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Only in Hollywood
Harrison Ford: I have 8 planes, 1 woman

By Ruben V. Nepales
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 16:53:00 03/07/2010

Filed Under: Celebrities, Cinema, Entertainment (general), planes

LOS ANGELES ? Actor-pilot Harrison Ford, asked in our recent interview about how many planes he has, answered with his trademark lopsided grin: ?I have one woman but I have eight aeroplanes. The planes have different purposes and the skills required to fly them are different in each case. I?ve always been interested in this continual process of learning and perfecting skills.?

Harrison, who can be terse at interviews, was in a good mood in this chat. When a colleague prefaced his question with, ?You play a cranky scientist in ?Extraordinary Measures? and a cranky TV news anchorman in ?Morning Glory,?? the actor with the gruff reputation playfully interrupted and quipped to laughter, ?Yeah, what about it? Are you getting to something? What?s your point??

That one woman in Harrison?s life is actress Calista Flockhart, of course. And today, Harrison, normally reticent about making comments on his personal life, was effusive in his praise of Calista. She has a 9-year-old adopted son, Liam, whom Harrison is helping raise. ?She?s a wonderful mother,? the actor said. ?She?s a brilliant actress. I?m always impressed by her work. She?s a wonderful companion and friend to me.?

Harrison has two children each from two previous marriages, to Mary Marquardt and ?E.T.? screenwriter Melissa Mathison. ?It?s delightful,? he said of seeing his progeny grow. ?It?s always a pleasure to watch them grow and blossom, and to be part of the nurturing of that experience. It invigorates your life. I?m delighted to be part of raising another kid. It means a lot to me to be a father.?

Cesar of Honor

Blessed with Liam and grandchildren, the 67-year-old screen legend joked, ?Yeah, I?m working on my third set now.?

At the time of this press con, Harrison was set to fly to Paris to receive a Cesar of Honor award (a lifetime achievement prize) in the French equivalent of the Oscars. ?I?m flattered,? he admitted, his famous craggy face again breaking into that smile which appears like a cross between a sneer and a smirk (a trait that has endeared him to millions of filmgoers around the world). ?I?m honored. I?m grateful that the French Academy is granting me this honor.? He cracked, ?At the same time, it?s a little embarrassing. It makes you realize you?re old.?

?And as Roman (Polanski) has demonstrated, it can be dangerous accepting awards these days,? he quipped, alluding to the arrest of Roman in Zurich last September at the request of US authorities. Roman was scheduled to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Zurich film festival. The director is now fighting extradition to the US where he faces sentencing on a 32-year-old sex case.

Asked if he has given word of support to Roman, Harrison replied, ?I have. Roman is a friend.? Pressed to say more, he said, ?I don?t say anything. I say he?s my friend and I support him as a friend.?

In the drama ?Extraordinary Measures,? Harrison plays Dr. Robert Stonehill, a maverick research scientist. Brendan Fraser (John Crowley ) and Keri Russell (Aileen Crowley) play a couple whose two children have Pompe?s disease, a fatal muscular disorder. Frustrated by the medical establishment, pharmaceutical executive John forms his own biotech company to discover a cure, with Dr. Stonehill?s help.

Emotional exercise

The emotional excitement of finding a cure, as shown in the movie, was based on Geeta Anand?s articles about the Crowleys in the Wall Street Journal and later in a book, ?The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million?And Bucked the Medical Establishment?in a Quest to Save His Children.?

?It was the emotional opportunity that this story presented,? Harrison stressed as the reason why he co-produced and starred in the film. ?To make a film that would engage an audience, give them emotional exercise but to be quite frank, I was also looking for material to develop for myself. We had about four different projects that we had in mind and this movie is the sole survivor. The reason that it survived is because it was the strongest of the litter. Its strength lies in its humanity, the need for human beings to tell each other stories of overcoming adversity, of prevailing against difficult circumstances.?

He added, ?I?m delighted that it can be done without blowing things up and killing people. No stuntman was employed in this movie. Yet the audience has a powerful experience. That?s worth demonstrating again that you can get to people with a simple human story.?

?What?s interesting about these guys is the process that they?re engaged in and what it takes for them to devote their lives to something that other people can?t see and don?t understand,? he said in praise of scientists who dedicate their lives to finding cures for diseases. ?But there?s great fellowship among scientists. That?s one of the things I discovered. We didn?t get an opportunity to demonstrate that because in the story, my character is a loner.?

He volunteered, ?I have contributed to various efforts to develop effective drugs and protocols for different diseases but it should be understood that the pharmaceutical industry is a business. It?s the job of the government to make sure its citizens are safeguarded in health. I don?t think this movie puts me in a position to become a crusader for medical research. I?m engaged in a number of issues that I feel strongly about and I?m interested in serving.?

?I have no particular interest in science except that I have always found surgery very fascinating,? Harrison remarked on whether he found resonance with his character?s scientific background. ?I love the idea of what it takes to be a good doctor but no more than that.?

?Fine with Biology?

When he was a student, Harrison recalled that he was ?fine with Biology. I had a real hard time with Physics. Perhaps I would have been a better student if I might have more easily understood the science involved. But it?s pretty basic when you come down to it.?

Incidentally, Harrison took his costar, Brendan, on a private flight on one of his planes. The screen legend also uses his planes for mercy missions. Harrison transported volunteers, including surgeons and nurses, as well as medical supplies to Haiti, which was hit by that strong quake last January.

At this stage in his life, what keeps him up at night? ?The things that I?m working on?thinking about solutions to a problem or the usual things,? he answered. ?We dream about those things that we feel we haven?t finished. In most cases, I don?t remember my dreams. I had a dream the other day in which Steven Spielberg appeared (laughter). That?s not a bad thing. Maybe I?m not finished with him.?

A female colleague asked Harrison if he could relate to her observation that while she?s happy at her age, when she looks in the mirror, she sees how she is maturing in looks. ?I?m going to take the mirrors out of my house,? he ribbed. ?No. Look, I?ve been very lucky to have a very fulfilling career. I still enjoy the work. I?m still challenged and engaged in the work. I want to continue to work as long as I can. I?m obviously going to play older people. That?s a new opportunity for me so I?ve got no problem at all with the process.?

Is there another ?Indiana Jones? movie coming up? ?If George (Lucas) is able to deliver a perfect idea (laughter), we?re all interested,? he said of the filmmaker who co-writes the blockbuster series? screenplays. Harrison was building cabinets for George who saw the actor potential in the carpenter. He cast Harrison in ?American Graffiti? and the rest, as the clich goes, is history.

Still a movie star

?George, Steven (Spielberg) and I are interested,? Harrison confirmed. ?George is actively doing his George thing up there (in Marin County, where Lucas is based). If the script turns out to be something we can all embrace, I?d love to do another one of those.?

Does he pause and reflect on the life he?s had so far? ?I don?t have that bent of mind to sit down and assess myself ever,? he explained. ?I?m glad that I?ve learned the things that I?ve learned. I don?t think I know anything completely yet. I?m actively engaged in learning because in aviation, you have to be learning all the time. That?s a good thing. We never stop growing. We never stop changing whether we know it or not. It would be better for me if I were more contemplative but I am not.?

Asked what he would like to be in his next life, Harrison flashed that cinematic grin one more time and said, ?In my next life, I think I?d like to be a movie star. It?s a really good job.?

E-mail the columnist at rvnepales_5585@yahoo.com.

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