First of all, there’s the flyboy thing. Even Ford (grudgingly) admits there’s a lot of real pilot in Solo. “Oh, I suppose there’s a kind of pride in the mastery of a machine,” he allows.
The actor may be as proud of his various aircraft as any fictional galactic pilot, but he doesn’t boast like Solo. That’s one area where they do part company. As he walks around a restored 1929 biplane, giving a quick tour of his gigantic toybox, he insists he doesn’t have a favorite.
“I love the one I’m with,” he says of his various vessels. “I also have five kids, and I don’t have a favorite kid. Don’t have a favorite ice cream, or a favorite movie.” Ford then spots a metal toy plane in the corner that Liam, his now-teenage son with wife Calista Flockhart, used to ride around on when he was little. “Maybe that one there,” he deadpans.
Ford does play favorites when it comes to his two most iconic characters. He has made no secret about preferring Indiana Jones to Han Solo, and he’s ready to put the fedora back on and jump into action for Indy 5 any time Steven Spielberg and the gang at Lucasfilm decide to get the ball rolling (so to speak.)
“Oh, yeah. Yeah, I’d love to do another Indiana Jones,” he says, sitting at a round picnic table in the back of the hangar. “A character that has a history and a potential, kind of a rollicking good movie ride for the audience, Steven Spielberg as a director — what’s not to like?”
All those things, minus Spielberg, also apply to Star Wars, but maybe the whip-cracking archaeologist is more fun to play because he’s so different. Familiarity breeds contempt. Maybe there’s simply more of Ford in Solo, his first major film role, than he’d like to admit.
No doubt, the actor would scowl at this theory, but the similarities pile up.
Exhibit A: Everybody assumes Ford and Solo are both loners, but they’re far from it. Solo — despite his isolating name — is a gadfly who knows everyone and has been everywhere. Ford may project a gruff exterior, but he makes friends fast, especially if you know your way around the sky.
Just before he was confirmed as part of The Force Awakens’ cast, Ford showed up in London and was photographed chatting with a helicopter pilot in Grosvenor Square. “I’d run into him outside of the American embassy — there was a helicopter sitting in the middle of this park,” he says. “He’s the representative for Bell Helicopter, and that’s the kind I have, and he had been former head of London’s National Health Service helicopter ambulance service.”
Exhibit B: Ford and Solo aren’t just good at making friends, they’re resourceful. On the second day of shooting The Force Awakens, a door from the Millennium Falcon slammed down on Ford’s leg, breaking it. While director J.J. Abrams and others tried to pry the massive chunk of metal off the wounded actor, Ford started thinking ahead. “I knew that my leg was likely broken, and I didn’t know what other injuries there were,” he says. “I was mostly concerned about the long ambulance ride to London.” The accident happened at Pinewood Studios, about 20 miles outside the city. “I asked them to bring my cell phone over.”
While Abrams strained his back trying to move the door, Ford called his buddy from the park with the air ambulance. He arranged his own medevac to the hospital. Darth Vader might call that… destiny. “Pretty much is, yeah,” Ford says.
Exhibit C: Ford doesn’t get all misty-eyed about Star Wars, another trait he shares with Solo. “He was always the cynical member of the original characters,” Ford says. “While we were invited to engage on the questions of some pretty arcane mysteries — the Force and the mythology that surrounds it — he was the guy who said, ‘What? Huh? Come on.’ ” It’s what made the interplay between the characters work, he says. “There was a callow youth, a beautiful princess, a wise old warrior, and there was a smart-ass.”
Ford is definitely that last one. Asked if he watched the Force Awakens trailer debut along with the rest of the world during halftime on Monday Night Football, he answers: “I was trying to watch the damn football game!” Only grudgingly does he admit that everything stopped for a moment at his home with Flockhart and their son while it aired. But just for a moment. “We were in the middle of preparing dinner and doing homework, and…” He shrugs. “Just watching it over our shoulder.”
In that trailer, the know-it-all who once sneered at “hokey religions and ancient weapons” gravely informs John Boyega’s Finn and Daisy Ridley’s Rey: “It’s true. All of it. The dark side. The Jedi. They’re real.” Ford gets why that strikes a nerve. Is Solo still the smart-ass, or has he become the wise old warrior?
“No, there’s not an abandoning of the character,” Ford says, more earnestly than you’d expect from Mr. I-Guess-We-Watched-The-Trailer. “He does not aspire to the position of Obi-‘Ben’ Kenobi, nor do I aspire to be some New Age Alec Guinness. His development is consistent with the character, and there are emotional elements which have occasioned his growth.”
Fear not, though. Solo hasn’t grown that much. He seems to still have money issues, for starters. “We spend a lot more time [in the movie] on his failure to master basic skills, like accounting,” Ford says, rubbing his thumb and forefinger together. “And accounting for his own behavior. There’s a lot of the rogue still left in Solo. Some things don’t change.”
NEXT PAGE: Ford’s thoughts on the young Han Solo film …