Harrison Ford: Top 7 Death-Defying Movie Scenes

hfAs a production company learned last week, Harrison Ford is pretty indestructible. However the lesson cost them dear – after accidentally breaking his ankle during the filming of Episode VII, they’ve been fined over a million and a half in terrestrial pounds. Ford weathered the injury and went on to wipe the floor with The Force Awakens.

With the cosmos’ favourite hard man in the headlines this week, this article takes an action-packed backwards glance at all those times the Teflon-coated Mr Ford nearly met his mortal end in the movies. And what better number to focus on than lucky number seven, surely the star’s favourite digit?

We’ll go to a galaxy far, far away of course, but also further afield back in time, as well as coming back down to earth with a bump… or is it a splash? So without further a-derring-do, let’s pay tribute to a man who has stared real life calamities such as plane crashes in the face and not blinked first.

7. RETURN OF THE JEDI

Let’s start things off on a slow burn with a less obvious example of Ford’s balls-to-the-wall onscreen bravery. This entry comes direct from Star Wars Episode VI: the Sarlacc sequence, where master criminal and slug-for-brains Jabba The Hut planned to feed his Rebel captives to the ultimate sandpit.

It’s easy to be distracted by Luke doing Jedi acrobatics and swishing his lightsaber about, Leia in “that” bikini and the double whammy of Jabba and Boba Fett’s respective demises. But Han Solo is easily the bravest and coolest of the lot. Not only is he fresh from a carbonite freezing and blind for his trouble, he also manages to ice Fett without even trying.

However it’s mere seconds before our hero is caught up in a yet greater peril, risking life and limb by dangling upside down to retrieve pal Lando Calrissian, who is about to be consumed by the pit. Relying on his wits, Solo must blast the Sarlacc’s tentacle, allowing Lando to break free. He may not be the flashiest participant in this scene, but Ford is definitely the star traveller with the biggest kahones.

6. FRANTIC

The next choice goes from a galaxy far, far away to a capital city closer to home and all too familiar. It was in Paris that Ford faced his next brush with death, courtesy of Hitchcockian thriller Frantic. Before Liam Neeson got mean and moody looking for his missing wife under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Taken, Ford lost his spouse in France’s premier metropolis.

Whilst getting mixed up with wild girl Emmanuelle Seigner he was forced to venture out onto the rooftops to evade some Gallic nasties, almost plunging to his end in the process. If that wasn’t enough he was walking on the tiles in moccasins and had to remove his massively impractical shoes and socks so he could crawl to safety.

Like Hitchcock, director Roman Polanski wasn’t known for giving his actors an easy time of it. The controversial helmer took full advantage of Ford’s trademark hangdog bewilderment as he pushed himself to extremes to keep himself alive in order to solve the riddle of his better half’s disappearance.

5. THE TEMPLE OF DOOM

It’s no surprise to see Ford’s battered adventurer Indiana Jones on the list, though the selected scene for pulp instalment no.2 The Temple Of Doom might not be what you expect. Say “death-defying” in this context and the mine car chase or rope bridge nail-biter spring to mind.

But for a key example of Dr. Jones sticking two fingers up to the Reaper, look no further than the opening minutes. A suited and booted Indy was poisoned by devious crime boss Lao Che at Club Obi-Wan and had to get his hands on the antidote. Unfortunately there were an assortment of obstacles in his path, including gun-toting gangsters, screaming patrons, a sea of ice cubes and even balloons for him to contend with first.

That’s all without mentioning feisty singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), who gave the hero earache as he desperately tried to flush out his innards. Steven Spielberg crafted a mind-boggling and creative sequence for Ford to fight his way out of. Impromptu skydiving, child labour and human sacrifice were just some of the delights to follow after this thrilling scene-setter.

4. BLADE RUNNER

The clue’s in the title. Though he spends a fair amount of time skulking about the streets of a future LA eating sushi and pointing guns, replicant hunter Rick Deckard (Ford) is chasing along a sharper blade than most. He got a pounding from amoral yet aesthetically-pleasing robots Pris and Roy Batty. Yet for the most shocking attack he received during the course of Ridley Scott‘s movie, gangly assassin Leon’s took the bionic biscuit.

For starters he ambushed Deckard right on the street, at a point when he was most vulnerable. Ford’s face said it all, expressing an almost child-like surprise and fear as the vengeful android laid brutally into him like a cat with a ball of yarn.

Having been beaten to a pulp, he then almost got his eyeballs poked out. If gorgeous rescuer Rachael hadn’t intervened with a bullet his last view on earth would have been Leon’s dirty fingernails. A grim fate indeed. It’ll be intriguing to see how much rough-housing an ageing Ford does in the upcoming sequel. Knowing this tough guy, I’m sure Scott has a slice of action specially reserved for him.

3. A NEW HOPE

Arguably the defining entry on Han Solo’s resume of Reaper avoidance occurs during his introductory scenes. Mos Eisley cantina was the perfect setting to find the space-based scoundrel, and while the roguish charmer felt at home he also knew the smoky bar was festooned with enemies.

Having made a sweet deal with Obi-Wan Kenobi and his friends to get them to Alderaan, Ford’s Solo prepared to blast off in the Millennium Falcon. However rubbery foe Greedo had other ideas, forcing Han at gunpoint to a table where he was determined to settle his score with the mercenary for hire once and for all.

We could have been saying goodbye to Ford before we’d even got halfway through the flick. Thankfully you can’t deal with a slippery customer by simply grabbing hold of him. Different edits have caused controversy over who shot first, but it’s safe to say Han was ready to stare death in the kisser, blowing Greedo away before the bug-eyed henchman had the chance to carry out his dastardly plan.

2. THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

The last time we saw Indiana Jones, it was in disappointing fourth chapter The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. Sure, it was fun seeing the gang again but overall the project suffered from a mish-mash of elements that never quite gelled. One of the movie’s major achievements in the process was to bring us the whip-cracking wonder’s most epic escape from the bony fingers of his ultimate opponent.

You can see Ford’s Indy maybe beating the Nazis, or the primal forces of the Temple Of Doom. A nuclear explosion on the other hand? That’s a tough nut to crack and no mistake, and the very predicament he found himself in when trapped on a test site populated by homespun furnishings and shop window mannequins.

Never underestimate the resourceful Dr. Jones though. Hardy to the last, he hid inside a lead-lined refrigerator, emerging with more bruises than a supermarket nectarine and several miles away from where he started, yet alive and kicking for more adventure.

  1. THE FUGITIVE

Playing a beleaguered doctor named Richard in Frantic clearly rubbed off on Ford, for almost a decade later he repeated the same trick for big screen reboot The Fugitive. Here he became Dr. R Kimble, who was wrongfully accused of his wife’s murder thanks to a mysterious one-armed man.

The real pleasure of Kimble’s pursuit lay in the cat and mouse antics between him and Federal Marshal Sam Gerard, brought to life by Tommy Lee Jones, an actor who put the blood into bloodhound. Their awkward relationship came to the mother of all heads when Gerard cornered Kimble at the exit to a water pipe. Well I say cornered. There weren’t many corners involved in the death plunge which lay before Ford.

Of all the entries on the list, this is the one where the chiselled star was seriously nose to nose with the undiscovered country. That face was as readable as John Le Carre: Ford can’t quite believe he’s going to jump, yet he does. It seems this is one stunt too many for the desperate escapee. However this is no ordinary man on the run – this is the unbeatable screen presence of Harrison Ford. Endanger him at your peril.

Rod Lord short story

It was thirty-seven years ago, in a time not unlike our own. Rod Lord, Britain’s number one pornography star, was sitting in the offices of Kenneth Tree off Wardour Street. Tree was not a man for pleasures. His face called to mind an Easter Island head sprayed teak. He was strictly a money man and regarded his own product with bafflement. He simply understood a good investment when he saw one and here, tanned and wearing a blue jumpsuit adorned with gold jewellery and a carefully-arranged helmet of chestnut hair, was his nest egg, Rod.

There had been an unusually long silence in the room, even by Tree’s standards. Rod suddenly realized the man had been attempting to make pleasantries with him, aside from the usual small talk.  Tree was working his way up to something big, and as he put his tweed elbows on the desk he finally came out with three words: “Look behind you.”

Rod twisted. There, against the back wall, out of sight but all too apparent, was an object that almost touched the ceiling. It looked like a cabinet. Something long and shiny protruded from it, profiled against the back window. With a cautious glance back at Tree, Rod stood up and made his way over to where the thing was idling. A reel to reel tape deck took up the top half of its broad front, like eyes. A ticker tape read-out of a mouth had been stopped mid-flow. There was an array of buttons, switches and vaguely utilitarian attachments.  Rod did his best to take it all in.

“What is it?”

“This is the Sexus 3000 and it is the future of our industry.” Tree joined Rod and tugged at a chunky lever on the side of the cabinet. It began to chitter and bleep.  The reel to reel span this way and that. The ticker tape expunged frantically and Rod suddenly understood what the shiny protruberance was as it began quietly undulating.

“You mean…” Rod started. “A sex computer?”

Tree’s eyes gleamed with an imperial lustre. “Oh it’s a computer Rod… but it’s so much more. Imagine the productivity of a device such as this. Never sleeping.  Never tiring. It could keep Kenneth Tree Industries in business twenty-four hours a day.”

“But what about women? You’re going to need women.  If anything you’ll have to employ more. It’ll cost money.”

“One step at a time. This is a modern business Rod.  Men have to move with the times, or get locked out.  This machine can do the work of ten men twice as fast.  I’m afraid I’m going to have to let you go. The Sexus 3000 can do your job from now on.”

Rod’s surgically-tautened eyelids widened. “You can’t fire me! Being a pornography star is all I know!”

“It may sound harsh Rod but sometimes you have to cut off the tail so the cat can escape from under the garage.”

And with that bizarre proclamation Rod Lord’s career in pornography was over. As he stumbled dejected into Wardour Street the shade of his jumpsuit visibly diminished in the afternoon light.

Rod didn’t have a clue what he was going to do. He’d been in the pornography game for as long as he could remember and life outside it seemed cold and barren.  He bought a local paper and sat in his spacious flat with its decadent Swedish furniture, perusing the classifieds.

“Woman seeks man with love of fine dining, excellent table manners and an innate proclivity for sexual gymnastics…” Now that sounded like a job worth applying for.

It took Rod an hour to work out that he was supposed to be looking at the employment rather than the dating section. Under “situations vacant” he found the exact position he wanted – plumber.  Plumbing was an easy job. He’d played a plumber in three films. All you had to do was show up with your wrench, the woman takes her top off and several bursts of steam later you were done.

He presented himself proudly at the employment exchange. He’d changed into his best leather driving jacket with cream open-necked shirt, blue denim flares and moccasins with a domino motif. Around his neck was a medallion reading “Plumbers Do It Best”.

The pretty young thing behind the desk did not give him the reaction he expected. “Are you sure you’re a plumber?” she asked.

“I’m the plumber and I’ve come to sort out your pipes,” he replied in a loud, commanding voice. It was the only line he remembered from the productions he’d starred in, though to be fair there were never a great deal of lines supplied.

Having made this declaration of his skills, Rod was sent to the location of the job, an impressive thirty acre estate near Heathrow. Rod was taken to the mansion buildings in a golf cart by a butler named Gregory, a tall, balding man who regarded him with utter disdain at every conceivable opportunity. Gregory explained that their usual plumber had been indisposed after someone on the grounds had dropped a fruitcake on him from a great height.

Escorted at speed through any area where he could possibly be acknowledged by the public at a rate of knots, Rod was taken below stairs. He proceeded to strut through a network of ornate, musty corridors. The air was alive with the sound of clanking and footsteps hurrying back and forth. Gregory opened a wooden door like he was opening a plane at forty thousand feet and bustled Rod inside.

Rod found himself in a small room. The space was dominated by a wall of piping, interconnected almost by osmosis, which had clearly seen better days.  Approximately every twelve seconds a lance of steam would jab from one of the valves.

“Well?”  asked Gregory, with pinched features.

“Nice steam man,” said Rod. “It’s a real pipe show down here, yeah?”

Gregory stared at him, alarmed. “Where are the remainder of your tools?”

“Are the women coming out soon?” Rod was beginning to feel anxious. What sort of a plumbing operation was this? He started swinging his wrench suggestively from hand to hand.

“The women are all upstairs. What are you talking about? Look, I have to attend to the service, are you going to be alright left on your own?”

“I’ve come to sort out your pipes,” Rod intoned with as much authority as he could muster. Gregory gave him a conflicted look before sweeping out of the room and closing the door. Rod stood there for several minutes, his demeanour interrupted by the escaping steam.

After another couple of minutes he carefully opened the door and peered out into the ancient corridors. He stepped out of the room and started making his way to where he thought the upstairs might be. Gregory the intimidating butler had mentioned something about women being there and Rod thought he may have been directed to the wrong room.

“Are you alright?” came a soft voice from behind. “You look like you’re lost.”

Rod wheeled round with the wrench and the owner of the voice jumped. He found himself faced by quite a strange-looking person. “I’m the plumber,” he explained abruptly. “Do you know where the women are?”

“Oh.” The person, clutching a stack of dirty plates, looked disappointed. “Yes, they’re upstairs.”

There was something about this individual Rod couldn’t quite put his finger on.

“If you go to the end of this corridor and make a left you’ll see a staircase to the banquet hall.”

“Are you a woman?” he asked. The young woman looked appalled. Rod’s question must have seemed quite offensive but to him she was unlike any woman he had ever encountered before. She didn’t have a hefty bosom for a start and her hair was scrunched back into a sort of ball.

“Yes I am,” she snapped, her sweet but slightly disproportionate features flushing with a silent fury. “I presume you’ve finished with me now?”

“Yes,” replied Rod, oblivious. The young plate carrier hurried past him and into the subterranean gloom.

Rod found the narrow stone staircase and made his way up into the banquet hall. This was a space like a varnished aircraft hanger, a mighty chandelier dangling several feet above the visitors’ heads. However, Rod’s attention was entirely taken up by the orgy that was taking place in the majority of the room.

It worked its way out across a seething glut of nakedness, flesh colliding into itself like blood cells along a test tube. Rod took all this in, staggered back into the staircase and was violently sick. This may have seemed like a weird way for a pornography star to behave, but Rod was from the softest end of the market, so to speak. The closest he’d gotten to actual brass tacks was thrashing around a bit with a comely co-star.  One afternoon his fellow performer Sandra Plume had invited him back to her flat, supposedly on the proviso of coffee, but this had turned into something a lot darker and Rod had fled. Confronted with the trembling mechanics of the pursuit en masse led Rod to palpitate and sweat. He dropped his wrench and stumbled back down the steps.

As he steadied himself against the masonry he was approached again by the young woman whose biology he had called into question just moments earlier. As she fetched him a glass of water and helped him quell his giddying nerves, the woman, whose name was Kathy, saw through the layers of bravado to the sensitive soul beneath. Rod in turn found himself drawn to this mysterious feminine creature, who tended to him so carefully and who certainly wasn’t looking to get her pipes fixed.

Three short months later Rod and Kathy were married.  She found him a job drying the plates at the establishments where she worked and together they produced a beautiful baby boy, who they named Eddie.  Rod even turned down the offer to rejoin the pornography business when the Sexus 3000 broke down after having claret slung at it in the Ivy.

Yet despite a new-found feeling of contentment there was still something burning in Rod’s breast that he couldn’t ignore. He had seen the world outside of pornography and he found it overall a sad one. The faces of the men who dashed the plates into the soapy water for Kathy to wash and him to dry were perpetually miserable. The people around him were slaves to their wages and the more he learned to live without money the more Rod became convinced that money was the currency of the terminally depressed.

He gathered together all the prominent pornography stars whose noses had been put out of joint by the mechanization of the industry. They decided to form a party, the Rod Party, who put forward a proposal that Britain should be driven entirely by love, not cash. The country took to Rod’s cause and at the next General Election he was swept to power as Prime Minister. He immediately assuaged a war between America and Russia by shutting their Presidents in a honeymoon suite with some champagne and luxury chocolates. The men emerged several hours later flushed and determined to reconcile their differences.

Intercourse rapidly inherited the mantle of exchange from the banking sector, which led to trade becoming a lot more pleasurable, though Christmas was still a stressful time.

So from losing his livelihood, to finding love, right through to discovering the meaning of life again, Rod Lord, former pornography star, ended up becoming the greatest force for change his country ever produced.