The Thinker

Ask Harrison Ford how to get lost and he'll tell you—eventually

Sep 5, 2008
Outside Magazine
Harrison Ford

Why do I like asking for directions? Because I hate wasting time. —HARRISON FORD

HARRISON FORD HAS A WANDERING MIND. Granted, I'm making this judgment based on three phone conversations with the man, all on a summer day when the seven-year-old son of his partner, actress Calista Flockhart, wasn't feeling well and didn't make it to camp. In fact, the first two conversations lasted about 15 seconds each, and went something like this: "Mr. Ford?" "I've got a bit of a kid problem right now." "Oh." "This is turning into a real mess." "Um, OK …" "I need another half an hour."

I was trying to talk to Ford about escaping from everyday life: work, obligations, children whining over a missed day of camp. But Ford, it turns out, is like the rest of us: He doesn't really have much time to get lost. As he put it when we finally got to talking, "There's just too much left behind." A bit later he tossed this at me from left field: "I'm interested in just looking at things. And looking at them carefully enough to see things that I didn't see at first. And just think about those things."

This had me confused. Then worried. Near the end of the call, he said, "I might not be your main man for this subject." Which could've killed the whole story right there—if he weren't so wrong.

Because here's the thing about Harrison Ford, 66, Hollywood legend, carpenter, and swashbuckling aviator: He's a genius. A humble genius, mind you, the kind that hits you only after you read your interview transcript a week later, for the 15th time, and suddenly realize that, hold on, this guy has some remarkable insight into what it takes to get lost at a time when the world is so incredibly overcrowded and overscheduled.

You just have to give the man room to wander:

"I think you can escape any place where you can have fresh feed for your eyes and your brain and a resolve to leave the other shit behind you. . . . I haven't sat down and thought about where to go. Because, when the time is ripe, I'm hoping that circumstances will help me decide. My ambition is to go places where I've never been. And there are lots of them. . . . I've rescued lost Boy Scouts, but I haven't been one. . . . I like asking for directions. I find it a little bit frustrating that most people don't know where they are, or how to give directions anymore. . . . Why do I like asking for directions? Because I hate wasting time. . . . When I go to work, I'm there to work. I'm not thinking about escaping; I'm thinking about investing. . . . I love flying alone. . . . I love maps. I love looking at them. In the airplane, we can operate pretty much without maps, per se, because of GPS. But there's a huge amount of critical information that isn't always part of simply knowing where it's at. . . . I can'tfucking stand that [talking GPS in cars]. I won't stand for that. . . . When you're out of the expected context for famous people, the first reaction is normally, Oh no, it's not—what would he be doing here? And then if you're not gone in the next ten minutes, they start investigating their interest. But if you're just moving along and not drawing attention to yourself or sitting around too long, you can pretty much go anywhere. I can. . . . Starting Monday, I'm going to fly up with my family to Seattle. Then me and a pilot friend will fly my Caravan, which is a single-engine turboprop, up the coast to Juneau, which will take us a couple days. We'll meet up with Calista in Juneau, and start going into the backcountry. We're going to, I don't know, probably six different destinations. But there's nothing I can much talk about except that I've never been there before. . . . Once you get there, it works. . . . It's that first rule of anthropology: You change the dynamic of a place and a group of people simply by observing. And when you take a movie company there, it just totally fucks it up. . . . Escaping into another personality, another life, another context, is one of the great pleasures of acting. . . . Let's not make that sound too, uh, actor-y. . . . I've always had a pretty rich fantasy life. . . . I'm glad I don't have to write this shit."

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