Childhood hero to generations and renaissance actor for the history books, Harrison Ford has sealed his legacy with Blade Runner 2049. Teleporting behind the scenes, Ford speaks of heroism, lost loves and flying high in his 70s

circa 1984: American actor Harrison Ford sits on steps, smiling while holding a teacup and saucer. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Harrison Ford is experiencing a career renaissance, at least when it comes to film franchises. First he agreed to reprise a character that he long claimed to dislike – Han Solo – in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Then he was

convinced by Steven Spielberg to appear in a fifth instalment of Raiders of the Lost Ark, currently projected for release in 2020. In the meantime, Ford is revisiting an iconic figure from his acting repertoire – Rick Deckard – the sullen, battle-scarred police detective from Blade Runner, the 1982 sci-fi film directed by Ridley Scott that would go on to become a cult classic.

Now, in Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario), 75-year-old Harrison Ford returns to the role some thirty years after Deckard and his replicant lover Rachel disappeared without a trace into the Canadian Rockies. Ford discusses his motives for reprising Deckard, working with Ryan Gosling, and why he’ll never stop working.  

Essential Journal: What made you want to do Blade Runner 2049?

Harrison Ford: The character is woven into the story in a way that intrigued me. There’s a very strong emotional context. The relationship between the character Deckard – that I play – and other characters is fascinating. I think it’s interesting to develop a character after a period of time – to revisit a character.

I think it’s fascinating that the original film postulated a technology, which, in many ways, we’ve surpassed, and, in other ways, we’re not quite there. And this film takes into account the 30 years that have passed; it references technologies that actually are in place now, and also – to me, which is a little bit more interesting – acknowledges and deals with some of the ethical considerations that technology presents us with.

How do you feel now that it’s completed and about to be released?

It’s just a fantastic ride…A visually stunning movie, complicated, intensely-developed plot, character relationships. It’s a fantastic experience.

What was your experience like working with Ryan Gosling?

Ryan brings a real, original emotional intelligence. I never knew what I was going to get (while playing a scene with Gosling), which is a good thing. Ryan and my first big scene was talking about the history of Deckard, what he was up to for the last 30 years, and I just found it

unexpectedly emotional.

Is Deckard a replicant?

(At the beginning of shooting Blade Runner) I asked Ridley whether or not he thought that the character I was playing was a Replicant. Well, I never got a straight answer. Which is okay, I guess.

But I thought it was important that the audience be able to have a human representative on screen, somebody that they could have an emotional understanding of. Ridley didn’t think that was all that important. But I didn’t play Deckard as a replicant. I think that it’s a wonderful storytelling mechanism for that question to be left unanswered. I love that people are still curious about it.

Most of your characters, even your screen heroes, tend to be flawed, conflicted, or otherwise unglamorous. Is that a deliberate choice on your part?

Yes. I have never been interested in playing heroes. I’ve certainly never been interested in playing a character that didn’t have a degree of complication even when they were meant to be, ultimately, heroic.

I think that’s much more interesting than playing the sort of slick, classic, All-American hero. We are all flawed as human beings and the only thing which gives life and substance to characters in movies are the flaws and contradictions which define them. I would like to think that those un-heroic elements are what have helped me have some longevity in this business.

When did you first realise as a teenager that acting was something you wanted to do with your life?

My father was in the advertising business and he produced and directed radio and television commercials. And I was fascinated by Sky King, until I went to the studio one day with my Dad and met a pudgy little man (actor Kirby Grant) who didn’t fit my image of Sky King. But I think that tweaked my interest in the whole business of show business.

But you went to college to study philosophy as it turned out?

Yes, I was a philosophy major and I wasn’t doing very well. In an effort to try and find something in the course book that sounded like it was a cinch to help bring my grade point average up, I picked drama.

There was a girl I had a huge crush on who was taking acting classes and it was an easy way to get closer to her. Having failed to read the course description all the way through, I didn’t realize it involved standing up on stage and acting (Laughs .

What about the girl?

Naturally, the girl wasn’t interested in me at all but I discovered I loved acting even though my first couple of theatre performances terrified me and that made me angry…so I was determined to get over that knee-knocking feeling of panic and develop some fearlessness.

And when I did, I also found that what I was engaged in, with people trying to tell a story, was something that felt better than any other thing I’d ever done before. It felt like I had found some kind of purpose in being part of storytelling and finding an outlet to work with other people.

Is it important for you to keep on working?

A real man should never rest on his laurels. He should prove his mettle every day. That has nothing to do with being macho, but with taking responsibility for yourself and your family. With all my experiences, I have to say that I still struggle with a lot of the same problems and frustrations I’ve always had in life. But I do know how to better manage it all and approach problems and make my way through life with a little more grace and honour.