After speaking about how The Devil’s Own was a difficult movie to make, Harrison Fordwent into further detail about filming the 1997 thriller and his clashes with Brad Pitt. “Brad developed the script. Then they offered me the part,” Harrison said when speaking to Esquireabout the filming. “I saved my comments about the character and the construction of the thing—I admired Brad.”
“First of all, I admire Brad. I think he’s a wonderful actor,” continues Harrison Ford. “He’s a really decent guy. But we couldn’t agree on a director until we came to Alan Pakula, who I had worked with before [1990’s Presumed Innocent] but Brad had not. Brad had this complicated character, and I wanted a complication on my side so that it wasn’t just a good-and-evil battle. And that’s when I came up with the bad-shooting thing.”
The Devil’s Own is a thriller about Frankie McGuire (Pitt), a member of the Irish Republican Army who comes to the United States in search of black-market missiles. His mission becomes compromised when he stays with Irish-American NYPD Sergeant Tom O’Meara (Ford), and the two develop a brotherly bond, despite Ford’s character not knowing the full story. There is a scene in the movie when Ford’s character sees his fellow NYPD officer illegally shoot a criminal, forcing Ford’s character to have a moral quandary.
“I worked with a writer—but then all the sudden we’re shooting, and we didn’t have a script that Brad and I agreed on,” says Harrison Ford. “Each of us had different ideas about it. I understand why he wanted to stay with his point of view, and I wanted to stay with my point of view—or I was imposing my point of view, and it’s fair to say that that’s what Brad felt. It was complicated. I like the movie very much. Very much.”
Pitt spoke with Newsweekin 1997 about the issues over The Devil’s Own. “We had no script,” said Pitt, now 59. “Well, we had a great script, but it got tossed for various reasons. To have to make something up as you go along–Jesus, what pressure! It was ridiculous. It was the most irresponsible bit of filmmaking–if you can even call it that–that I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know why anyone would want to continue making that movie. We had nothing. The movie was the complete victim of this drowning studio head [Mark Canton] who said, ‘I don’t care. We’re making it. I don’t care what you have. Shoot something.’”
“I tried to [walk away from the movie] when there was a week before shooting, and we had 20 pages of dogs—t,” he toldNewsweek. “And this script that I had loved was gone. I guess people just had different visions, and you can’t argue with that. But then I wanted out, and the studio head said, ‘All right, we’ll let you out. But it’ll be $63 million for starters.’ They sell movies to foreign territories on box-office names, and they can sue on what they could have made if you’d stayed in the movie.”
Pitt later clarified his Newsweek comments when speaking with the Tampa Bay Times. “I feel I have to explain,” he said. “That was my fault. I didn’t clarify. Everything got muddled. I feel like I stuck to my words and had to clarify them.”
“It was getting close to shooting time, and we still didn’t have the script nailed down,” he added, saying that he panicked too soon. “It wasn’t because of lack of script or loss of faith in anybody. It was because my particular character has the responsibility of speaking for people who have suffered from this insidious war for a lifetime, and there’s a fear of it becoming movie-ized, trite, trivial. And that’s just not right, and that’s where my fear set in. But we got it right.”
The Devil’s Own went on to make $140 million at the box office against an $86 million budget.
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First appear at Harrison Ford Opens Up About Feud With Brad Pitt In The 90’s: ‘It Was Complicated’