Hollywood should clone Harrison Ford.
Recent film news proves this is Hollywood’s only option. Last week, Disney, now owner of Lucasfilm (and Star Wars and Indiana Jones, its prize franchises), made two announcements. First, that we would be getting a fifth Indiana Jones movie, again starring Harrison Ford and directed by Steven Spielberg. It will be released on July 19, 2019, less than a week after Ford’s 77th birthday. And second, that as few as three actors are now in contention for the role of young Han Solo in a 2018 prequel film. Recently, it also emerged that Ford will also star in a 2018 sequel to 1982’s Blade Runner.
That Hollywood continues to make stories based on Ford characters testifies to the durability of the roles that he created—the two most famous of which, Han Solo and Indiana Jones, earned spots on the American Film Institute’s Top 50 heroes list. Alas, unless Ford actually has taken a drink from the Holy Grail he found in The Last Crusade, he won’t live forever. Just as our culture at large is having to deal with the receding of Baby Boomers, Hollywood is reacting to the eventuality of Ford’s embarking on that great unknown mystery.
First, it is giving him a sort of “Farewell Tour” through his greatest roles. He’s already had one in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, retiring Han Solo in dramatic fashion. His roles in Indiana Jones V (alas, the series has already used the best metaphor for old age with The Last Crusade’s Holy Grail; might Excalibur or the Shroud of Turin suffice?) and Blade Runner 2 will also likely retire Jones and Rick Deckard, either through death or satisfaction of those characters’ arcs.
But ending these beloved Ford franchises would deprive Hollywood of the pre-recognized properties that are now the coin of its realm. Which is why is they hope to pass the reins. The Force Awakens did this to great effect, having Solo introduce a new set of characters and depart. Blade Runner 2 is likely to do this with Ryan Gosling. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull botched this with Shia Labeouf (who, with George Lucas, must at all costs be kept away from Indy V). One can surely expect Indiana Jones V to establish another successor—Chris Pratt? Bradley Cooper? Anthony Ingruber?—for the role Ford originated, whether as an actual or surrogate son. And the Han Solo prequel is doing this more straightforwardly, simply casting another, younger actor as Han Solo (ahem). It’s all perfectly rational.
And it will never work. Ford is far too unique and talented actor to replicate. To expect another actor to replace his roles, either spiritually, as is likely to happen in Blade Runner and Indiana Jones V (which, let’s hope brings back John Rhys-Davies as Sallah), or actually, as the Han Solo prequel will do, is to set up oneself for disappointment. Ford gave us iconic, pointing-, smirking-, and one-liner-filled takes on the classic archetype of the charming rogue. No one can replace him.
So, what to do? Should Hollywood move on from Ford’s iconic roles? Should it create new worlds and new properties, with their own spins on the basic Solo-Jones archetype of the charming rogue (think Pratt’s Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, or Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean?) Or, if that is too much, should it tell different, unconnected stories in the same worlds his characters inhabited, as National Review’s Jim Geraghty has proposed for Indiana Jones? Nonsense! That would require creativity and risk-taking on the part of Hollywood executives, and a willingness to see a movie with a titles not instantly recognized on the part of paying audiences. Unlikely.
Thus, Hollywood can only keep reliably making money off of Harrison Ford by cloning him. Sure, it will open up all sorts of philosophical and ethical quandaries about the nature of identity and man’s relationship to science, but since when has Hollywood cared about any of that? All it would take is a small sample of Ford DNA and a procedure probably much less painful than being frozen in carbonite, getting your fingers broken one by one, or getting run through with a lightsaber by your son. And, as we’ve seen, the alternative of moving beyond Ford requires too much work and risk.
So, Hollywood, you’ve got your answer: Create Harrison Ford clones, at whatever age you need him to be, and we can have Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and all of his other characters forever. Ford will never ride off into the sunset. The alternative of creativity and risk is simply too abhorrent to contemplate.