Mr Ford, your name stands out on the posters for Cowboys & Aliens, though in reality the film’s star seems to be Daniel Craig…
I’m mature enough to take it gracefully. Joking aside, it’s fine to play the supporting role, as long as you keep working. And if I have to support Daniel Craig to put bread on the table, then so much the better. Who knows, maybe he’ll suggest me for the role of the villain in the next Bond movie.
But based on what you’ve said, when you started reading the script, you didn’t immediately see yourself in the prairie…
After the first 30 pages, I immediately thought: this isn’t my kind of movie. But then the people around me started to tell me that my kind of movie doesn’t make money any more, and in the end they were right. Maybe it’s my age, or that audiences have changed or that entertainment has grown so much and there’s no longer just the movies. So I read the whole script and I talked about it with Steven Spielberg and he managed to pique my interest. The project was much more ambitious than the title let on. It’s a very funny movie and well shot by Jon Favreau.
Jon Favreau says that sooner or later every American actor and director wants to make a Western. Was the same true for you?
I think so, because for Americans it represents a type of vision of the past that makes them feel good about themselves. In many ways it’s actually a fairy tale. The West was a tough and brutal place and I have to say I think this movie restores an image of the frontier that’s more truthful than many other Westerns, because it recognizes those aspects.
So why had you never made a Western before?
Because they don’t make them any more these days. On paper a movie about the CIA or a comedy makes more money, and as a result the studios started to think they were too expensive or couldn’t attract a big audience, and it’s a real shame. For example, I loved The Professionals, Richard Brooks’s Western with Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin.
And yet the mythology of the cowboy is still very present in today’s America…
America is a country that grew up in a historic moment in which the need was felt for a story that represented us to the rest of the world. We had to create our mythology and being a young nation we couldn’t not turn to the land, to the pioneer conquests, ignoring that someone was already living there. We are the homeland of individualism, and in the end the figure of the cowboy couldn’t help but become the ultimate symbol.