Harrison Ford: Millenium man

It's still Han Solo who walks into the interview room at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Older and grayer, perhaps a bit slower.

But the face is still one of the most recognisable on the planet and he's still got all his hair, as he proudly informs us.

Harrison Ford is one of the highest-grossing actors of all time, and at 75, will soon garner a whole new generation of fans with the latest Star Wars movie that opens in Singapore tomorrow, which sees him reprise his role as the charismatic captain of the Millennium Falcon and one of the great leaders of the Rebel Alliance from the original trilogy which spanned 1977 to 1983.

A quick look at his career will show all the iconic characters he has played and the enduring films he has made, aside from Star Wars - the Indiana Jones movies, Blade Runner, Witness, The Fugitive, Working Girl, Patriot Games, Air Force One and Regarding Henry, which is where he first met The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams, the then 23-year-old who wrote its screenplay.

Though the US actor tries to give the impression of grouchiness, Ford's wit and that twinkle in his eye draw people to him.

The press tour must have been gruelling, especially after his plane accident in March that left him with a broken pelvis and ankle, but the private pilot strolls into the room and starts off with: "You haven't seen the film? Well, I will act it out for you. In the film, there is a character called Ham Yoyo. I don't play him."

Was it hard to say yes to The Force Awakens? Did you do it for the fans?

No, I did it as usual, for myself. Because it was a very good script and it was a great use of the character.

And I have a terrific director whom I have long admired and been friendly with.

Besides that, I didn't have a job.

You had said before that you were tired of it and you wanted Han Solo to die.

I made statements 25 years ago that I was tired of putting on that costume.

But 25 years later, there it is in the back of the closet and it's got a nice look to it, I will try it again.

And I did say that I wanted Han Solo to die in the original and that wasn't because I thought I didn't want to play the character, but I didn't anticipate at that point that there would ever be another film.

There were only the first three. I wanted the character to have some purposeful addition to the film.

So I thought it would be great if the most cynical were converted to believe in the force or the goodness of the mission of the heroic characters and would sacrifice himself and lend some gravitas to the enterprise.

But (Star Wars creator) George Lucas said no. 

So what was it like coming back?

They put my name on my dressing room, that helps a lot (laughs). I was glad to be back and I had a fun time with Carrie (Fisher) and Mark (Hamill) and the new young actors are terrific.

It could have been silly, but it wasn't, it was fun.

Did you connect with Han Solo differently after all these years?

I think it's interesting that the character was written to be consistent with the character that we have met years ago but he's like a bigger tree, there are more rings in the trunk and he has had more experience.

It should be apparent, if I have done my job correctly, that he has had experiences which have changed him and which we will reference in the telling of the story, so that it's the same guy, only better.

Do you get the deep devotion of the Star Wars fans?

It is often assumed somehow that for me it's the same experience as the fans, and they wonder why I don't have the same apparent devotion to the detail and the minutiae of the films.

That's because I work on them. It's a very different experience.

They see it from the front side, I see it from the back side. I love it, it's been very, very good to me.

I am totally respectful of the quality of the enterprise. But it serves me in a different way and I am invested in it in a different way than the fans are.

So I can't be a fanboy about it. That's just where I work.

Is there anything about flying the Millennium Falcon that is like flying a plane?

Movies is all pretending. Oscar Isaac asked me because he knew I was a pilot. He said, 'How do you do this? We have got to fly this X-wing thing, what do you think I ought to do?'

And I said, 'You ought to just make s*** up because nobody knows' (laughs).

Do you still fly planes after your recent crash?

I just crash them, I don't fly them (laughs).

I just take them out in front of the hangar and drive old cars into them. I started flying as soon as I could get in my helicopter and I had a cast on my right leg but my toes were hanging out so I could put my toes over the anti-torque pedals and fly. I have been flying ever since. 

This article was first published on December 16, 2015.
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