During an appearance on The Graham Norton Show, to air on Friday, Ford knocked back assumptions that he is dead set to play Han Solo once again in JJ Abrams' upcoming Episode VII. "I've not quite made the choice," the Mirror quotes him as saying.
Of course, we don't know the context for Ford's comments. The wily old tease may have been mugging for the studio audience, lapping up the howls of disappointment that no doubt followed such a statement. But the 71-year-old action movie star said he would play Indiana Jones once again "in a New York minute". "I don't think there is any barrier to Indiana Jones being an old fart," he said. "I'm old enough that we don't need [Sean] Connery anymore – I'm old enough to play my own father."
Ford, who is currently promoting his role in the sci-fi movie Ender's Game, is also taking a role in the latest film in Sylvester Stallone's execrable Expendables series. All of which begs the question: what is so wrong with Star Wars?
A septuagenarian Solo might not be quite as quick with a blaster these days, but the reaction to rumours of Ford's potential involvement in the new Disney take on the long-running space opera has been universally positive. With Abrams having revived Star Trek's fortunes on the big screen (unless one asks hardcore Trekkies), most filmgoers are keenly anticipating a triptych of movies that could consign George Lucas's hapless prequel trilogy to a dustbin filled with the rotting remains of Jar Jar Binks and that guy with the cucumber-shaped forehead from Yoda's Jedi council.
Not Ford, though. Despite its launching him to fame and fortune, he remains unconvinced of the series' magnificence. Let's look at some of the comments attributed to the actor over the decades.
While promoting 1983's Return of the Jedi, Ford told an interviewer: "Three is enough for me. I was glad to see that costume for the last time." In 2010, he described the character as "not so interesting to me", adding: "I thought he should have died in the last one, just to give it some bottom." There is, of course, the famous and possibly apocryphal line, attributed to Ford while shooting the original films and aimed at Lucas: "George, you can type this shit, but you sure can't say it." (He may have had a point.)
Ford has been absent from Star Wars reunions in recent years, so it's clear that something is up. Over the decades, commentators have suggested the actor favours Indiana Jones because Han Solo is ostensibly a supporting character, and because Ford's career as a leading man did not really take off until Raiders of the Lost Ark, in 1981.
Here's the thing: audiences may want more Han Solo, but I don't know many people who really want to see Ford strap on the whip and fedora once again for another outing as everybody's favourite decrepit, swashbuckling archeology professor. At least, not after the mess Lucas and Steven Spielberg made of the CGI-ruined Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Abrams has the film-making guile to successfully resurrect favourite characters without letting them overwhelm the action, as he proved with Leonard Nimoy's wise and statesmanlike return as Spock Prime in 2009's Star Trek. Ford might not be as front and centre in Episode VII as he might be in another Indiana Jones film, but his role would be more meaningful than a glorified cameo. And critical commentary would not necessarily focus on his ability (or lack of) to perform acts of physical dexterity. It is, presumably, easier for a gentleman of advanced years to pilot a technologically advanced space freighter through an asteroid field than it might be for him to outpace giant rolling boulders and leap desperately out of the way of booby-trapped spears.
With luck, Ford is just joshing us, playing up the grumpy old space git persona he's carefully moulded for more than three decades. Waiting for the world to cheer him back into the hot seat. But there was little sign of the moody Ford when discussing Ender's Game this week. On Tuesday, he gushed over the movie's source novel by the controversial anti-gay American writer Orson Scott Card as a "very impressive act of imagination". Here again, Ford is in a supporting role, but happy to enthuse for the media. Not so with Star Wars.
Come on, Harrison: give the people what they want for once. There are myriad Star Wars characters best forgotten, but Han Solo is not one of them. Besides, we're betting you can still do the Kessel run in 12 parsecs if you put your mind to it.
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image: © Steve Jurvetson