By 1981, he was starring as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. For a while, Ford was one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood, commanding a $20 million pay packet in a succession of blockbuster hits, including Blade Runner, Witness, Patriot Games, Working Girl, The Fugitive and What Lies Beneath. He’s still working – Ford has cranked out six movies over the past two years alone.
And yet he seems a reluctant star.
“I never thought of myself as having potential as a leading man,” he says. “I wanted to hide, to be somebody else, to live somebody else’s life.”
In fact, he wanted Lucas to kill off Han Solo at the end of Return of the Jedi (1983) because he was “exhausted” by “the wise-cracking, cynical nature of the character”. He thought Solo’s death would “deepen the emotional context”.
But he must be pleased Lucas let Solo live, especially now he’s reprising the role in one of the biggest cinematic releases of the year?
“I’m relieved to know that I have the opportunity to visit the character again,” he replies with no enthusiasm. He says it was the opportunity to work with JJ Abrams that drew him back into the fold: “I loved the script. I loved the director.”
How did it feel getting back into the costume?
“It fit.” Silence.
He seems resolutely determined not to acknowledge that his return after a 32-year absence is kind of a big deal. The Force Awakens sees him reunited with original cast members Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker).
I say that I’ve read a piece about the making of the film, which included an interview with the president of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy. She recalled that the moment Ford, dressed as Solo, walked on board the Millennium Falcon with Chewbacca, the entire set fell silent.
“It’s supposed to,” Ford responds. “We’re recording sound.”
He doesn’t feel sentimental about the past and spits out the word “nostalgia” as if describing an unpleasant disease.
I press blindly on, trying to elicit some sort of response that isn’t a scowling monosyllabic put-down. John Boyega, one of the younger actors on set, brought in Han Solo merchandise for Ford to sign. How does something like that make him feel? “It doesn’t make me feel… It’s strangely unremarkable. Does that seem indifferent? I’m not indifferent. I’m just a bit inured by age. And callous.”
Has he ever thought about what makes Star Wars so enduringly popular? “That’s for you guys to do.”
Does he think he’s a good actor? “Good enough.”
Was he a good carpenter? “Good enough.”
I move on. Maybe he just doesn’t want to talk about Star Wars. Or carpentry. So I try a series of different tacks. I attempt the softly-softly approach, asking unthreatening questions about things he might like. He has been on narrow-boating holidays in North Wales with his wife, actress Calista Flockhart, and their teenage son. Does he have a particular love for the area?
What about flying? He’s a private pilot of both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. In March, his plane suffered engine failure and he made an emergency landing, ending up in hospital with a broken pelvis and ankle. He doesn’t want to talk about this. Instead, he says what he loves about flying is the “amalgam of freedom and responsibility”.
Is there anything he would like for Christmas? “No.”
Is he difficult to buy for? “Yes and no.”
Does he think he’s good at buying presents for other people? “No. I tend to buy them what I like.”
I try asking him about broader issues. He’s a man in his 70s still getting lead roles in major Hollywood movies. Being married to an actress in her 50s, does he think there are fewer roles available for older women? “No good roles for women?” he scoffs, holding up a glossy magazine from the coffee table in front of him with Lupita Nyong’o on the cover. “Do you know who that is?”
I do – the Mexican-Kenyan actress co-stars in The Force Awakens – but I wasn’t saying there were no good roles for women. I was asking if it’s harder for women to age in this industry than men.
“Yeah probably,” he replies. “But I can’t make a useful assessment of the opportunities when there’s a Helen Mirren, you know, at large and active in the world.”
He blusters, he hesitates, he ums and ahs, he says he’s “not comfortable giving you generalisations” and then concludes: “You know, there’s an element of truth in what you’re saying, but I also think there’s opportunity.” When I ask about the fact he’s signed up to star in the sequel to the cult classic Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott, Ford curls his lip.
“It’s not a sequel,” he says. “It’s a continuation of the story.” Pause. “Is there a difference? I’m not sure.” I’m not sure either, I say. Presumably you’d be the expert. “I would be if I chose to be, but I’ve not chosen to be an expert on anything.” We wrap up the interview. As soon as the tape recorder is switched off, Ford becomes more relaxed and personable. He makes a joke about this being for Radio Times and having a face for radio. He says he’s happy with his life: “I have good friends, good family, wonderful experiences. I like my work.”
As for interviews? He could probably live without them.
Star Wars Episode VII: the Force Awakens is in cinemas from Thursday 17 December. Harrison Ford is Jonathan Ross’s guest on Saturday 19 December, 9.45pm ITV