The Ford was with us at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday, as 3,000 rabid Star Wars fans gathered for a glimpse of the great man.
The 73-year-old Hollywood legend walked the red carpet and mingled with fans at the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Fan Event, which transformed the Opera House Forecourt into a galactic menagerie worthy of the Mos Eisley Cantina.
The fans, many wearing homemade costumes and brandishing collectibles that they hoped to have signed by their hero, spent the day enjoying Star Wars-themed beats mixed by a DJ in a Stormtrooper helmet, fan challenges hosted by the affable Jay Laga’aia, and ‘activations’ and presentations from the likes of Optus, Google and robot toy manufacturer Sphero, who brought a life-size, working model of break-out Star Wars: The Force Awakens droid BB-8 out on stage.
Everybody in attendance, however, knew that this was mere window dressing until Han Solo himself arrived on the scene.
Ford spent almost half an hour greeting starstruck fans, posing for pictures and signing autographs, before engaging in a lively Q&A with Laga’aia on stage.
“I never anticipated coming back thirty years later to do another [Star Wars film],” he said, before explaining that it was his relationship with writer and director JJ Abrams that drew him back to the franchise.
“I thought the script was good, and JJ Abrams is a director that I have long admired and known. I did a movie with him [1991’s Regarding Henry] about 25 years ago. And I was convinced there was an audience for it, and here they are, so I was glad to come back.”
Ford laughed off Laga’aia’s suggestion that Australia is “the Tatooine of the world”, and insisted that he was happy to be here to promote the film.
“I love this place, I wish I had more time to see more of it,” he said. “But [Australia is] also an important film-going public. It’s important to the success of the film to get out here and beat the drum and meet folks and talk about the movie, so I’m glad to do that.”
Ford said he puts the continued success of the franchise down to the relatable human stories at its core.
“A lot has been written, and people have spent a lot of time trying to figure out or explain the attraction of these stories,” he told Laga’aia, who has himself appeared in two Star Wars films (2002′s Attack of the Clones and 2005′s Revenge of the Sith).
“I think, basically, it’s because they’re stories about growing up, independence, responsibility, loyalty, doing the right thing. It’s a hero’s journey. It’s also a context where the inspired imagination of George Lucas brings you to places you might not have imagined on your own… it’s a really satisfying movie experience.”
Ford, who confirmed his next job will be director Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner sequel, said he doesn’t consider himself an action hero, despite starring in so many iconic action films.
“I consider myself an assistant storyteller,” the humble superstar said. “Whatever the story, I’m pleased to have the job.”
Hours before Ford appeared on stage at the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Fan Event, he gave a smaller group of fans and media an even bigger thrill, appearing unannounced at a preview screening of footage from the film at Darling Harbour’s IMAX Theatre.
At the conclusion of 10 breakneck minutes of footage from the notoriously secretive film, Ford stood up out of his seat. As if by magic, a spotlight hit the actor, who promised the audience that there was plenty more where that came from, and asked us to keep our lips sealed.
“Let’s make a deal — don’t tell your friends what you’ve seen here today.”
What did we see in those 10 minutes? Well, I can’t tell you. I made a promise to Han Solo.
But I will say this — an IMAX theatre full of Star Wars fans was so engrossed by what we were seeing on screen that none of us noticed Harrison Ford stroll in and take a seat.
That says it all, doesn’t it?