D. Stevens/ Warner Bros. Pictures


Harrison Ford talks fame, flying, sports, Sandler and ticket sales.

On May 21, 1980, the second of the Star Wars movies — Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back — was released in U.S. theaters. A little more than a year after that, Raiders of the Lost Ark opened.

In that short period, Harrison Ford played two of the most memorable characters in motion picture history — Han Solo and Indiana Jones — and the filming was done only a few months apart. That had to be an extraordinary experience: two roles, filmed back-to-back, that set Ford on a blazing path to career superstardom.

Ford, however, appears unmoved when that notion is presented to him. His look suggests he could care less. He says nothing for a few seconds while appearing to formulate a response. He glances around the conference room in his Santa Monica, Calif., offices, where the interview is taking place and finally says in a calm, deliberate manner:

“I was probably having too much fun to pay much attention.” And then he breaks into his biggest smile during an hour-long interview, looks at me and says, “I was having a good time.”

I have the feeling he wasn’t talking about the movies.

The purpose of the interview is to talk about 42, the new movie about the life of Jackie Robinson that is being released this month. Ford plays the role of Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers general manager who signed Robinson to a contract that made him the first African-American of the 20th century to play Major League Baseball. (Read the story in the April 1 edition of American Way.)

The discussion of 42 is fascinating, but when you have the opportunity to interview Ford, you can’t pass up the chance to ask him about Indiana Jones and Han Solo. Both guys are the essence of cool. So the obvious question: How did those two compare with each other?

Ford confesses he doesn’t have a pat answer, in part because he “really didn’t spend much time thinking about” what they had in common.

“I did not think of them as brothers under the skin,” he says. “I thought they were made of very different stuff. What was interesting about Indiana Jones was his academic background, his scholarship. And then his wit when he finds himself in trouble. Han Solo I thought of in a very different way. He was not a deep thinker.”

Ford has more to say about the two characters and the two movie franchises during the interview and also touches on a variety of other subjects including the Doors, Hillary Clinton, spiders, ants, Adam Sandler and Ford’s love of flying his own planes. Here are a dozen topics from an hour spent with Harrison Ford.



1. Ford’s breakthrough role as Solo in Star Wars was released four years before Raiders of the Lost Ark. By the time he played Indiana Jones, Ford had the star credibility, so his role in shaping the movie had increased.

“I was very happy at the time for the success of Star Wars,” he says. “I didn’t take any particular personal pride in the success of the film. I thought it all accrued to George [Lucas, the writer/director]. I think I felt a little bit different when it came to the Indiana Jones films. I was more in a position to be part of a collaborative process and I enjoyed the relationship with Steven {Spielberg, the director] very much and we had a lot of fun doing it. Which is not to say I didn’t feel George was collaborative, but I was just in a different position. … I had a lot more experience and understanding.”

2. Even though Jones and Solo are regularly on lists of the most memorable characters in film history, neither is Ford’s favorite. That’s because he doesn’t have one.

“I feel obliged to love them all,” he says. “Some of them you can’t love as much, but you try. I don’t have a favorite. I’ve never had favorites in anything. It’s like different children born to different mothers.”

3. If Ford were to have a favorite, there would be plenty of candidates. He’s played a doctor, a lawyer, a detective, a journalist, a CIA analyst, President of the United States (twice) and many other roles.

“I like doing different things,” he says. “I like playing different kinds of characters. I was lucky that I came up in a business when I had a lot of opportunities that would be hard to come by these days. You could read a script and you could say ‘I like it, let’s do it.’ You could shake hands and be in preproduction three weeks later with the deal worked out. The circumstances were such that the decision could be made by relatively few people and done basically from the seat of their pants.”

4. The industry has become more complicated but few have been as successful as Ford at adapting to it. His success has been phenomenal — his movies have reportedly generated $6 billion in sales worldwide. Ford, however, has a surprising reaction to that achievement.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” he says calmly. “It may for somebody else. For me, it doesn’t mean anything at all. I’m grateful that I had such opportunities, that I worked with such talented people, that the material I was lucky enough to work with was so good. There was an audience for that kind of film. I think I’ve been an enormously lucky guy.”

5. Part of being a film legend is that people in other fields want to memorialize you. Ford has been active in working to preserve the planet and one of his rewards from conservationists is having a new species of  ant (Pheidole harrisonfordi) and spider (Calponia harrisonfordi) named after him.

“That was really a nice honor that those people bestowed on me,” Ford says.