Harrison Ford speaks in a measured tone and fiddles with a pen cap as he explains that, for him, making movies isn't about performances.
His characters might be brave like Han Solo, brilliant like Jack Ryan or brash like Indiana Jones — so long as they serve the story.
In "Extraordinary Measures," opening Friday, Ford plays the cantankerous Dr. Robert Stonehill, a scientist whose disagreeable nature almost overshadows the promise of his medical research. Desperate dad John Crowley must see past the doctor's prickly personality: Crowley thinks Stonehill's research could hold the key to a cure for the rare and fatal disease afflicting two of his kids. The two men join in the hope of making a medicine out of Stonehill's science.
The film is inspired by the true story of the Crowley family, a story Ford read four years ago and found ideal for feature-film treatment. But Stonehill is fiction, an amalgam of different men Crowley worked with in real life, Ford says.
Ford, an executive producer on the film, didn't just help bring the Crowleys' experience to the screen, he helped create his own character — one that would be interesting for the actor and add drama to the story.
"If there's an easy fit to the pieces, there's no drama," Ford says. "So we determined among ourselves to make (Stonehill) a difficult guy, lacking in social skills, not necessarily the best partner ... and we thought that would give us the opportunity to develop their relationship over a period of time and to tease out the drama in their relationship."
It's not that Ford was dying to play a cranky guy or wanted to learn the ins and outs of enzyme therapy and Pompe disease. The 67-year-old actor simply would do anything to tell a good tale.
"I make a character out of those things that allow him to tell the story," he says. "I'm not an actor who will say, 'Well, my character would never do that.' If the story requires it, then I'll find a way of accommodating that in character.
"For me, it's not about performance. It's about storytelling," he continues. "Once I get a clear idea of what I want to accomplish, then acting is just dressing up and playing."
For some, he's always Han Solo or Indy
Ford was nominated for an Oscar for "Witness" in 1986 and was named Harvard's Hasty Pudding Man of the Year a decade later. He won lifetime achievement honors from the American Film Institute in 2000 and the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes in 2002. Yet for some moviegoers, Ford will always be Han Solo or Indiana Jones.
But Vaughn says Ford diffused his fears.
"He was very much about presenting himself to me as an actor. He said, 'I'm here to help you tell the story,'" the director recalls. "I was able to put aside my fanboy feelings of working with Harrison Ford and said OK, I'm a director, he's an actor and we're going to tell this story."
Ford says he doesn't reflect on his past roles, nor does he seek his next job in terms of parts he might want to play. He just goes where the stories move him, and he doesn't know where that might be until he gets there.
"I look for those things that I can have an emotional investment in," he says.
Like what kinds of things?
"I disadvantage myself by thinking, 'Oh, this is what I'm looking for, this is what I like,'" he says. "I don't know what I like. I like what I like."
He likes telling stories, or, as he puts it, "being an assistant storyteller, helping create characters that bring a story dramatic shape and dimension."
"I love it. I don't feel as useful any place as I do on a movie set," Ford says, his measured demeanor giving way to a slight smile. "I'm very surprised and delighted at the luck I've had. I've been enormously lucky. I've had a long run.
"And now I have a chance to play old guys."