Why Harrison Ford Took The Risk Of Playing A ‘Villain’ For What Lies Beneath

Norman might be the single most villainous character Ford has ever played — just as much a change of pace for the actor as for his director. Ford has gone on record saying that he prefers to play characters that are, at least on some level, humane and sympathetic. Norman is not only cheating on his wife, but confesses to killing his mistress. This, before trying to drown his wife in a bathtub. He is a calculating and sinister figure, and one might draw parallels between Norman and Johnnie Aysgarth, the charming ne’er-do-well played by Cary Grant in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Suspicion.”

In a 2019 interview with Empire, Ford talked about playing Norman, and why he went so far afield from his usual code of playing sympathetic characters. He hastened to clarify that his code has nothing to do with his “image” or his public persona as a “movie star,” however. Although he knows he’s perceived a certain way — heroic — Ford doesn’t change scripts to match a certain personality. He said:

“I don’t take trouble at all to conform a screenplay to my iconography. I don’t say, ‘We can’t do that — the audience wouldn’t accept it.’ I try to take the limitations of what is required to play a leading character and then screw with them.”

This acting approach may be why Ford has emerged as confident as he has. He doesn’t play timid or buttoned-down characters too often (“Sabrina” is an exception, as is “Regarding Henry”), but one can see, in most of his role, the actor pushing to be seen as something larger than what’s on the page.

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