I want to spend the next few minutes admiring what Ed Harris has brought to audiences by sharing with you my favourite performance of his. Harris’ characters are well researched, unique, and real. He is one of the few actors that can really take the entire aura of a human being and embody it as his own. His genius characters have been the highlight of some of my favourite films from ‘The Firm’ to ‘Enemy At The Gates’ and ‘The Rock’. Although his career dates back to the 1970s, my birthday certainly doesn’t extend that far so bare with me if I don’t mention his earlier classics, which I will have to sit down and watch. I will now share with you my favourite performance of his.
Ed Harris as Gene Kranz in Apollo 13
1995 classic ‘Apollo 13’ directed by Ron Howard is by far one of the most gripping films I can recall. When I first saw that movie, I was on the edge of my seat. It was an incredible rendition of the events that took place back in 1970. Harris portrays Gene Kranz, the NASA flight director who oversees the Apollo mission. He’s a tough, determined authority figure that becomes the ‘leader of men’ in the chaos that envelops the Apollo 13 mission. The Apollo 13 astronauts, played by Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton fight to save themselves as their space pod begins to lose power after an explosion. However, the real chaos doesn’t just sit on their doomed expedition, but on the ground in Houston.
Things start to get desperate at the NASA space center, but Gene (Harris) piles on the pressure and brings together the best minds of space exploration to hammer out a solution to save their crew. Time is ticking and Gene must come up with improvised, and practical applications before the Apollo 13 astronauts face certain death.
For me, this is Harris’ greatest role. You feel completely immersed in his performance and he drives the soul of this film, from his rigid gestures to his calm, yet stern approach to resolving a crisis with his team. He really cares about his mission, but his determination to put a brave face shines through, and you really get the sense that this is Ed Harris’ “Finest Hour.” So with that, I salute you Ed, because without you, this film would never be the same. After all, it was the story of Apollo 13 that brought the world to a standstill. Re-living that movement will continue to educate future generations about one of Mankind’s greatest ‘successful failures’ and it’s a classic you should all watch.