USA TODAY — Carrie Fisher calls it a real disturbance in the Force: That time the Millennium Falcon tried to eat Han Solo.
Harrison Ford’s second day of filming on the British set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (in theaters Friday) ended abruptly when a mishap involving a hydraulic door broke his left leg and injured his ankle.
But that was only one incident in the actor’s year of living dangerously — not even nine months later, Ford crashed his vintage single-engine plane on a golf course soon after taking off from Santa Monica Municipal Airport. The injury tally for that scary, headline-making accident: one dislocated right ankle, one shattered pelvis and one broken back.
The 73-year-old actor is fairly nonchalant. But Fisher (still the Leia to Ford’s Han Solo), who was elsewhere on the lot that day, recalls that “literally, the air was wrong. … And then you saw someone’s face. It was bad.”
Ford remembers what happened: “The door hit me at my waistline with enough speed and force so that, because I was turned to the right, my left leg extended to its fullest extent and the weight of my boot dislocated my ankle forward. And then when my leg slapped down because I was driven to the ground by the door, that’s when I broke both bones in my leg.”
The pain was pretty bad — “(Expletive), yeah, it hurt!” Ford exclaims — but the initial shock at least lessened it. He had the presence of mind to ask for his phone and call an aviator acquaintance who had worked for a medical helicopter service.
“I was more interested in getting a helicopter ride than being in an ambulance for two hours” of London traffic, Ford deadpans.
His Star Wars co-star Daisy Ridley still hasn’t talked to him about it. “It was really distressing,” she says. “Witnessing something when you’re going through it, it’s one thing. And seeing something (while) being kind of helpless is another.”
Ford’s return to the set two months later was a big day for everyone, says Force Awakens screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. “He was in an incredibly lovely place — supportive and excited. And to see him once again moving comfortably around the Falcon, that was emotional for me.”
Ridley adds that she felt a different, nicer atmosphere with him back. “To see someone recover like that … there was definitely an extra layer of respect and it was kind of awe-inspiring.”
Ford’s recovery from his plane crash is arguably even more impressive: He spent five weeks in the hospital and another five at home on bed rest. Itching to get back in the air — despite being told not to put weight on his leg for another five weeks — he flew his helicopter in a cast. (Mainly because he couldn’t comfortably climb into any of his planes.)
The accident “didn’t freak me out. I’ve been flying for 20 years and you always train for emergencies,” Ford says.
“I thought twice about putting my wife (Calista Flockhart) and family through the thought of me going out to fly. But I knew I was going to fly.”
The actor has signed for another Blade Runner with director Denis Villeneuve and he has talked about reprising Indiana Jones for a fifth adventure. Right now, though, Ford is still recovering from his injury — he can only play tennis once or twice a week instead of the usual five.
“I want to get back completely,” he says. “And I want to spend time with my family before I go back to work.”
Ford has lived to tell the tale of two bad situations, and no one is more impressed than Kasdan: “He’s an amazing person. He’s a real-life superhero.”