INNNNNN ONE CORNER we have a 69-year-old movie icon who's headlined huge movie franchises ("Star Wars," the Indiana Jones movies, the Jack Ryan movies) and proved himself a silver-screen hero in films like "The Fugitive," "Air Force One," and "Blade Runner." George Lucas made him a star in 1977 when he cast him as Han Solo, and ever since he's flown the Millenium Falcon right into moviegoers' hearts. Punch it, Chewie, it's Harrison Ford!
INNNNNN the other corner we've got the chiseled tough guy who proved blonds do have more fun -- as James Bond. Trained alongside other UK stars such as Ewan McGregor and Joseph Fiennes at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, he made his name in various British dramas until Matthew Vaughn's 2004 crime thriller "Layer Cake" proved to 007's producers that he had what it took to leave audiences shaken, not stirred. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Daniel Craig!
Both these acting titans are appearing on-screen together this week in Jon Favreau's sci-fi Western romp "Cowboys & Aliens," so we thought it only fair to let these two duke it out in our arena and see who comes out on top.
Craig: Evoking Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood's "The Man With No Name"
Ford: Evoking John Wayne and James Garner, making Kevin Costner jealous
Advantage: This one's real simple: Which "Cowboys & Aliens" star looks better in a cowboy hat? It's a tight race, especially after all Ford did for fedoras over the years, but gotta hand this one to Craig for cutting that impressive Marlboro Man profile.
Craig: "The Invasion"
Ford: "Star Wars," "The Empire Strikes Back," "Return of the Jedi," "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"
Advantage: Definitely Ford. No one, except maybe Will Smith and Sigourney Weaver, has gone mano-a-mano with as many aliens as this guy. Daniel Craig, you have much to learn, Kemo Sabe.
Spy vs. Spy
Craig: MI6's James Bond in "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace"
Ford: The CIA's Jack Ryan in "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger"
Advantage: Here's a category young Craig wins in a walk. As intrepid as Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan may be, he's "just an analyst," i.e., he's no James Bond. Only the second actual Brit to play the 007 role after Roger Moore, Craig truly took Bond into the 21st century and, with just two films under his belt and a third on the way, has the greatest chance of any successors to eclipse Sean Connery in the icon department.
Craig: "Sylvia," "Infamous," "The Golden Compass," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
Ford: "Blade Runner," "The Mosquito Coast," "Random Hearts," two Tom Clancy adaptations
Advantage: Craig. Tom Clancy, Philip K. Dick, and Paul Theroux are all respected authors, so Ford gets many points here; but classically trained actor Craig has the greater literary pedigree, especially after appearing in major biopics of both Truman Capote and Sylvia Plath. Who'd have pegged Bond as such a bookworm? "Be sure to load my Kindle with the latest Philip Roth, Miss Moneypenny."
The Spielberg Factor
Craig: "Munich," "The Adventures of Tintin"
Ford: Four, count 'em, four Indiana Jones movies
Advantage: Ford. Craig may have impressed "Cowboys & Aliens" executive producer Steven Spielberg with supporting turns in two of the master's movies, but (to paraphrase), "If adventure has a name, it must be Harrison Ford."
Craig: When asked about his hobbies, Craig claims, "I say, 'F*** off! I read books, go to the pub and drink.' I fulfill all those needs completely by doing these movies."
Ford: Carpentry, aviation; he's on the boards of the Archaeological Institute of America as well as Conservation International.
Advantage: Ford. Craig is a man's man, but Ford is the kind of guy who volunteers to pilot helicopters that rescue stranded hikers in Wyoming. Yeah. Back in the day (pre-"Star Wars") he also built a sundeck for actress Sally Kellerman and a recording studio for bossa nova musician Sérgio Mendes, and worked as a stagehand for The Doors.
Craig: Played an American-Jewish soldier in "Fateless," Polish Jew guerilla fighter in "Defiance," and badass Jewish Mossad assassin in "Munich."
Ford: Half Irish on his father's side, half Jewish on his mother's side.
Advantage: Ford. Unfortunately for Craig, playing tough-as-nails Jews in three different movies does not make you one of the chosen peoplein the eyes of God. Lame.
Advantage: Granted, Ford had a slightly unfair 26-year headstart on Craig to collect all that box office booty, but his track record is virtually untouchable. Only Tom Hanks and Eddie Murphy have higher domestic earnings, and they had help from animated fare like "Toy Story" and "Shrek." Ford did it all with that rugged mug of his, and that's nothing to gawk at. Way ta go, old timer!
And the Winner Is ...
Harrison Ford. In 1997 he was named No. 1 in Empire Magazine's Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time list, so that's a lot to live up to. Craig is no slouch, though, and this young upstart just might have the right stuff to pick up the mantle of movie hero supreme from Ford... someday.