LOS ANGELES: When speaking about “Star Wars,” there are few topics that inspire a twinkle in Harrison Ford’s eyes.
The 73-year-old actor is matter-of-fact about almost everything involving the sci-fi series’ latest episode — from his reunion with Carrie Fisher (“It was no big deal.”) to the franchise’s unwavering popularity (“For me, it’s old news.”).
However, when Ford brings up his new co-stars, he lights up like the Millennium Falcon charging through hyperspace.
“The new, young actors Daisy Ridley and John Boyaga were well cast, well directed and are huge talents,” he said, his gritty voice lifting, during a recent interview. “They come off really well in the movie. They carry the movie.”
After more than 30 years, Ford is reprising his role as smart-aleck smuggler Han Solo in director J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” out December 18.
The iconic character, who hasn’t been seen on screen since celebrating the fall of the Galactic Empire in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” serves as an unlikely mentor to scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), defector Finn (John Boyega) and pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) as they team up to take on masked adversary Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his minions.
While the film has been cloaked in an unparalleled level of secrecy, Ford guaranteed that fans can expect the same Solo they fell in love with from the original “Star Wars” trilogy. (Disney declined to screen “Force Awakens” for this story ahead of the Dec. 14 premiere).
“The shorthand is that he’s older and wiser, but his bones are the same,” Ford said. “He’s not selling real estate now. He’s the same guy — only with the passage of 30 years. While we do not sit down and describe what he’s been doing for those years, we do discover in the context of the story what the complications have been in his life.”
Ford, who infamously wanted George Lucas to kill off Solo in “Return of the Jedi,” had a “why not?” attitude about suiting back up as Solo. He wasn’t surprised by Disney’s Death Star-sized plan to revive the franchise after acquiring Lucasfilm in 2012 for more than $4 billion. The studio is planning to release a stand-alone film about a young Solo in 2018.
“If you make a huge investment in a product and it pays off, there’s wisdom in seeing whether the well has run dry,” Ford said. “If the well has run dry, (expletive) admit it and go on to something else. This well has not dried, especially when you introduce new discoveries, which Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver represent.”
Despite embodying the intergalactic scoundrel in three films, the “Indiana Jones” star didn’t feel the need to provide “Force Awakens” filmmakers with much insight into Solo, who is back alongside shaggy sidekick Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).
“They wanted to know if I didn’t like something, and we would talk about ways to fix it,” Ford said. “That’s what we do. It’s a collaborative process. There wasn’t much. (Lawrence) Kasdan was back. He was one of the writers from the original films. He has a keen understanding on how the beast works, so I think they produced a script that — in my mind — was very easy to work with.”
Once he was back in a galaxy far, far away, Ford’s reprisal was stopped short on the second day of production last year when a door on the Millennium Falcon set outside London fell on him. He broke his left leg and was grounded for months. The unexpected time off proved more frustrating than fruitful.
“I had been ready,” he said. “I didn’t have much to think about. I think it gave J.J. some more time to think about some of the scenes.”
After his work on the postponed production eventually wrapped up, Ford endured another mishap involving a flying machine. The aeronautical aficionado suffered several injuries when his vintage plane’s engine failed and crashed in Santa Monica, Calif.
The accidents haven’t stopped Ford from returning to the sky.
“Oh, (expletive) no, I fly all the time,” said Ford, with his eyes glowing again. “I want to spend more time flying. That’s what I want to do.”