Hollywood legend Harrison Ford discusses his role as Mike Pomeroy, a TV news veteran in Roger Michell’s Morning Glory which is playing at screens across the UK.
The film also stars Rachel McAdams as TV producer Becky Fuller who finds her look as bleak as her hapless love life. Stumbling into a job at “Daybreak” (the last-place national morning news show), Becky decides to revitalise the show by bringing in legendary TV anchor Mike Pomeroy (Ford).
Unfortunately, Pomeroy refuses to cover morning show staples like celebrity gossip, weather, fashion and crafts – let alone work with his new co-host, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), a former beauty queen and longtime morning show personality who is more than happy covering morning “news.”
As Mike and Colleen clash, first behind the scenes and then on the air, Becky’s blossoming love affair with fellow producer, Adam Bennett (Wilson) begins to unravel – and soon Becky is struggling to save her relationship, her reputation, her job and ultimately, the show itself.
Q: Hi Harrison. What was it about it about Mike Pomeroy, the legendary newsman you play in Morning Glory, that appealed to you?
A: He was a very different character to one I have played before and I could see his utility in the piece overall. He’s a complicated man. What also attracted to me to the role was I liked the people involved in the movie. JJ Abrams (producer) told me he was developing a part for me and when I read it I thought, ‘Well done JJ. It’s a good opportunity for me’. I also liked the work of (director) Roger Michell. Rachel McAdams and Diane Keaton are actors I also admire so there was no reason not to do the movie.
Q: You say Mike is complicated man. That’s an interesting way to describe him.
A: (Laughs) Yes, he’s an ass. But, I could also see that the events of the film had an impact on him and he had an impact on Rachel’s character, Becky. The emotional context that comes out of Mike and Becky’s relationship is a bonus.
Q: Have you ever met a man like Mike?
A: No, I don’t think I have, but I think I knew who he was because the script was so clear and his thematic utility in the film was so clear.
Q: We discover Mike is a bit of a gourmand in the kitchen. What about you? Do you have any culinary skills
A: I like food and I like cooking, but I’m pretty much a meals in minutes kind of guy. I like simple preparations. I suppose I’m famous in my house for my ability to cook a stir fry. I can cook a pretty great stir fry for you very quickly.
Q: You have had so much success as an actor, but have you ever had any secret desire to be a news broadcaster?
A: (Laughs) No.
Q: Who do you admire as a news broadcaster?
A: There are some I admire, but there are others I don’t now that news has become an entertainment business. I always admired what Tom Brokaw was doing and of course Walter Cronkite. I like Brian Williams and Diane Sawyer. Those are a few of my favorites.
Q: You have some great scenes with Rachel. She said she was a little intimidated working with you and Diane. Did you notice that?
A: Oh no. Not at all. That could easily fold into the relationship her character has with Mike. He would have been intimidating and frightening, but I don’t think she was intimidated or frightened. She’s a strong-willed young lady and I think she is a very strong talent.
Q: Some of the funniest scenes in the movie occur when your character goes head-to-head with Diane Keaton’s character. Was there much ad-libbing in there?
A: No, no. It was all written or something we came across in rehearsal, but I think that obviously was as fun as anything. I hadn’t know Diane before, so I was pleased to get to know her.
Q: Yes, I was surprised to learn you have not worked together.
A: Well, we do different kinds of films. I describe her as being part of the intellectual branch of the service and I’m in the commando branch. You know, the jumping and falling down department.
Q: Knowing that, did you have any preconceptions about Diane going in?
A: I didn’t really. I have always thought she was a wonderful actress and it was really fun to work with her. She really knew what she wanted to get out out of her character in each scene and she was tenacious about getting it. I thought she was great to work with. She was inventive, spontaneous and always kept it fresh.
Q: Roger has directed so many wonderful films like Notting Hill and Venus. What was he like as a director with you?
A: He was easy to work with. As a technician, it was easy because of the visual storytelling skill he brought to the scene. He managed the jokes and emotional context both very well. He got good performances from different kinds of actors so I very much admire what Roger did.
Q: Morning Glory deals with the issue of losing and regaining success. What do you regard as being successful?
A: The only significance of success is it allows you to do what you love doing. It’s nice to pay your bills, but I’ve been doing this for 40 years. If I didn’t like it I would have stopped doing it a long time ago, but I really do love it.
Q: The film also deals with ambition. Is your approach to working different now than what it was early on in your career?
A: I don’t think it’s different. I still have the same ambitions to give the character the best expression I can. To be of service to the thematics of the film and to be a decent person to work with. They’re my goals.
Q: Can too much ambition ever be a bad thing?
A: There’s certainly this thing they call blind ambition where one is ambitious for the sake of itself. You only admire ambition that is appropriate and focused on making the film as good as it can be.
Q: There’s a great scene in the film where your character is at the legendary restaurant 21 with some veteran news broadcasters, Bob Schieffer, Morely Safer and Chris Matthews. What was that scene like to shoot and what was the topic of conversation when the cameras weren’t rolling?
A: We shot that fairly early in the day. We were sitting there for hours as the scene was being lit. It was very interesting. Mostly we just told rude jokes.
Q: Who was the best joke teller?
A: Me of course.
Q: When you need to catch up on news is TV your preferred choice or do you prefer newspapers or the internet?
A: I actually like the radio. The news is very easy to capture via headlines. I’m more interested in the background story. The indepth elements of the story. Somehow, with radio, you have to have an intellectual density because you don’t have the distractions of picture and the dash and flash of that. You really have to tell a story.
Q: Do you watch any TV news?
A: I try not to watch too much TV news, but I do flip around between the major news shows. I’m most interested in the Sunday morning shows.
Q: Did you do any research into what makes news anchors tick before you started filming, or did you dive right into it?
A: No research. I just felt I knew the context of the morning news programs after having appeared on them the last 20 or 30 years. I thought I knew how to play that kind of anchor. I knew what was behind him. He was a self-satisfied, smug, kind of an ass. I tried to bring that into the context of being a network news anchor. I’m sure that’s not the case of any network news anchor. That was the obligation of this film.
Q: What inspires you to get up each morning and go to work, especially when you have doing it for more than 40 years now.
A: Really, more than anything else, it’s the love of storytelling and practicing my craft. It is always a pleasure to work with other people and working with a crew and all the other people who work on the set.
Q: A very funny scene in Morning Glory takes place in Bryant Park when a member of the public runs up to your character and mistakes him for another famous person. Has that ever happened to you?
A: (Laughs) Yeah, people mistake me for someone else. Even though we look nothing alike, people think I’m Michael Douglas.
Q: Michael Douglas? That seems odd.
A: Yeah, it’s strange. I don’t correct them. I smile, nod my head and keep on walking.
Q: Does working on a film get easier for you or is it still a challenge?
A: For me, the hardest part is deciding what I’m going to do. That usually comes before I’m on the set when I’m working with the director and writers to make clear what we all want from it and how best to get it. The dressing up and pretending to be somebody else is always the play part of it.
Q: With Mike, did you feel sorry for him or do you think he’s made his own world?
A: I can see how lonely and tortured he was. Certainly, I could feel a degree of sympathy for him, but ultimately it’s his fault.
Q: Mike likes to go hunting and appears to be a good shot with a gun. How are you? Are you a good shot?
A: Pretty good, yeah, but hunting is not an obsession of mine.
Q: Mike has plenty of regrets in life. When you look back on your career, any regrets or do you wish you had done anything differently?
A: No, no regrets. I’ve had a very blessed life and I’m very grateful for it.
Q: It has been wonderful talking to you Harrison.
A: It has been a pleasure.