison came by, and I saw him...

HF: We ran into each other on the streets of New York one time, but we haven't really... Karen lives in New York, I live in California, we haven't worked together, obviously, since then. We have different lives in different regions of the world, so we haven't really seen much of each other.

KA: But it felt very seamless. When I walked on the set to do the camera test in Los Angeles, and Harrison knocked on my door, and I opened the door, and suddenly, we're standing there, talking to each other as though weeks had gone by. It just felt very easy to me.

Ms. Allen, a couple of years ago (in an interview), you told me that you were utterly convinced that Marion and Indy had had a child together.

KA: No, I didn't tell you that. (Laughs)

You did tell me that.

KA: Years ago, I told you that?

Two years ago.

KA: I don't remember this conversation. What did it have ... In reference to what?

A phone interview for the New York Post.

KA: Oh, was I just making things up?

Yeah, you were making things up. (Laughs)

KA: There was a funny moment a couple of years ago when they did a couple of special screenings at the Paris Theatre in New York, and I hadn't seen the film in several years, and I was watching the film on the big screen for the first time in a really long time, and I remember the scene when we're on the submarine, and I wake up, and you're gone, and I remember noticing in this particular screening, my character reaches up and grabs her nightgown, and I thought, "gosh, I don't remember that!" I was thinking, I didn't remember that they had had a moment, like a romantic moment. In my mind, I was thinking of the missed kiss – you fall asleep, and there's that missed kiss – but then I forgot about the moment of her grabbing the... So I may have been making a joke about that moment or something...

Harrison, it seems like your attitude to the press process has changed; you used to seem as if doing interviews is worse than a root canal. Now, you seem...

HF: I've had a lot of root canals. (Laughs) I've got a mouthful of 'em. Of course, it's something you become somewhat more ... inured to. I recognize the value of the process, and hopefully, I'm not as ... impatient with it as I might have been. That's one of the virtues of the age, is becoming a little bit more graceful.

Does it help when it's talking about a film, or a series of films, that has become a part of popular culture? I mean, the impact of Indy goes beyond the individual installments of it. It just seems that it's a reference point now certainly in American popular culture, and also in world culture.

HF: Well, of course it's easier to talk about a film that you have the expectations and it's been admired rather than picked apart at the seams. But, of course, I have great confidence in this film on account of the people who are involved, which is not to say that any other people that I've worked with, I had less confidence in during the process. But this is a film that's made for the audience to enjoy, the pure pleasure of the moviegoing experience, and it's a huge, huge engine. We've seen the movie, and I think we have a degree of confidence that it'll be... an experience that people will enjoy.

And do you allow yourself to take pleasure in the idea that this has become a part of the popular culture?

HF: You know, it doesn't occur to me to think that way. It's my job, it's what I do for a living, and I'm really pleased when it's successful, when it brings pleasure to the audience, and it advantages me in the pursuit of my profession.

Obviously, you both used to work with each other. How did you both find working with Shia, and do you have any memorable moments in the filming with him?

KA: Shia's just a delight, as far as I'm concerned. He's very, very funny and – I don't know how much I can describe particular scenes in the film – but there's some moments where Shia has some quite challenging tasks he had to perform in the film, and there's just some very, very, very funny, wonderful moments with Shia where he was just above and beyond the call of duty. He's an incredibly talented young actor, I find him very eloquent as an actor. With his face, he says a lot... he's remarkable. I'm really very impressed with him, and I had an awfully good time with him.

HF: Me too. He's very professional, he works really hard. He had some very sort of arcane skills to acquire, and he worked really hard. He was an enormous pleasure to be around, and I really enjoy him a lot.

Did you teach him anything on set?

HF: I taught him how to act. (Laughs) Because nobody understands that except me... I didn't teach him anything; he taught me. He's been an actor for ten years or something, and he has an enormous talent. He's gonna be around for a long, long time.

You were talking it when it becomes age-appropriate to show the DVDs to our children. My six-year-old son watches the first three movies, which probably makes me a bad parent, but when did you let your kids see the movies, and the second part is, the violence in the movies isn't very graphic, it's somewhat old-fashioned, and do you think that's a good alternative, because, increasingly, we see really violent movies for kids out there.

KA: I think a little bit depends on the kid. My son, who's seventeen now, was very, very sensitive to violence in films. I mean, he would get extremely upset over things that wouldn't dawn on me as to find too violent, but he's just a kid who got very absorbed in whatever was on the screen in front of him, and he could get frightened very easily. So I waited, I don't think he saw Raiders of the Lost Ark until he was maybe 8 or 9, but I certainly know other kids who saw it at a much younger age, and the melting heads and things just didn't seem to bother them at all.

HF: Yeah, I agree absolutely. We have a seven-year-old at home, and I think he self-censors in a way. He's very much like Karen described her boy; it's not what he's looking for, and when he has an experience with a movie, he's really not ready for physical contest because it's not something that's part of his experience. So, in his case, in Liam's case, I think it would be another year or so before I let him see this film. This film, with the possible exception of ripping out hearts The Temple of Doom, which, as you know, established the PG-13 rating, I think we're gonna have a film that the entire family can enjoy together.

How do you feel about showing it in Cannes, which is probably in front of the toughest crowd in the world?

HF: I'm really eager to see the train leave the station... and I think it'll be just fine.,22/5/2008,written by James Rocchi

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