For over a decade, Harrison Ford held the distinction of being the biggest grossing star in Hollywood. That position is now held by Samuel Jackson, but it took more than twice as many movies for him to get there. Ford still has the highest average film gross of any actor (although Tom Hanks isn't far behind). Ford has done something that actors are very rarely able to do; he has become, not one, but two, iconic characters. Almost three, but the Jack Ryan movies never quite became the franchise it was expected they would become (and possibly would have if Alec Baldwin hadn't dropped out after Red October).
He's Han Solo and Indiana Jones; how could he possibly be getting any kind of raw deal? The problem is that he has done that specific job too well. He is so much the rough and tumble action hero that audiences have become incapable of seeing him as anything else. They just won't accept him in any other type of role.
There was excessive grumbling when Regarding Henry came out in 1991. It underperformed, and people blamed it on Ford. The truth is is that he did a fine job in that movie, but people didn't want to see him in that role, so he was attributed with a bad performance. He tried Sabrina. It was felt that Ford was the Bogart of his time, so he would be perfect for the role, but audiences didn't accept him in that role, either. Audiences began screaming with the release of Six Days Seven Nights. There was no lovable scoundrel in Quinn Harris; in fact, audiences generally felt the character of Quinn was unlikeable, and the film barely broke even. And despite doing well at the box office, I remember the horrified wails that accompanied What Lies Beneath as people everywhere refused to see Ford as a villain. More than any other, it was, perhaps, that movie that drove the final spike into Ford's career as anything more than an action hero. Or, even, anything more than one of his iconic roles (but maybe that will change with the release of Cowboys & Aliens later this summer). Of the seven movies Ford made between Clear and Present Danger and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, only two were hits at the box office: Air Force One and What Lies Beneath. None of the three he's done since Crystal Skull have been hits.
This is unfortunate, because he does have a broader range than that of the lovable scoundrel. It's really not his fault that the American movie going audience can't separate him from his most famous roles. And, in the end, it's their loss.
We just watched Morning Glory. This movie has a stellar cast. Not only does it have Harrison Ford, but it also has Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Jeff (does anyone even remember him?) Goldblum. They are all wonderful, and it is an excellent movie. Ford plays a washed up reporter, a former legend, the "3rd worst person in the world." Although I'm sure it wasn't intentional, the role is somewhat a parody of Ford himself. He's become a crotchety old man who can't escape what he used to be to accept what he's become. It would not have surprised me he'd slipped in "I was Han Solo!" as he gave one of his many diatribes about his former accomplishments.
The sad part is that no one saw this movie. As a Hollywood movie, it was fairly low budget. Only $40,000,000. Yes, that's low in Hollywood terms. Scary, I know. It didn't make a profit. By a lot. Didn't come close. But it was so good, and Ford was... actually, he was spectacular. He played the role to perfection. They all did. Possibly, if Rachel McAdams had slightly more drawing power, people would have gone to see it for her, but that didn't happen. In fact, Ford's non-iconic star has fallen so far, that McAdams got top billing for the movie.
We talk frequently about entertainers only being capable of doing particular types of things, and, sometimes, that's true. More often than not, though, I think it's not true. We've just decided that they are only capable of particular types of roles, certain kinds of movies, specific genres of novels, and we, the audience, won't allow these people out of the boxes we've put them in. I mean, Kevin Smith tried to break away from his formula, partially due to criticism that he was a one-trick pony, and he produced Jersey Girl, a great movie that no one saw, because it wasn't want his fans wanted.
We trap these people into "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situations. Granted, some of them are quite satisfied with the boxes they get put in. Michael Bay comes to mind. He's good at what he does, and he seems satisfied with that. For now. But what if he decides that he wants to make a "serious" movie. To prove that he can do more than blow things up. No, I'm not saying I believe he's capable of more than that, but I'm also not saying that I believes he's not.
If you haven't seen Morning Glory, I suggest you give it a shot. Forget, as you should, that it's Harrison Ford. Don't think about Han Solo or Indiana Jones or, even, Jack Ryan. Think about Mike Pomeroy. Allow him to be that character. I think you'll be surprised and find that he's more than capable of filling those shoes, too.