Friday, June 8, 2012

You move or you die

The 70th birthdays of two iconic performers come up in the next few weeks: Paul McCartney on June 18 and Harrison Ford on July 13. I don't think you could find a more striking contrast between an artist and a star.

Macca continues to write songs, release concept albums, tour, promote causes publicly and generally reinvent himself slightly as he ages. He hasn't clung to the beloved image of the rocker from The Beatles and Wings; he has written classical tone poems and sacred music and new-age stuff. Whether or not it's all from his top shelf as a composer, he keeps trying to grow.

Ford, on the other hand, was quoted in the most recent AARP magazine as having "a strong ambition" to do a fifth movie as Indiana Jones.

I can guess at his motivation: The fourth Jones outing was not only his lone box office hit of the last 12 years but a jaw-dropping embarrassment for himself and all concerned. (Not that you can really embarrass Shia LeBoeuf, who has made three "Transformers" movies.) Ford may wish to atone for it, or he may wish to leap back into the public eye in a big way.

And he does keep working: He's playing significant supporting roles in the upcoming "Ender's Game" and "42" (the Jackie Robinson biopic), but neither of those is likely to break him out of the gruff, laconic mold he established long ago. What happened to the ambitious actor who sandwiched "Blade Runner" between the first two Indiana Jones movies and "Witness," "Working Girl" and "The Mosquito Coast" between the second and third?

Maybe Ford's not getting the best mainstream scripts now, just as McCartney no longer gets radio airplay or big boosts from record companies. Couldn't he make a small indie film or test himself in a play instead? I ask as a fan who hates to see talent atrophy -- and he had it. Maybe he still does.