Where did you go, Han Solo? It wasn’t so long ago that Harrison Ford was the undisputed conqueror of the local Cineplex. But with four of his last five movies (”Hollywood Homicide,” 2002’s ”K-19: The Widowmaker,” 1999’s ”Random Hearts,” and 1998’s ”Six Days, Seven Nights”) stumbling both critically and commercially, Indiana Jones’ whip seems to have lost some of its snap. Still, it’s not too late for the 60-year-old fan favorite to get his A-list groove back. To that end, we asked some industry insiders for tips on how he can pull it off.
STOP THE P.R. BLITZ The usually media shy Ford surprised everyone this month when he and girlfriend Calista Flockhart trumpeted their relationship on the cover of People magazine. And while promoting ”Hollywood Homicide,” Ford appeared on seemingly every talk show in town. ”When Jon Stewart asks you what you’re doing guesting on ?The Daily Show,’ it may be time to think about that,” says Brandon Gray, editor of Box Office Mojo. ”Once you see a star everywhere, they lose their specialness. And to have a star of his caliber appearing on every media outlet under the sun reeks of desperation.”
HURRY UP WITH ”INDY 4” ALREADY Word is that the long-awaited sequel to 1989’s ”Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” will finally begin filming next summer, and that isn’t a moment too soon for Ford fans. Luckily, he’ll have sturdy backup from director Steven Spielberg, ”The Green Mile” screenwriter Frank Darabont, and possibly producer George Lucas, so the movie’s almost guaranteed to end Ford’s losing streak. After all, the three prior Indy films are among the top 100 grossing movies ever, and the series has gathered a new generation of fans through DVD and video. ”Everyone wants to see the sequel, from kids to adults to teens,” says casting director Billy Hopkins. ”It’s a megahit, no question.”
MORE CHILLS, PLEASE Some of Ford’s biggest recent hits have been thrillers (”What Lies Beneath,” ”Presumed Innocent”), and no wonder: They appeal to a grown-up audience — not a bad target for a guy creeping towards retirement. ”Romantic comedies are likely something he’s outgrown, since he’s not going to be cast with someone age appropriate anymore,” says Gray. ”And with Sean Connery still doing action, it’s not that Ford is too old for it, but it may be something he doesn’t want to do every time out, either.”
FIND YOUR NEXT MICHELLE PFEIFFER Anne Heche? Josh Hartnett? These are talented actors, but with limited proven star power. Ford’s ”What Lies Beneath” costar Michelle Pfeiffer, in contrast, was not only a compelling box office draw but an age-appropriate love interest. ”He needs strong costars for support, especially if he goes outside his usual hero roles,” says BoxOfficeGuru.com editor Gitesh Pandya. ”Someone like Diane Lane would work, since she’s become hot following ?Unfaithful’ and she’s not too young for him.” Most important? Leave gal pal Flockhart at home. ”She’s not a film star, so it could be a disaster,” adds Pandya.
STRETCH IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION Ford explored new turf (for him) by filming the intergenerational buddy cop movie ”Hollywood Homicide,” but the film itself was hardly a new twist on the formula. ”Instead, he should find a director who is innovative enough to lead him in a fresh direction,” says Hopkins, who suggests Oliver Stone (”JFK”), Darren Aronofsky (”Requiem for a Dream”), and Ang Lee (”Hulk”). Gray recommends a reteam with his ”Witness” director Peter Weir (the role earned Ford his only Oscar nod). ”Also, M. Night Shyamalan (”Signs”) would be great because so many of his fans are sci-fi fans, and thus, by default, are fans of Ford in ?Star Wars,”’ says Pandya. In other words: Ford + Mel Gibson in ”Signs 2” = $250 million.