Harrison Ford: "I love being older"

6 min read

Harrison Ford: "I love being older"
Known for iconic roles such as Indiana Jones and Han Solo, Harrison Ford opens up to Vicky Dearden about his Hollywood journey and being a "late bloomer" 
In a Hollywood journey filled with serendipitous twists and unexpected luck, few actors have experienced a career as diverse and prolific as Harrison Ford. From the fearless Indiana Jones to the sardonic Han Solo and the world-weary Rick Deckard, Ford's portrayal of iconic characters has left an indelible mark on cinema and pop culture. Yet, the irony lies in how many of his career-defining roles fell into this self-proclaimed "late bloomer's" lap by chance. 
Born in Chicago to to Dorothy, a radio actress, and Christopher Ford, an actor-turned-advertising-executive, Harrison was discouraged from pursuing a career on the silver screen early on, having failed to land any significant parts. Instead, he turned to professional carpentry as a means to support his then-wife and two young sons.  
Harrison Ford and his wife
But fate had other plans. While working as a carpenter in Hollywood, Ford crossed paths with numerous celebrity clients such as Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunne and, most notably, director George Lucas, who hired him to build cabinets for his office. Little did he know that this chance encounter would lead to his breakthrough role as the charismatic Han Solo in Star Wars. Lucas was captivated by Ford's presence and offered him the iconic role, catapulting him to stardom. 

Worth the wait

“I had to wait for luck to come along,” says Ford with his trademark curmudgeonly charm. “But during that time, I had the opportunity to learn some craft. There's a skill involved in what we [actors] do, and the art that occasionally surfaces in our work is a spirit we all seek. My luck has been to work with incredibly talented people, to find my way into this crowd of geniuses—and not get my ar*e kicked out when I didn’t do as well as I wanted to!"
Ford's next serendipitous moment came when he auditioned for the role of Indiana Jones in a colossal project concocted by Lucas and Steven Spielberg, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spielberg initially wanted Ford for the role, but Lucas, who conceived the idea for the film, was hesitant as he had already collaborated with Ford on Star Wars and 1973’s American Graffiti. Before eventually giving in, the production team had to look at other possibilities, including many big action and comedy names of the 1970s like Tom Selleck and Peter Coyote. The role eventually went to Ford, cementing his status as a Hollywood legend.  
Harrison Ford with Mark Hamill, George Lucas and Carrie Fisher on the set of The Empire Strikes Back.
The franchise became a worldwide sensation, captivating people’s imagination and inspiring a generation of future archaeologists. Over 40 years and four films later, Ford found himself completing the series with the fifth and final installment, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, alongside UK’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge as his goddaughter and Mads Mikkelsen as a former Nazi working for NASA. Eighty-one-year-old Harrison received a five-minute standing ovation after the screening of the film at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, and previous to the premiere, he picked up an honorary Palme d’Or for his achievements in film. 
"As Ford grew older, it became essential for the character to evolve with him, adding depth and authenticity to the story"
“It was indescribable,” he says, clearly moved. “It’s just extraordinary to see a kind of relic of your life as it passes by.”  
After all these years spent playing Indy, was there anything in particular that he wanted from this final instalment?  
Harrison Ford with Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Image © Picturelux.
“I wanted to see a good movie. I wanted to see a completion of the five films. I wanted to round out the story. I wanted to see this man who depended so much on his youth and vigour of youth, I wanted to see the weight of life on him. I wanted to see him require re-invention, re-support.” 
As the character of Indiana Jones aged over the course of four films, it hadn't really crossed Harrison Ford's mind that his age would become a pivotal consideration until now. In a candid interview with People, Ford expressed how, as he grew older, it became essential for the character to evolve with him, adding depth and authenticity to the story. "I always wanted to see him without his youth, when he had become disillusioned, jaded, tired. And to see him rally for a last adventure." 

The rewards of growing older 

Surprisingly, Ford's take on ageing lacks any hint of regret or melancholy. Living a serene life away from Hollywood's hustle and bustle on his sprawling Wyoming ranch with wife Calista Flockhart, he seems entirely content with growing older. “I’m real happy with age. I love being older,” he quips in his deep, rumbling bass. “It was great to be young, but sh**fire, I could be dead! And I’m still working. So, go figure.” 
While the latest Indiana Jones film explores the concept of time and its passing, it intriguingly opens with a digitally de-aged Indiana Jones, several decades younger. What was Ford’s impression when he saw himself on the big screen as a young man?  
Ford's face was digitally "de-aged" in The Dial of Destiny. Image © Lifestyle Pictures.
“The technology has evolved to the point where it, to me, seems very realistic. And I know that that is my face, it’s not kind of Photoshopped magic, that’s what I looked like 35 years ago because Lucas Film has every frame of film that we’ve made together over all of these years. And this process, this scientific mining of this library was put to good use. But it’s just a trick unless it’s supported by good story. And it sticks out like a sore thumb if it’s not honest and it’s not real—I’m not talking about visually, I mean emotionally real. And so I think it was used very skilfully and assiduously. So I’m very happy with it. But I don’t look back and say, ‘I wish I was that guy again’—because I don’t.” 
"At 81, Ford shows no signs of slowing down"
At 81, Ford shows no signs of slowing down, though. A passionate pilot for nearly three decades, he has personally provided emergency helicopter services, coming to the rescue of hikers in need. With a lighthearted grin, he reflects on the question about staying in shape, while adding a touch of humour. "Let me tell ya, I can ride a horse—well, if they let me," he quips. Appreciating the compliment about his physique, he playfully responds, "You're too kind. I've been blessed with this body," punctuating it with a good-natured laugh. Ford's easygoing demeanour and quick wit effortlessly captivate everyone around him. 
Staying true to his love for storytelling, Ford remains actively engaged in the industry, taking on roles in both a new Apple TV+ comedy series, Shrinking, and a Western drama series called 1923. With a career spanning decades, Ford's dedication to his craft is evident as he exclaims, "I love the work! I just want to work and tell good stories. I've been so fortunate in my life to have that opportunity." Despite his legendary status in Hollywood, Ford's humility shines through, and he expresses gratitude for the continuous flow of work, especially in the wake of the recent SAG-AFTRA protests against streaming platforms and studios. 
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones.
Ford empathises with the struggles faced by many talented individuals whose gifts go unnoticed. "There are so many people with talents that never get to see the light of day, and that's a terrible shame," he laments. "Actors, in particular, can be very unhappy if they can't work, and work doesn't come easy unless they are sought after." 
"Ford empathises with the struggles faced by many talented individuals whose gifts go unnoticed"
Although Ford is far from retiring, he bids farewell to his iconic character Indiana Jones. "Is it not evident? I need to sit down and rest a little bit, you know?" he chuckles. After all these years, Indiana Jones has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on Ford's life, but he's ready to let go of the character that brought him immense fame. 
As for keepsakes from his film sets, one might wonder if Ford holds onto any treasured memorabilia, like his famous fedora. With a mischievous grin, he jokes, "I think it's at Sothebys where it will hopefully earn a lot of money for charity. While the material possessions are great, what truly matters to me are the experiences of making these films, which I deeply treasure. The memories and the journey are what stay with me for a lifetime." 
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