New Western, New Challenges for Ed Harris

Ed Harris didn't get the memo that Hollywood Westerns are supposed to be as dead as a defeated dueler at dawn.

"I have always been a Western fan," the four-time Oscar-nominated actor said in an interview on ABC News Now's "Popcorn With Peter Travers." "I was born in 1950, so I grew up with all the TV Westerns."

Previously starring in and directing 2000's "Pollock," Harris is no stranger to hard work, and he felt compelled to co-write, star in and direct "Appaloosa," opening Friday. Based on the novel of the same name by Robert B. Parker, the film tells the story of two lawmen hired to help a town troubled by shady bandits, whose relationship is complicated by the arrival of the beautiful and mysterious widow Allison French, played by Renee Zellweger.

Ed Harris
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Harris and his 2005 "A History of Violence" co-star Viggo Mortensen play the two lawmen, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, respectively.

"[Mortensen] was really the guy that I wanted [for the movie]," Harris said. "I have a great amount of respect for him as an actor and a human being."

Harris seems pleased with the results of the $20 million movie and his fellow actors.

"I think the [movie] works, it goes together," he said. "I really appreciate the acting across the board."

The Harris Show

So did Harris approach directing his fellow stars in "Appaloosa" the way his character Christophe directed Jim Carrey's character's life in "The Truman Show"?

"I try to give people their space, but if there is something there we are not quite getting, I will go in there," he said.

It's been eight years since the last time Harris had to "go in there" with actors. Harris' portrayal of painter Jackson Pollock earned him one of his four Oscar nods and co-star Marcia Gay Harden won the best supporting actress Academy Award.

Harris says his directing hiatus had everything to do with wanting to spend more time with his daughter, Lily, whose mother is the actress Amy Madigan, whom he directed in "Pollock."

"It was a conscious decision to want to watch my daughter grow up. She is now 15," Harris said. "I am not a director for hire. If I am compelled to do something, I will try to do it. She is growing up now and has got her own interests, so I figured [directing 'Appaloosa'] would be fine."

A Man of Many Talents

Besides his role of devoted father, Harris will reveal another accomplishment with "Appaloosa" to add to his long list of credits.

"People who stay in the theater will hear a Tom Petty song at the end of the movie. Then a song will come on sang by the director," Harris divulged.

His latest creative venture gave him a bigger thrill than he expected.

"I was more excited about this song thing at the Toronto premiere than even the film," Harris admitted.

But he's not considering a change of career, even if his song is successful and "Appaloosa" is not.

"The fulfillment is not in the result. The fulfillment has got to be in the process of doing the work and the people that you're working with," Harris said. "Otherwise you are just setting yourself up for a lot of let-downs."

Do you have a favorite Ed Harris movie? Sound off in the comments below!

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