Harrison Ford will reprise his love-hate relationship with his character Han Solo in the latest Star Wars movie. GC finds out why at 73 he is happy to take a back seat.
For years, Harrison Ford bemoaned his legacy as Han Solo in George Lucas’s immensely popular Star Wars saga. There was no love lost between movie star and his interstellar alter ego and he has spent the last three decades generally disavowing all knowledge of his Solo self. Ford and Lucas often clashed on set and Harrison once griped to his boss: “You can type this s*** George but you sure can’t say it.”
Ford so hated Solo that he tried to persuade Lucas to kill off his character in Return of the Jedi: “He’s certainly a much less interesting character than Indiana Jones. He’s dumb as a stump.”
He’s certainly a much less interesting character than Indiana Jones…He’s dumb as a stump
Dumb or not, audiences will have a chance to see an older and possibly wiser Han Solo in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens directed by JJ Abrams, which premieres on December 14 in LA while a regional premiere in Abu Dhabi, where some of the movie was shot, is reported to be the following day.
Somehow Harrison Ford was persuaded to surrender to nostalgia and revisit the role alongside Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and many other old Star Wars figures in the latest rebooting of the venerable and fabulously successful film franchise.
Ford might have wanted to reconsider his decision after his leg was badly broken in an accident on the set of Star Wars VII in June of last year. The injury required surgery to install metal plates in his leg while production was halted for eight weeks to allow Ford time to recuperate. His fortunes continued to take a downward turn when he crashed his vintage airplane on a golf course in Venice, California, in March that saw him sustain a concussion and other relatively minor injuries.
The 73-year-old is hale and hearty again and even consented to grace this summer’s ComicCon convention with a surprise appearance that saw him bring delight to the thousands of fans who turned out for an advance preview of the first of three new Star Wars instalments.
Ford says of his return to the fold: “It should have felt ridiculous. There I was, doing something I did so long ago. But I will tell you that it felt great. I was proud and grateful to once again be involved.”
When not indulging his passion for flying – he remains utterly fearless as a pilot despite several brushes with death – Ford lives in Los Angeles with his third wife, actress Calista Flockhart, 50, and their adopted 14-year-old son Liam. Harrison is currently preparing to shoot the sequel to Blade Runner and is reportedly going to be returning to yet another iconic role, that of Indiana Jones, when shooting begins on the fifth chapter in the Spielberg-directed franchise. His films have grossed more than $6 billion over the course of five decades.
You have enjoyed one of the most successful careers of any actor in the history of film. How gratifying is that to you?
I am not really concerned about my legacy as an actor. I am all about right now and what is ahead. I do not really think much about the past, except that I do reflect on and understand the enormous luck that I have had. I have had a pretty good run.
Is it hard to find roles that live up to the iconic characters you’ve played in the past?
I’m lucky that from time to time, there’s is a good part for somebody of my relative age when there are fewer opportunities to be the leading man. But that is okay. If something goes wrong on set I can tell my people, ‘Hey, I just work here – ask that other guy over there.’ I’m quite happy to work a little bit less. Flying planes is what I do for fun. Acting is my job – otherwise there are not many surprises left.
Is it important for you to keep on working?
A real man should never rest on his laurels. He should prove his mettle every day. That has nothing to do with being macho but with taking responsibility for yourself and your family. With all my experiences, I have to say I still struggle with a lot of the same problems and frustrations I have always had in life. But I do know how to better manage it all and approach problems and make my way through life with a little more grace and honour.
What single quality, if any, has been most responsible for the kind of success you have enjoyed in your career ?
The thing that makes me good at what I do, if I am good at all, is not feeling special, not feeling different, so that whoever I am talking to does not feel as if he is with someone who thinks he is on a higher plane because he happens to be in the film business.
But you must have some sense of your accomplishments as an actor?
Yes but I do not live in the past. My approach to life is that I am all about right now and what is ahead. I do not really think much about the past, except I occasionally reflect on and appreciate the enormous luck that I’ve had.
I don’t feel like a movie star when I am on a set, although I do use my standing to try to help make the best film possible. I feel I have done enough and learnt enough from the process to know what I am doing and to contribute to the process.
When I come home from work, I don’t feel like a movie star either. It is a seamless process. You work, you come home.
What kind of advice do you offer to your youngest son, Liam?
This is my fifth time around [as a parent]. Kids are forever. Part of the process of raising children is that you help them think their way through their life as much as you can and not tell them too much, not demand too much, but be there, supportive of them.
When did you first realise as a teenager that acting was something you wanted to do with your life?
My father was in the advertising business and produced and directed radio and television commercials. I was fascinated by [the TV series] Sky King, until I went to the studio one day with my dad and met a pudgy little man [actor Kirby Grant] who did not fit my image of Sky King. But I think that tweaked my interest in the whole business of showbusiness.
But you went to college to study philosophy. Why?
I was a philosophy major and not doing very well. In an effort to try and find something in the coursebook that sounded like it was a cinch to help bring my grade point average up, I picked drama.
Having failed to read the course description all the way through, I did not realise it involved standing up on stage and acting. I was terrified at first and that made me a little angry at myself so I was determined to get over that knee-knocking feeling of panic and develop some fearlessness.
When I did, I also found what I was engaged in, with people trying to tell a story, was something that felt better than any other thing I had ever done before. It felt like I had found some kind of purpose in being part of storytelling and finding an outlet to work with other people.
You tend to play the heroic everyman kind of figure. Does that suit your nature?
I don’t know if I would describe very many of my roles as heroic. I think of them more as ordinary men who have remarkable levels of courage and character and vulnerability. Someone who has had his share of pain or difficult times and who can face up to challenges and overcome whatever obstacles stand in his way.
An heroic figure for me is someone who has the determination and perseverance to triumph over adversity when the odds are stacked against him and lesser men would have given up, fallen apart or died. I like to imagine myself as having some of those qualities or aspirations so that is the kind of guy I like to play.