Real-life encounter: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono meets with American actor Harrison Ford in Jakarta on Tuesday. Ford interviewed Yudhoyono about environmental issues as part of his contribution to a documentary titled Years of Living Dangerously. (Courtesy of Presdential Office/Abror Rizki)
Hollywood actor Harrison Ford interviewed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday, while local politicians and netizens were busy commenting on a minister’s complaint that the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movie star was rude to him during an earlier interview.
Wearing a black suit and an earring in his left ear, the 71-year-old Ford arrived at the Presidential Office with a smile, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he had caused a stir after interviewing Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan a day earlier.
“It’s nice to see you,” the President said to the actor. “I needed time earlier because I had to get updates from the minister and other officials,” he said, pointing to Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) chairman Kuntoro Mangkusubroto and Zulkifli.
Kuntoro is Yudhoyono’s confidant when it comes to environment issues. He is also the leader of
the government-sanctioned REDD+ Task Force.
“I suggest you keep him around [during our interview],” Ford said pointing to Kuntoro, followed by the laughter of those in the room.
“Don’t worry, he is close to me every time,” Yudhoyono responded.
The two then conducted the interview behind closed doors. Yudhoyono, who responded to Ford’s questions in Indonesian, spoke to Ford for about 40 minutes, according to presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha.
Ford, who represented the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), had been in Indonesia to film a documentary entitled Years of Living Dangerously, a joint production between James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is set to be released in April 2014.
The interviews with Indonesian officials are also expected to be included in the documentary.
The title relates to the award-winning 1982 movie The Year of Living Dangerously, which depicts the last days in office of Sukarno, the country’s first president.
Zulkifli clarified Monday’s incident at his office when Ford and his team interviewed the minister. “It was not as bad as suggested by the media,” the minister said. “He was emotional during the interview. I can understand his love for the environment and rainforests.”
After the interview on Monday, Zulkifli’s tone was harsh, calling Ford’s statements “cornering”.
“He asked me why all the 20,000 local residents in Kalimantan involved in illegal deforestation were not arrested? I said we used a welfare approach because this was about people who were mostly poor. But he got mad and accused us of being corrupt for letting them go free,” Zulkifli told journalists.
Andi Arief, a presidential special staffer on social affairs and disaster relief, said he received information that Ford “was standing on a desk and jumping around” while waiting his turn to interview the minister, an attitude he termed “harassment against a state institution”.
He even suggested the actor could be deported, although Ford was due to leave Indonesia later on Tuesday.
Presidential spokesman Julian A. Pasha said the President had been aware of the controversy but did not change the scheduled interview with the actor.
“Ford gave the President a letter just before the interview was conducted. It contained his true wishes that the President was still willing to conduct the interview. Perhaps it was a symbol of the actor’s regret over the controversy,” he said.
“Strategic issues and government policies in protecting and managing the environment were discussed, as Indonesia is considered a country that has made a great contribution to global environmental conservation,” Julian said.
He said overall, the interview was constructive, adding Ford had told the President of his findings in the Tesso Nilo National Park in Riau.