Harrison Ford is practically unrecognizable in his new movie 42. The film tells the story of two men – Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), one of the greatest baseball players of all time, and the trailblazing Brooklyn Dodgers President and General Manager, Branch Rickey (Ford), whose stand against prejudice forever changed the world of baseball.
On April 15, 1947, black athlete Jackie Robinson emerged from the tunnel at Ebbets Field in a Brooklyn Dodger uniform bearing the number 42, breaking the infamous color line.
In 1997, Major League Baseball retired the number 42 for all teams, making it the first number in sports to be retired. Once a year, on April 15th – Jackie Robinson Day – players from every team wear the number 42 to honor the man who altered history.
Harrison Ford spoke of his new inspirational movie at the press day for the film.
What attracted to you doing this film?
When I read the script, I thought it was wonderfully written; there were scenes that just knocked my socks off. I was fascinated by the character of Branch Rickey and immediately began to invest some energy in researching him because it was a part I very much wanted to play.
It’s an incredible story about a critical step that was taken in confronting the issue of inequality. It was a moment when, ultimately, we shined. A moment when we responded to the ideals of America, and finally matched the nobility of our words and ambitions with our actions.
When you were a kid in Chicago did you play baseball?
I didn’t play much ball. We moved to the suburbs when I was about 12 years old and I played about one and a half games of little league.
The whole atmosphere of anxious parents and more anxious children was too much for me, so I came to this script with very little knowledge of the history of baseball, or current baseball, so it was a study for me when I became involved.
Can you tell us about researching Branch Rickey, because you’re almost unrecognizable in the role?
There was more audio tape available of him than there was visual material, but there was some and I tried to find as much of it as I could.
I studied all the photographs and early on I had the idea that the film would be much better served by a Branch Rickey lookalike than a Harrison Ford lookalike.
I didn’t want the audience to go into the film thinking that they knew me from some previous experience in a movie, so I invested in the process of what I should do and what I shouldn’t do to achieve the look and the character.
This is the first time you’ve played a real historical figure. What challenges did that present?
I was interested in capturing the truth of the character, however, at the same time I was concerned about how much freedom there would be in the context of becoming an actual person of some significance.
Would there have been a Jackie Robinson without a Branch Rickey?
Well, there was a Robinson and he was distinguished before his discovery by Rickey.
I think it would have been another ten or twenty years before the civil rights movement happened in its span of time after what happened in baseball.
That’s what shouldn’t be forgotten either.
Harrison Ford was asked about his first big break in movies, which surprisingly choked him up. Click hear to listen to his remarks.
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