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Here’s what happened when Harrison Ford met Jared Leto shooting ‘Blade Runner 2049’

Leto, Ford, and director Denis Villeneuve discuss the coming together of the two acting titans
Harrison Ford and Jared Leto
[Photo: Warner Bros]

There’s plenty of reasons to be intrigued by “Blade Runner 2049”. Not only is it a follow-up to one of the most important sci-fi films ever made, but the combination of director Denis Villeneuve, actors Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, and Harrison Ford, and cinematographer Roger Deakins has had fans purring for a while now.

It was the coming together of Jared Leto and Harrison Ford that was particularly intriguing to me, though, as the actors approach the acting profession in very different ways. While Leto goes method, remaining in character throughout production even when the camera isn’t rolling, Ford is much more instinctual, doing his preparation before filming and then jumping in and out of each scene as the character.

Over the last few weeks I had the opportunity to talk to Denis Villeneuve, Jared Leto, and Harrison Ford about their work together on “Blade Runner 2049”, and, it turns out, the meeting of the two acting titans was every bit as momentous as I’d hoped.

Warning: There are SPOILERS ahead for “Blade Runner 2049”. So if you haven’t seen the film, and want to avoid any kind of details about it, then you should probably only read below after you’ve done so.

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“The thing is Harrison was very excited to work with Jared, and Jared was very honored,” Villeneuve admitted to me when I originally asked him about filming the scene where Ford’s Rick Deckard and Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace finally meet. “It is always moving for me. Being an actor is a tricky and strange job. They have to be vulnerable, and go with their guts in front of the camera. I am stating the obvious things, but I am always amazed to see what path an actor will choose to open himself in front of a camera.”

“They both have different approaches. Jared is someone that needs to create the character, and not get out of this character as he evolves the filmmaking process. Everything became Niander Wallace around him, and he needed to believe himself. Harrison is totally the opposite. He is someone that makes preparation before and then just jumps in and out of the character between action and cut. Like a cat.”

“What strikes me is that once the camera is rolling the concentration of both of them is quite impressive. It is a scene that everyone is waiting for because it is the final duel of the movie. And I was impressed by Harrison, because listening to Jared’s speeches that were quite long. It was a scene that evolved a lot through time.”

“It was like the two schools of acting getting one in front of the other. I was quite moved by how vulnerable Harrison Ford became with this scene. And how generous he became. I have rarely been moved as much by an actor.“

When I subsequently spoke to Harrison Ford I told him that Villeneuve had revealed he was “very excited to work with Jared,” which was something that the 75-year-old actor downplayed a tad.

“I am excited to tell the story. I’m excited to work with the character values. I never know what the other actor is going to bring. I was delighted to have the opportunity to work with Jared. He was very thoughtful about how he shapes and forms his characters. I eagerly anticipated meeting every character, and figuring out how to weave our stories together on an emotional level. “

I then asked Ford what he thought about Leto’s approach as a method actor, but, it turns out, he hasn’t actually given it any consideration. Instead, he was just fully focused on inhabiting Rick Deckard to the best of his abilities.

“I didn’t think about the technique. I thought about the character values, and what the scene required from my side. When you go into any situation akin to one that Deckard found himself in, I am thinking, ‘I am under a lot of pressure. I am meeting something I hadn’t anticipated.’ Those were the circumstances for my character, and I was looking for character behavior, and behavior that I thought represented Deckard’s reaction to what was happening to him.”

Jared Leto was much more enthused when I told him Villeneuve’s comments, responding, ”That’s nice of him,” while it immediately became apparent that starring opposite Harrison Ford and in a “Blade Runner” sequel was a huge deal for the Academy Award winner.

“First of all, the original ‘Blade Runner’ is one of my favorite films. I have seen it a thousand times, and I’ve told a thousand people to watch it. Growing up with Harrison [Ford’s films], he has always been an inspiration to me as an actor. He’s had this incredible career longevity, and he’s an example of class and how it is done. So there’s the Harrison part, and then the Denis part of it. Harrison is a legend to me, and then Denis is a genius, and a phenomenal filmmaker. To have the opportunity to work with them was just mind-blowing. But they both gave me a gift, and that was the confidence they gave me, and that meant a lot. “

Leto then went on to insist that shooting opposite Ford was actually a doddle, stating that simply sharing the screen with the legendary actor enhanced his work, before then insisting that they created some “real magic” during their “very special time together.”

“I don’t play tennis, but it is like playing tennis with the best person in the world. You can be a clumsy idiot, but he can put the ball exactly where you need it so you can at least hit it. I think it is a little bit like that. Ford is so good that he can make you even better. Because of what he is able to offer you during the scene. We had a very special time together. We had some real magic happening in the scenes.”

Unfortunately for Leto the pair didn’t actually get to spend that much time together on set, though, recalling, “They were very heavy scenes. We were all very focused. The set is very quiet on Denis’ films. I had so much to say in the scenes that I was saying as focused as I could. It wasn’t like I was jumping onto snapchat. I was just trying my best to stay focused do as best as I could.”

“Blade Runner 2049” is now in cinemas.

 
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