Senior Planet talks to….Ed Harris

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Oscar-nominated for Apollo 13, The Truman Show, Pollock and The Hours, actor-director Ed Harris, 71, has enjoyed an illustrious career including his latest role in blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick. Married almost 40 years to fellow actress Amy Madigan, his wife remains his favorite co-star – although he sails solo for his latest role in Terrence Martin & Dominique Braun’s debut drama, Get Away if You Can, about a troubled couple who try to save their marriage by undertaking an epic ocean voyage. Take a peek here:

Q: What drew you to this role of Alan, a disapproving, meddlesome father?

It wasn’t so much the role as the fact that Terrence and Domi were so passionate about this project. I just really admired their desire and commitment. They said, ‘Ed, if you would do this, it might help us get more money to finish the movie’. So I said, ‘Alright, sure’.

Q: Would you personally enjoy the solitude of a desert island?

I would actually. Not by myself, but if I was with someone that I wanted to be with, I think it’d be pretty nice. I don’t know about my whole lifetime, but it would be pretty cool for a while, especially if I had the survival skills to survive…

Q: Do you have those skills?

I’ve got a few. It depends where I was. Like what vegetation, roots, flowers or things I could eat, and bugs or game. And if I had any implements, fishing and that kind of thing, it’d be kind of fun.

Q: After a lifetime of starring on stage, film and TV, do you ever consider retiring?

No, because I don’t know what else I would do with myself. I really do enjoy acting on stage and in front of the camera. After doing this for 40+ years, I don’t particularly enjoy trailer time, waiting to work. That’s one good thing about a low budget indie film with a small crew, so you’re not waiting around for hours to work – as opposed to let’s say Westworld, where you go to set and might not work for four or five hours because of technical things and this or that. So I actually just enjoy working, it still gives me a thrill. And I really love directing. I haven’t directed a film since Appaloosa which was, unfortunately, 15 years ago. But I’ve got a project to direct that I’ve been trying to get going and hopefully will in the next year or so.

Q: Which is?

It’s a book called The Ploughmen that I adapted from the novel [Kim Zupan’s mystery thriller novel of the same name] which I optioned six or seven years ago. But cast changes because of various things, so the money comes and goes. I love the directing aspect of things because you’re busy 24/7, solving problems and making creative decisions or collaborating with heads of departments. I like being occupied when I’m working. I don’t like sitting around waiting.

I think, ‘Wait a minute? I’m 71?! Geez’, because I feel like I’m a kid most of the time.

Q: You obviously enjoy collaborating with your wife, having worked together on several projects over the years, including on Pollock?

Yes. We actually met in a rehearsal studio on Sunset Boulevard, rehearsing for Edward Allan Baker’s Prairie Avenue which was staged at an old theater in LA on Melrose Place. It’s since been torn down but was where Aimee Semple McPherson used to preach, I think it was a chapel originally. We got married in 1993 while we were making Places in the Heart, but had met doing that play a couple years prior.

Q: So you’re always looking for projects where you can work together again?

Yes, there’s a film called School for the Blind that we’re hoping to shoot this fall which is also based on a novel. Prior to COVID, we’d done theater together for four years in a row. We did Sam Shepard’s Buried Child in New York and London, also David Rabe’s Good for Otto with The New Group in New York. I love working with her, it’s really fun.

Q: Has your daughter, Lily Harris, followed in the family footsteps?

Yes, she has. I just worked with her in New Mexico on her first film, a romantic thriller directed by Rose Glass called Love Lies Bleeding. Kristen Stewart is the main character, a very interesting, crazy little movie. Lily did a good job. This film is really out there, man, really fun.

Q: Many husband and wife actors discourage their kids from the business. Were you and Amy the same?

No, not at all. Lily was the total horse person growing up. She’s really smart, and a great student. She was a three-day-eventer up until her junior year and started doing plays in high school before getting an English degree at Reed College and did theater there and just really loved it. So I was totally encouraging. I remember writing her letter saying you could be a really wonderful, great actress – but you’ve got to study. She got a Master’s in acting and studied a lot and I think she’s great.

Q: You were an athlete as a young man. Is fitness still a big part of your life?

Yeah, definitely exercise. I have a wonderful Pilates teacher and I do Tai Chi and swim. I like working out, we’ve got a number of acres where we live so I’m always working outside. I definitely enjoy the physical aspect of being alive; using my body and staying loose. I really enjoy putting air buds in my ears, playing music and dancing around in the privacy of my own self, wherever I might be. Just to get loose and shake it out.

Q: Actresses used to bemoan the fact that their careers dried up at a certain age. Is it ever similar for men?

Well, not in my case. I’ll keep doing this till I drop dead because I feel like I have a pretty wide range in the characters I can play. I think people respect my ability. So I feel like, if I want to keep working, I can. It’s a lot different for my wife, Amy, who’s my age, and who is finally starting to work again a bit but there’s been long periods of time where getting roles has been tough for her. That’s why we’ve really enjoyed doing theater together over the past decades, and that’s definitely been wonderful.

Q: Any hobbies?

People ask what I do for fun – and I don’t really know the answer. I enjoy working outside; I love to read and be in nature, and I enjoy hanging with my wife and the dog. I like working outside and was playing tennis for a while but I had some shoulder issues which is now getting better after I had an operation a while ago.

Q: What’s your favorite film?

I’m gonna say Pollock. I spent a decade of my life working on that movie and directed and acted in it, and basically wrote it, but not credited. That remains probably the thing I’m most proud of.

Q: What’s left on your bucket list?

I’m really looking forward to directing another film or two before I leave the planet, if I can manage that. I’m actually very excited about going to Ireland soon, playing James Tyrone in the film version of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night with Jessica Lange. I haven’t done anything classical in a while, so I’m excited.

Q: What’s your secret to aging with attitude?

I think, ‘Wait a minute? I’m 71?! Geez’, because I feel like I’m a kid most of the time. I feel like most people are older than me – but I’m older than most people. The whole thing about being an adult? I’m not quite sure if I’ve reached that stage yet, but I guess I have. I try to stay in decent shape and enjoy every day that I’ve got. I don’t know if there’s any secrets. I’m just glad to be here, and hope I can stay here for a while.

Get Away if You Can is now available to rent or purchase on AppleTV, Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu and elsewhere on demand.

Photo: Michael Lockridge. Courtesy of Brainstorm Media.

Gill Pringle began her career as a rock columnist for popular British newspapers, traveling the world with Madonna, U2 and Michael Jackson. Moving to Los Angeles 27 years ago, she interviews film and TV personalities for prestigious UK outlets, The Independent, The i-paper and The Sunday Times – and, of course, Senior Planet. A member of Critics Choice Association, BAFTA and AWFJ, she wrote the screenplay for 2016 Netflix family film, The 3 Tails Movie: A Mermaid Adventure. An award-winning writer, in 2021 she was honored by the Los Angeles Press Club with 1st prize at the NAEJ Awards.

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