Harrison Ford on playing Branch Rickey: No value to have Harrison Ford in a recognizable way

It is the most anticipated sports movie in a long, long time. Next Friday, 42, the modern version of the Jackie Robinson story hits the theaters.

Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News writes about a Q/A session Harrison Ford recently had with writers Dodger Stadium. Ford plays Branch Rickey in the film.

Ford looks nothing like himself in the film, which he says is essential.

Q: When you’re getting into character to play the role, you probably studied Branch Rickey’s voice and mannerisms. Was that important for you to imitate and reproduce on the screen?

A: When we talked about his faith, the style of his speech wasn’t based on just where he came from – rural Ohio – but his manner and his bit of  dramatic ways come from his experience of listening to country preachers. The quality of his language and the his voice were one of the things I felt were important. I walk down the street and people as often as not recognize my voice as compared to my face. I thought it would not be of any value to the audience, or to the film, to have Harrison Ford in it in a recognizable way. I wanted to characterize his voice. There was more audio tape available of him and it was revealing to me his sense of drama and his courtliness.

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Ford also talked about the potential impact of the movie.

Q: Robinson, as one of the great social figures of the 20th century, is still honored every April 15, and it may be surprising that there are a lot of kids who are not that aware of this man. How important is it to get this story out again reaching another generation?

A: There’s the textbook version, which is useful and I’m sure every representation of black history mentions Jackie Robinson and breaking the color barrier in baseball. But there’s nothing like the visceral experience that an audience can have. When they can see, when they can feel, participate in the experience that Jackie Robinson had, that’s what’s most important about this version of it. There’s a thing in film that I’m always railing against, and that’s when the characters ‘talk’ about the story. I call it ‘talk speak.’ What I want in the writing and the film – if I have an influence over it – is to allow behavior to express the character’s feelings, rather than the character talking about how they feel about something. I want the audience to not be told what’s coming, but to have the opportunity through emotional continuity with the people on the screen to what it felt like to be there. And this film does that in a really important way.

 

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