Harrison Ford’s face and form have graced movie screens around the world for decades. And with such an expanded view of his physical features, many have noticed something about him. Indeed, the actor has a very noticeable scar that he flaunts both on screen and off. It’s so prominent, in fact, that some even consider it to be his trademark.
Of course, Ford has starred in a slew of movies that required him to play a daring hero. As a result, it makes sense that he might get bumped and bruised doing his job. It’s no surprise, then, that the actor has multiple stories about his on-set injuries. And he got them while filming everything from the Indiana Jones series to Star Wars and The Fugitive.
But Ford’s most noticeable scar didn’t come from a movie set, nor did it come from any of his highly publicized accidents from his hobby of flying planes. Instead, the action hero got this gash long before he became a Hollywood superstar. Don’t let that fool you, though. The way he earned the scar was still scary and painful.
Ford’s legendary acting career began back in 1964, the same year that he earned the trademark scar. It would be nearly a decade, however, before movie-stardom beckoned. In fact, the future star had momentarily quit chasing his on-screen dreams to work as a carpenter, having become dissatisfied with his artistic opportunities.
All of that changed in the early 1970s, though, when producer and casting director Fred Roos connected Ford with director George Lucas. Roos made sure the future action star got an audition for Lucas’s 1973 movie American Graffiti. He won the role and it marked the start of a long-lasting creative relationship between Ford and Lucas.
Of course, this relationship would result in Ford’s leading role in one of the world’s most beloved and lucrative franchises, Star Wars. The film cemented the actor’s status as a Hollywood heavyweight, playing the role of Han Solo in four franchise installments. And one of the films in the series even made reference to the star’s scar.
The movie, 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, explored the origins of Ford’s character. Even before the movie’s release, speculation was rife. Indeed, fans wondered if it would explain how Solo had earned the prominent facial scar, so clearly visible in the earlier films. And the flick’s teaser images even featured Alden Ehrenreich, playing Solo in the prequel, with a gash matching his predecessor’s.
Despite all that speculation, though, the movie never did explain how Solo got the scar that would remain throughout the series. In some of Ford’s other films, though, the wound does have its own fictional backstory. And one of them comes from another Ford-Lucas collaboration – the Indiana Jones series.
For the Indiana Jones movies, Lucas teamed up with director Steven Spielberg, who already had Ford in mind to play the titular character. Lucas, however, felt hesitant at first, as the pair had already made Star Wars and American Graffiti together. He wanted actor Tom Selleck, perhaps better known as the original Magnum, P.I., for the part instead.
But Selleck couldn’t take on the part, so Ford landed the lead role in Indiana Jones. As a result, he starred in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984. Then, in the 1989 installment, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, we find out just how the archaeologist got his scar.
In the scene, actor River Phoenix plays a young Jones as he battles against a team of grave robbers. They fight atop a moving circus train before he falls through the roof and into a compartment. As soon as the young man hits the floor, though, he realizes he’s in trouble. He’s landed in the carriage carrying the circus lion.
As Jones stands up and backs away from the roaring lion, he sees a handy tool hanging beside him – a whip. Fans of the franchise will know that the bullwhip becomes one of the character’s most iconic accessories. But, in this scene, he clearly has yet to learn how to properly use one.
With little time to waste, Jones grabs the whip from the wall and convincingly cracks it to warn off the lion. However, it quickly becomes clear he didn’t do it quite right. He reaches up and touches his chin just as blood starts to pour from an open gash… And it’s precisely where Ford has his real-life scar.
But Indiana Jones isn’t the only movie to feature the actor’s scar. Indeed, it also made its way into 1988’s Working Girl, a romantic comedy in which Ford starred opposite Melanie Griffith. In the film, Griffith’s character works as a secretary with great business ideas. When her boss steals one and claims it, however, she decides to take charge.
For Ford’s part as business executive Jack Trainer, he had yet another fictional story to explain his scar. At first, Trainer says it happened during a fight involving knives. Later, though, he tells the hilarious truth. The exec actually split his chin open by hitting it on a toilet after fainting while having his ear pierced.
The actual story behind Ford’s scar, however, differs greatly from both tales told on screen. And it joins a slew of other tales about how the actor has injured himself or gotten sick throughout his career. In fact, there are several well-known mishaps, both on set and in his personal life, that have caused damage, too.
For instance, on the set of the first Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ford arrived on set with a serious illness – dysentery. The inflammatory disease affects the intestines and colon, causing severe pain in the abdomen, as well as diarrhea. As such, the actor explained via Reddit, he could only leave his trailer for “ten minutes at a time.”
But that left Ford with another problem. Indeed, he had to film an epic fight scene for the film on the same day that dysentery struck. “It was meant to be the ultimate duel between sword and whip,” the actor explained. In realizing that it could take up to three days to film the scene, though, he decided to try and get out of it by talking to his director, Spielberg.
When Ford asked if they could just film the scene in one day, Spielberg replied, “I was thinking that as well.” The sword-wielding actor, however, had no idea that the pair planned to cut the fight scene short. So, he whipped out his weapon and prepared for battle… And the action star pulled out a faux gun, shot him and ended the scene. That moment of illness-inspired brevity then became one of the most iconic moments in the film.
Then, on the set of The Fugitive, Ford found himself in pain once again. This time, though, the actor had torn some ligaments in his leg. He had to finish filming, however, before he could have surgery to fix this injury. So, he played his character in the movie with the real-life limp he temporarily had.
And while sporting the archaeological hat and whip for a third time in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Ford’s injury curse struck again. On this occasion, though, he hurt his back while riding elephants, he told Empire magazine. The actor was in so much pain, in fact, that between takes, Lucas found him laid out on a gurney. And, during one fight scene, the action star couldn’t help but cry out in pain from his real-life trauma.
Lucas knew then that production couldn’t go on with Ford in such a state. As a result, the series creator even considered shutting the entire shoot down. They instead got the actor’s stuntman to take over so he could return to America. There, the star received medical treatment for a pair of ruptured disks in his spine.
In June of 2014, though, Ford faced an even more terrifying injury. This incident occurred while the actor was filming Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where he once again reprised the role of Han Solo. The actor wandered on to what he believed was an inactive set… And instantly found himself in a life-or-death situation.
Ford then described the incident while on The Jonathan Ross Show more than a year later. He said it had happened aboard the Millennium Falcon, his character’s starship in the movies. In the original films, the actor explained, the vessel’s door opened simply by way of a hand-operated pulley system.
By the time The Force Awakens came around, however, the Star Wars franchise had a much more sizable budget. Ford said, “Now we had lots of money and technology and so they built a f****** hydraulic door which closed at light speed.” Someone, it seems, then initiated the door mechanism as the action star walked on set.
Ford went on, “The door came down and hit me on my left hip because I was turned to my right. Then it flung my left leg up and dislocated my ankle. As it drove me down to the floor, my legs slapped on the ramp up to the Millennium Falcon and broke both bones in my left leg.”
The heavy door – comparable in weight to a small car – could have crushed Ford. Fortunately, though, first responders airlifted the actor to a hospital and he survived the ordeal. He was even able to recover in time to complete filming for the flick, a feat that director J.J. Abrams said “bonded” the movie’s cast and crew, according to The Guardian.
Even outside of Ford’s job, he has found himself in dangerous situations, thanks to a clear interest in aviation. For example, in 1999, the actor signed up for helicopter flight training. As he and his instructor practiced rotations in the aircraft, something went wrong. But the action star somehow successfully crash-landed the helicopter. Unbelievably, both he and his teacher walked away unscathed.
A year later, Ford had another scary in-flight experience. This time, he sat in the cockpit of a Beechcraft Bonanza, a type of six-seater plane that has been in continuous production since 1947. When sharp wind shears began exerting force on his aircraft, the actor had to land unexpectedly at a Nebraska airport. And although the plane tapped the runway during its landing, no one was hurt.
And a 2015 flight in a vintage aircraft would be even more harrowing for Ford. Just after taking off in his World War II-era airplane, he called in an engine failure to air-traffic control. And although the actor requested a return to the Santa Monica Airport, he ended up crash-landing his plane on a nearby golf course.
In a statement, Ford’s publicist, Ina Treciokas, told USA Today, “He was banged up and is in the hospital receiving medical care. The injuries sustained are not life-threatening and he is expected to make a full recovery.” And as the actor did just that, many people lauded his efforts to land the plane in a sparsely populated location.
In 2017, Ford once again diverted his plane before causing an accident, although this particular incident could have been his own fault. Air-traffic control confirmed to the actor the runway on which he should land. Instead, he landed on a taxiway, coming awfully close to a jet preparing for take-off. As always, though, he avoided a bigger incident with a quick maneuver.
More than half a century before that, though, one accident would leave Ford with a lasting reminder of an injury he sustained – the eye-catching scar across his chin. It happened in 1964 after the actor moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of his Hollywood career. Of course, he hadn’t quite made it big yet, so he had another job.
Ford told The Guardian, “It was stupid. I was on my way to work in the knickknack and oil painting department of Bullock’s department store. I was on this twisty Laurel Canyon road when I realized I had my seat belt off.” In that particular car, the seat belt hung from a peg, making it hard for the actor to simply grab it and put it on.
The star went on, “I was fumbling to get it off the peg [and] I ran off the road.” Yup, Ford drove his vehicle off the blacktop, “hit a kerb, went up on two wheels and crashed into a telephone pole.” He then flew through the windshield, hitting his chin on the steering wheel on the way out. And, from then on, he had a scar on his chin.
During that same interview, Ford rejected the notion that he was a hero for sustaining such painful injuries both on and off the job. “I’ve got war wounds. But they are all athletic or stupid, not because of a heroic willingness to endure pain or take risks,” the actor admitted.
“Heroes are people who rush into burning buildings, who throw themselves on a grenade, who save starving people, who selflessly devote themselves to others,” Ford went on. He never wanted to be a hero, he concluded. “I’ve never had lofty goals – I just do the best job I can,” the actor said.
And yet, Ford has found himself consistently playing the hero on screen, often hurting himself while portraying characters with gravitas. In his analysis of those roles, the actor explained why they’re often so successful. He said he realized that heroes have to be both humble and vulnerable in order to be believable.
Ford said, “If the person you play behaves heroically, they also have to have humility and vulnerability and be deep enough in it to have to save themselves. That’s a character I prefer to play, a guy who’s in over his head, who survives because of his tenacity, or his wit or his dumb luck.”
In that sense, some might say that Ford’s own slew of injuries – and the scars he carries from them – prove that he, too, has a bit of luck. Clearly, that luck extends to his long-standing Hollywood career, because, at 76 years old, he’s still starring in films. And that includes another installment of Indiana Jones, set to hit theaters in 2021.