For `Presumed Innocent' Star Harrison Ford, a Strong Performance Depends on Details
HARRISON FORD was in New York recently to do the very thing he openly despises - interviews. But the usually reticent, intensely private actor seemed surprisingly willing to talk about ``Presumed Innocent'' and his role as attorney ``Rusty'' Sabich. ``Rusty's a character for whom ideals are important,'' Ford says, speaking, slowly and deliberately. ``Even if Rusty compromises [his ideals about the criminal-justice system], they are still important, even if he falls short of them himself.''
Ford says he started his research on the activities of prosecuting attorneys in the Wayne County Prosecutor's office in Detroit, Mich.
``I was not so anxious to see courtroom behavior, which I've seen before,'' explains Ford, ``but to have a chance to observe the more banal aspects of lawyers' lives. To see the little details, like how they handle files, how they behave with their adversaries - not in the courtroom but at the coffee machine or in the judge's chambers. And to get that sense of Midwestern `place,' you know?
``I was born in Chicago, but it's been 25 years since I left for Los Angeles and other places and became part of a different `tribe,' so to speak.''
Much of the time the character of Sabich is quiet, reserved, even withdrawn. Asked about the difficulties of playing such a role, Ford says, ``Sure, Sabich doesn't say much, but he listens a lot. And listening is never `doing nothing' for an actor. Listening is an activity. You may not move around; you may not swing from trees or hit anyone, but you still have to be available to what happens and you have to let that show.''
To Ford, everything counts in building up the character of Rusty, even the plain, close-cropped haircut he wears in the film.
``This is no minor detail,'' says Ford. ``There are many things I found I could express with that short haircut. Simplest of all, I wanted to tell the audience to leave their baggage at home - not to expect the Harrison Ford they've seen before. ``Second of all, I wanted to create a character who is not vain, who has no personal vanity, because that indicates his problems - the infidelity, the involvement with the crime - are extraordinary things in his life. I wanted to create a character who is not as hip, not as fashionable as the woman with whom he has had the affair, to create a man who is conservative by nature and by choice. Something as simple as this plain old haircut can do all that.''