Joe Pugliese Gets Down to Earth with Harrison Ford for Men's Journal
Harrison Ford's resume is long as it is familiar. His shadow is cast on every cinematic touchstone from the last era and the one before it. But if he leaves any legacy it will be for his two most famous roles: Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Like those two renegade swashbucklers, Ford has rejected the traditional path laid ahead of him for his chosen career. He lives in Wyoming, away from the gaze of Hollywood, and as Joe Pugliese can tell you, he's not interested in wearing schtick costumes for a photo shoot or discussing whether Han or Greedo shot first. He's got other shit to worry about. So when Jann Wenner (Publisher of Men's Journal and Rolling Stone) told Ford that he'd like Joe Pugliese to photograph the actor with one of his antique airplanes, Ford surprised everyone by bringing one with him to the shoot. But it wasn't what you would expect. “We were really careful about how much we could talk about or include some reference to the fact that he’s a pretty hardcore pilot and had this high profile crash into a golf course,” Joe explains. “And then when he showed up, he had that toy in his hand… It was a real gift."
That gesture set the tone for a shoot that surprised Joe in many ways. To look at him, and to see how he moves and holds himself, Harrison Ford is an imposing man with a gravity that sobers those around him. That inherent solemnity is exactly what makes his dry wit so disarming. “He comes off as a serious guy but it was definitely a light-hearted shoot,” says Joe. “He liked that we had some ideas that we wanted to get across and he definitely was cracking some good jokes but they were all very deadpan.” Ford's humor broke crucial ground. When they were preparing for the shoot, Joe and his team knew not to dig into the always burning question of: Who shot first in Star Wars? Was it Han or Greedo? But once Ford opened up, it changed how Joe could interact with him, and gave them the space to truly utilize their time together to get unique portraits. “He was great because he likes the photographic process. He doesn’t like doing the press, he doesn’t like doing interviews, but he doesn’t mind the photoshoot which was a real treat,” says Joe. “It’s usually the opposite for a lot of celebrities. It was nice to get him on board. He was really giving back a lot. He had a lot of feedback about what we were doing.” That commitment to the image and to the photograph allowed Joe to work deeper.
Most photo shoots have dozens of assistants and editors and representatives buzzing around behind the camera. But this time, everyone else on set floated away, letting Joe and Ford relate to one another. “We went in with this expectation that he’s such a serious guy, and he’d be stern about what he would and wouldn’t do,” says Joe. “And everything we threw in front of him he played with. And I think that was really satisfying that he trusted us to kind of lead him into the stuff we had in mind. I got to sit across from him, each of us on a chair. It was nice that it was just a human interaction.” When you’re Han Solo and Indiana Jones it’s easy enough to be separate from everyone else, to always soar above. But when Joe Pugliese sat down with Harrison Ford it was just the two of them on earth, and that’s exactly why they were successful.