As 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.
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.
- 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.