The head of Lucasfilm and the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens have shared some insight into the legendary actor's return to the role that made him a star.
As part of its Star Wars coverage in its latest issue, EW has featured an article about Harrison Ford coming back to the franchise that kickstarted his career but from which he seemed to distance himself over the years.
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy recalled Ford's first day on the set last year, noting that even some of the veteran Pinewood Studios crew members, who have seen it all, were enthralled:
"The minute Harrison and Chewie walked on board the Millennium Falcon -- that was incredible. Every single person on the set was stunned. I remember turning around, and there must have been 200 people gathered behind me -- completely quiet. I didn’t even know they were there. The whole crew had stopped working, staring at the monitor, because it was so iconic."
Kennedy also acknowledged that coming back to the role was a "personal journey" for the famously curmudgeonly actor:
"Harrison was going through his own experience, finding that place for himself again, to return to something that had been so much a part of his identity and acting career. It was his own little personal journey, but once he got there, it was amazing. I mean, he was Han Solo again. That’s why everybody else got so quiet! They were like, 'Oh my God, he’s back!'"
Until he almost wasn't. J.J. Abrams addressed the accident last June in which a piece of the Millennium Falcon set fell and landed on Ford, breaking his leg:
"It was obviously a horrible experience that I wish had never happened for obvious reasons. But the truth is, once we knew that Harrison was going to be okay, we all realized this was this greatest gift to the movie, and I would think that any filmmaker would say, ‘If I could get a break after a month of shooting, for a few weeks, to recalibrate, I would take it.'"
Abrams - who literally ruptured his own back trying to lift the set off Ford and ended up wearing a brace for a while -- said that he and co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan used the time off to reshoot some scenes and rewrite others. They also did rewrites to allow Ford to sit down more, although they found out that wasn't necessary:
“When it became clear that he was going to be just fine, we realized we didn’t need to change that at all. In fact, there are some places where he’s more active than he was prior to the accident. As you’ll see in the movie, he is running and doing more physical activity in this movie than I think anyone who knows he was injured would expect. Nothing was adjusted or lessened because of that accident. Even for Harrison, who is famously resilient and strong, he blew everyone’s minds."
There's more in the EW article, including an account of Ford's emotional reunion with co-star Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), but my takeaway is this: Harrison Ford was already a legend before coming back for Star Wars: The Force Awakens; this last year has only made him more of one.
From his infectious, goosebump-inducing enthusiasm in the trailer to his clear affection for his castmates and the audience at Comic-Con last month to his unbelievable stamina at the age of 72 (don't forget, this man all but walked away from a plane crash in March as well), Ford has been amazing. Now all that's left is to see him as Han once again on the screen when Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens on December 18.