James Franco as Jack Ryan?

James FrancoThat’s the rumor being bandied about over at CHUD. If it’s true, then James needs an intervention of good counsel. And I’m just the man to give it.

Don’t get me wrong. James Franco seems like a good guy. I get that feeling because no one could play a character so supremely likable as the one he played in Freaks and Geeks and be anything but a really nice guy.

But he’s no Harrison Ford. And he’s no Alec Baldwin.

What do Harrison Ford and Alec Baldwin have in common? They both played the character of Jack Ryan in films based on Tom Clancy novels. Baldwin played Ryan first in The Hunt for Red October–a film so supremely awesome, if you stand up too fast after watching it you’ll be in danger of getting the bends.

Then followed Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, with Harrison Ford taking over for Baldwin in the role of Jack Ryan. Those movies weren’t nearly so awesome, but Harrison Ford was. And that’s because Harrison Ford is the greatest actor alive.

Really. Who’s better than Harrison Ford? Imagine Star Wars with the best actor you can think of playing Han Solo. If that actor is not Harrison Ford, do you know what that does to the original Star Wars trilogy? It pretty much makes those movies play out like the prequels. There are two things that put the original Star Wars trilogy over the top: John Williams’ score and Harrison Ford as Han Solo. That’s not opinion, folks. That’s me knowing stuff.

Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan

Now, let’s think for a moment about the movie that could have happened had Spielberg’s first choice for Indiana Jones not been saddled to a weekly television program. That’s right–let’s ponder for a moment Raiders of the Lost Ark with Tom Selleck playing Indiana Jones.

I’m imagining that movie now.

Boy, does that movie suck.

And even in his sixties, Harrison Ford made Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls watchable.

Just… barely. But that’s saying a lot. Because otherwise, that movie really, really sucked.

Now let’s discuss Alec Baldwin. I know that there are folks around here who pretty much think Alec Baldwin is a big fat turd, but the guy can act. Watch him in Glengarry Glen Ross and try to tell me that he can’t act. Check him out on any episode of 30 Rock and try to convince me that calling him a master of his craft isn’t an understatement. And he acquitted himself admirably in The Hunt for Red October. Sure, he’s not the greatest actor in the world. We all know that distinction belongs to Harrison Ford. But you have to give the man his due.

Now let me speak with James for a moment:

James.

Dude.

Never play a part previously portrayed by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford. This should be the new Golden Rule of acting. This should be Movie Acting 101. You might as well decide that you’re going to take over for Stephen Hawking as the world’s preeminent theoretical physicist. You’d fare better convincing yourself to edge out Pavarotti as the greatest tenor to take on “Nessun Dorma.” You’d have better luck swirling your arms around in great big rings in an attempt to push Saturn out of its orbit and become the fifth planet from the sun. (Or maybe it’s the sixth planet. Whatever.)

You see where I’m going with this?

If you don’t believe me, give Ben Affleck a call and ask how this particular fool’s errand worked out for him. Oh, in case you forgot, Ben Affleck is that guy who used to be an actor before he fell off the face of the Earth after trying to play the part of Jack Ryan in some movie that nobody saw.