There’s no movie star like Harrison Ford. And there never will be again

Harrison Ford in “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.” (Lucasfilm Ltd./TNS)

Is Harrison Ford trying to make the rest of us look bad?

I say this as someone who has loved the actor since childhood and has watched every movie he’s ever made for the simple reason that he was in them.


But come on. The guy’s 80, and instead of sliding into the traditional role of lifetime achievement award winner, memoir writer and maker of occasional cameo appearances, he’s back on billboards and the sides of buses for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

Meanwhile his roles in “1923” and “Shrinking” could very well deliver not only his first Emmy nomination but his second as well.

Who does he think he is, Jane Fonda?

For a few years Ford did seem to be winding down. He turned up as Han Solo (almost) one last time, to nostalgic audience delight, in “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” and made a third-act reprise of his character Decker in “Blade Runner: 2049.”

Otherwise, the man who for years was Hollywood’s top-grossing actor appeared content to fly his planes, support his causes and hang out with wife Calista Flockhart on their ranch.

Though the fifth Indiana Jones film may have been in the works when COVID-19 shut the world down, none of the fevered prognostications about how the entertainment industry would rebound predicted a full-on Harrison Ford renaissance.

But when Hollywood went back to work, so did Ford.

“I like to work,” Ford told journalists at the Cannes Film Festival, where “Dial of Destiny” premiered in May. It was a classic Fordian understatement — all that was missing was an f-bomb.

The actor may have a reputation for carefully guarded privacy, which is inevitably mentioned in any story about him, but he knows how the business works: The stars need to show up to sell the picture. And in the past six months, he has done nothing but show up. For the festivals, panels and interviews, for the photo shoots and the junkets.

At Cannes, crowds outside and inside the Grand Palais theater began cheering the moment his silvery head emerged from the limo. Some may have felt that the standing ovation there for “Dial of Destiny” wasn’t long enough to declare the film a hit, but perhaps everyone’s hands were tired from the multiple ovations they had already given Ford, before and after he received an honorary Palme d’Or.

He wept. The audience wept. It was a lot.

“It was Cannes,” he said wryly a few weeks later, dropping his voice to gravelly depth on “Cannes” before twitching up that famous grin. “It’s actually fantastic. The French have a deep appreciation for and history of film. They are quite generous and responsive to all manner of film, not just, as you might suspect, art film. And this is not art film. This is family film. This is a popcorn movie. With special sauce,” he said, adding, “and that special sauce is unexpected, unanticipated true emotion.”

It is the day after the American premiere of “Dial of Destiny,” and to say that Ford is in full publicity mode does not even begin to describe it. The hotel room in which we spoke had been dressed, presumably for video interviews, in full Indiana Jones, down to a curled-up bullwhip and the hat.

His desire for “Dial of Destiny” to succeed feels quite personal.

“I wanted to be ambitious, for those things we have not necessarily done in such measure,” he said. When asked what he means by “those things,” he explains in that instantly recognizable, back-straightening “take this seriously” tone. “I mean take a chance on telling the story of an older character, take a chance on introducing your character in present day in a totally anti-iconic way, reducing him to his underwear and a La-Z-Boy with a glass in his hand.

“That moment in film,” he says, relaxing into a laugh, “may be one of my favorite things I’ve ever done in a movie. That and grabbing a baseball bat and going out to the neighbors’.”

For anyone sitting in the back row, this is Indy’s last adventure. “I won’t be going back as Indy,” he said. Not even as a ghost.

Based in part on the heroes of 1950s adventure films, beloved of both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, Indiana Jones was always going to be the center of a serial, and five was a number that Lucas floated for years. After “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” Ford had thoughts about where, and when, the character could go, but he says he was not key in the early development of “Dial of Destiny.”

Mostly, he said, he wanted to see Indy “inveigled into one last adventure. I wanted to see him at the nadir, where we could pick him up and kick him in the ass. I know what age is about. I wanted to bring that into the story. If I was going to be the actor playing this guy, I wanted the reality of my age.”

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