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Harrison Ford: Hollywood Hero

From on-screen heroics to real-life rescues, the legendary actor's work is never done

Harrison Ford walking in the desert

"I love acting probably more than I did before," says Harrison Ford (above). — Photo by Timothy White

On the set, Ford regaled the cast — including Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, and Olivia Wilde — with his war stories. Despite assorted orthopedic issues from a career's worth of running, jumping, and falling down, he rode as hard as anyone. "Harrison was in better shape than any of us," says Wilde. "He's ripped."

In his personal life, say Ford's friends, he's never seemed happier. Last year he married actress Calista Flockhart, 46, his sweetheart of 10 years. Together they are raising her 10-year-old son, Liam. "Yeah, I'm his dad," says Ford with obvious affection. Though he would rather live in Wyoming, domesticity and parenthood have grounded him in Los Angeles, where Flockhart appears in the television series Brothers & Sisters and Liam is enrolled in school.

Ford's stable home life allows him to satisfy his need for adventure more than ever. In 1995 he fulfilled a lifelong dream of earning his pilot's license. "I wanted to see whether I could learn something new," he says, "especially something really challenging on a technical level that requires hands-on skills." He completed rigorous training for both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, and has logged some 4,500 hours in the air. Today his fleet includes a chopper, a 1929 open-cockpit plane, and a transatlantic jet. Ford flies himself to movie locations, transports his family on vacations, and has made many transatlantic flights. "Flying absolutely reinvented my life," he says. As a pilot he can reclaim a measure of privacy, escaping the paparazzi who hound celebrities in public airports. Piloting also allows him to sidestep special treatment — the aspect of fame he most dislikes. "When I'm flying, I've got to do it according to the rules, just like everybody else," he says. "I'm not cut any slack for any other reason. I'm just another pilot. I love it."

And aviation has opened up a world far from the insularity of Hollywood. Ford has been active with Young Eagles (an organization that exposes children to the magic of flight), giving hundreds of kids rides in his planes. He also embarks on rescue and humanitarian missions. In 2000, as a member of Wyoming's Teton County Search and Rescue Volunteers, he saved a dehydrated hiker stranded in the mountains; the young woman was stunned when Indiana Jones swooped down in his Bell 407 helicopter. The following year Ford rescued a 13-year-old Boy Scout who had wandered off a trail and spent a rainy night lost in the wilderness near Yellowstone National Park. Though the boy didn't get Ford's autograph, he told his friends he got something better: a hug. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Ford flew doctors and supplies to the remote town of Hinche, buzzing the airstrip to clear it of goats and chickens before circling back to land. Rather than tour devastated areas trailed by news crews, Ford kept a low profile. "It was a small contribution," he says.

Next: On being a father (and a grandfather). >>

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