Harrison Ford's Goal As A Performer Is To Never 'Get Caught Acting'

Harrison Ford has been taking more chances lately, jumping from a silver screen career to starring in two streaming shows, as well as joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ford is truly one of the great movie stars, having played iconic characters like Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan, and Han Solo along with more serious dramatic turns in films like "Witness" and "Presumed Innocent." 

Whatever role he takes, however, Ford seems to inject quite a bit of himself into it. People don't really watch Ford's performances to see him "disappear" into the role; they watch them to see Harrison Ford. In a 2002 interview with Empire Magazine, the actor explained that his goal as a performer is to "never get caught acting," and that for him a large part of that is choosing roles that fit his particular skillset.

There are many ways to approach the art of acting, from the sometimes controversial "method acting" to Ford's brand of movie star cool, and they all serve different but equally important purposes. Ford is fantastic at what he does, and his acting approach is on brand with his laidback persona. If you could be as cool as Harrison Ford all the time, why would you want to be anything else?

An empathetic approach to acting

In the Empire interview, journalist William Thomas asked Ford if he ever worried that he didn't play a wide enough range of characters, and Ford was his typical, bluntly honest self:

"Yup. And I bumped on the edge with 'Sabrina,' 'Regarding Henry' and 'Mosquito Coast.' But when a character is sufficiently different to the others the audience has seen me play, they get worried by it. They say, 'The man's acting. He's acting now.' [...] The basic skill of an actor is, in fact, empathy, and that's maybe not a skill, it's a disposition. I am an assistant storyteller. I enjoy feeling useful to a team effort. It's my way of finding a use for myself, a utility in this world. So what I'm ambitious for is to not get caught 'acting.' I want to really feel the role and not let people see the process, or to let them stand back and admire it, because I think that does finally get in the way."

Thomas compares Ford's explanation of acting to his approach to carpentry (he was a carpenter before becoming an actor), and Ford agreed. There is a craftsman's approach to his acting method, and he views empathy as the craft. When he steps too far outside of characters that he can directly empathize with, then his acting skills are stretched in a way he's no longer comfortable with. Some artists like to test their limits at every turn, while others steadily improve their craft, and Ford is the latter. 

Acting like a movie star

Like carpentry, Ford views each role as something that has to be perceived "from the ground up," starting with a "firm foundation." In the case of Ford's acting career, that firm foundation is his own life and experiences, which allow him to empathize with a variety of characters. He may not have the experiences of a rebellious space smuggler or a world-traveling archaeologist, but he can compare his experiences as a human being to those of Han Solo or Indiana Jones

Some characters are just a bridge too far, pushing Ford into playing someone he can't connect to at all. Even when he plays a villain, like in "What Lies Beneath," he finds something in the character that clicks with his own personality and explores that. Ford is at his best playing confident but reserved men, and he's really made an art of being a movie star.

Ford's approach to acting fits right in with his relaxed persona in interviews, where he frequently cracks dry jokes with perfect deadpan inflection. If there's one thing that Ford has perfected even more than acting, it's being a smart-aleck. It will be fascinating to see how that translates to the screen when he stars in the dark comedy series "Shrinking" with Jason Segel on Apple TV+, premiering on January 27, 2022. 

Thank goodness for Ford trying new things, because we don't get to see his comedic chops often enough and he's one seriously funny guy. Just don't ask him to show off how well he can act.