Ed’s journey: from stadium to cinema
With two Golden Globe awards for his roles in Game Change (2012) and The Truman Show (1998), and four Oscar nominations, Ed Harris is among the top actors in Hollywood today. An athlete in high school, Harris never meant to be an actor, but with four decades of facing the camera, he has proved that this is his true gift. We catch up with the Westworld star to talk about his career, how he chooses his roles, his approach to acting, and much more. You were a star athlete in high school. So, how did you get into acting? I played football and baseball in Columbia University in New York City. I was working out for the next season, and I felt like I just wasn’t interested in it anymore. Then, I happened to watch a play, and the actor in it was so good, and I could see him having such a good time. That’s when I felt like maybe I could do that. So at 21, I started studying acting.
I graduated from a college in California in 1975 and I probably did about 14 plays in the next three to four years in a local theatre in Los Angeles. I did all kinds of plays; it was a great learning ground. And then it was kind of an accident when I met an agent and started auditioning for TV. Film roles started coming along after that, so it was really a gradual process. How do you choose your roles?
There are various reasons — sometimes I play a character because I find it to be fascinating, and sometimes it is a director who has a really strong vision and would like me to be a part of the film. But mostly, it is an instinct; a response to the material. Sometimes, honestly, it is just a financial consideration. But I’ve always pursued creatively fulfilling roles. Has your approach changed over the years? I’m not sure if it has changed or not. But, I remember when I was younger, when I had my daughter, there were times when I did not want to go to shoots, because it would be for three-four months somewhere far away. Sometimes I would not be able to be around her. So I did make certain creative decisions based on just wanting to be a present dad. How did directing happen?
When I started working on Pollock (2000), I wasn’t interested in directing. I was really interested in playing the character and I had worked on the film for a decade. A month before filming, when I was working on the script and meeting people for financing, I realised that I did not want to hand over this project to anyone else. I wanted to direct it myself, and that’s what I did. The last film you directed was Appaloosa (2008). Do you have any plans to direct again? Yes, but I haven’t found a project that has interested me after Appaloosa (soon to air on Sony PIX). There were certain things that I was interested in, but other people had the rights. I read a book in 2015 called The Ploughmen, which is a novel that takes place in Montana, US. I bought the rights and adapted it and I hope to start filming this August and September.
It is a very interesting story and my wife and Robert Duvall are associated with it, so that is exciting. I love directing and I can’t believe it has been 10 years since I have directed.
I happened to watch a play, and the actor in it was so good, and I could see him having such a good time. That’s when I felt like maybe I could do that. ED HARRIS ACTOR