How safe do you feel when wandering in cyberspace? In this age of computerized technologies and online transactions, people seem to turn a blind eye on the dangers that lurk in this so-called safe environment. Warner Brothers ponders on those risks with its latest release, Firewall.
Jack Stanfield has spent the last 20 years protecting the Seattle-based Landrock Pacific Bank. Through his state of the art electronic systems, the bank has been kept safe from online piracy and Internet pirates.
In recent months, Bill Cox has been crafting a plan that would earn him $100 million. Secretly observing the ins and outs of the Stanfield family, he knows the most intimate details of their lives. As Jack returns home one night to find that his wife and children have been taken hostage, he must turn his back on his bosses and infiltrate the very system he has spent years building.
Now under constant surveillance, Jack must try to find a breach not only in his own computer system, but in Bill’s plan. Putting his life, as well as his family’s in jeopardy, he will risk everything not to lose everything he cares about.
Firewall marks Harrison Ford’s return to the big screen after three years. However, his hiatus away from the limelight is not something he had planned. After the first director had to drop the project due to a tragedy in his family, the movie went back on the shelves.
“As good a script as it was to start with, we had things we wanted to accomplish and unfortunately, we had to then find another director and begin to craft the script to reflect some of his concerns,” Ford said. “It was about two years getting to the screen; I had anticipated it would be much quicker” he said.
However, this is not what the actor has gotten his fans used to. “This is an unusual turn of events for me,” he said. “In the past I have normally done one film a year and I intend to continue doing it that way,” he reassures.
His dedication to the movie is partly due to the type of role and what it represents for him. “I look for a character that’s different from one that I’ve lately played and the opportunity to tell a story that I have some faith in; to tell a story that’s part of a film that I hope an audience will enjoy seeing,” he said.
To prepare for this role, Ford could rely on his personal life to portray a family man, but he invested a lot of time in researching the professional aspect of Jack Stanfield.
“In every case where I’m playing a character who has an occupation that I’m unfamiliar with, I want to acquire the details of exactly how they do their job and what it is they literally do when they go to work,” he said. For this one I met with a number of banking professionals and computer software designers to get a keener idea of the details of their lives.”
Ford’s nemisis in the film, Paul Bettany, had more than his share of research to do. Although it is never easy to relate to a character that’s as evil as Bill Cox, Bettany dug deeper to find a common ground between Cox and himself.
“What I had in common with the character was he wants $100 million; I wouldn’t mind $100 million,” he said. “I sort of held that in mind. Obviously, there are obstacles in my way. I don’t like hurting people and I don’t want to go to prison. If you don’t have those obstacles in your path you might well behave in a different manner.” Although Canadian audiences are only beginning to recognize Bettany, he has an impressive theatre background in his native Britain. Although he wants to keep his options open, he has no plan of going back to the stage anytime soon. “I absolutely will go back if something comes along and at the right time, but I am having a sort of love affair with making movies,” he said.
For Bettany, playing a villain was somewhat of a stretch, considering the projects he worked on recently. From a tennis pro who strikes up a relationship with Kirsten Dunst’s character in Wimbledon, to a hostage-taker in Firewall, Bill Cox was not exactly what most would consider a logical transition. For his portrayal, he decided to approach the character in a metaphoric way, through a simple concept.
“Businessmen lay off human beings from work, businessmen decide to make shirts in Indonesia and use eight-year old children to do it in order to turn a profit. Businessmen make really cold decisions everyday,” he said. “I try to play it more like that; I try to produce a villain grounded in some version of reality,” he adds.
Although it is his performances in action movies such as Indiana Jones and Star Wars, Ford refuses to be labeled as an action hero.
“I’ve never actually done action films,” he said. “I do thrillers that have action in them; I do films like Indiana Jones, which I think of as kind of fantasy-comedy. Indiana Jones is as close as I’ve come to doing an action film.”
His versatility is probably what has helped Ford build a reputation as one of the most respected actors in Hollywood. “It has been my practice to try to do films in many different genres,” he said.
Although the movie is destined to do well in theatres, Bettany does not believe this is the kind of movie that will change peoples lives. “I think I was very clear about what the film is, which is entertainment; [in] a different film I might want an audience to take different things home with them,” he said. “This one certainly I want them to remember to pick up their purse,” he adds, laughing.
Firewall stars Harrison Ford, Paul Bettany, and Virginia Madsen. It opens nationwide Friday, February 10, 2006.