As the Cannes Film Festival crowd applauded enthusiastically, a visibly emotional Harrison Ford stood onstage, trying to control his emotions.
The warmth of the audience and a video that had just been shown had left Ford shaken.
“They say that when you are about to die, you see your life flash before your eyes,” he said. “And I just watched my life flash before my eyes, a big part of my life, but not my whole life.”
If last year’s Cannes was partly defined by its homage to “Top Gun Maverick” star Tom Cruise, this year it has belonged to Ford.
But this time, it has been much more moving. Ford, 80, says goodbye to the role of Indiana Jones, saying goodbye to the iconic intrepid archaeologist more than 40 years after his debut, complete with hat, whip and a modest phobia of snakes.
It’s been one last emotional tour, especially for Ford, who has cried frequently. In a chat with reporters on Friday, Ford was asked: Why give up Indy now?
“Isn’t it obvious?” he replied with a characteristically shy smile. “I need to sit down and rest a bit. I love working and I love this character. And I love what it brought into my life. This is all I can say.”
“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” the fifth Indiana Jones film, opened Thursday night in Cannes, adding an emotional twist to the franchise that began with “Raiders.” of the Lost Ark” from 1981. Although that film and the next three were directed by Steven Spielberg from a story by George Lucas, the final chapter featuring Ford is directed and co-written by James Mangold, the filmmaker of “Ford vs. Ferrari” (“Against the impossible”).
The gala, one of the most sought after in Cannes this year, also included the awarding of an honorary Palme d’Or to Ford. The next day, Ford was still struggling to express the experience of the last installment of him as Indiana Jones.
“It was indescribable. I can’t even tell you,” Ford said. “It’s just extraordinary to see a kind of relic of your life as it passes by.”
Following the disappointment of 2008’s little-loved “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull,” possibilities for a fifth film lingered for years and went through many iterations. Ford said that he intended to see a different, less youthful version of Jones. “Dial of Destiny” is set in the 1960s and finds Indiana as a retired professor whose exploits from long ago don’t seem so special anymore in the age of space exploration.
“I wanted to see the weight of life on him. I wanted to see it require reinvention and support. And I wanted him to have a relationship that wasn’t a sexy movie relationship,” said Ford, who stars in the film with Phoebe Waller-Bridge. “I wanted an equal relationship.”
Ford is clearly deeply pleased with the film. He praised his co-stars and Mangold, who he said did more than “fill the shoes that Steven left us.”
“Everything has come together to support me in my old age,” Ford said with a wry smile.
The film opens with an extended sequence set in the last days of World War II. In those scenes, Ford has been rejuvenated with visual effects to appear much younger. Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy said the company will not use a Ford built with artificial intelligence in the future. Ford called employing a younger version of him “skillful and very well cared for,” and it didn’t make him jealous.
“I don’t look back and say I wish I was that guy. I’m very happy with the age,” Ford said. Then he added, with a rudeness, that things could be worse. “I could be dead.”
Ford is not retiring from acting. He has two ongoing television series (“Shrinking,” “1923”) and he said he remains committed to working.
“My luck has been to work with incredibly talented people and find my way through this crowd of geniuses and not get my ass kicked,” Ford said. “And apparently I still have the opportunity to work and I want that. I need that in my life, that challenge.”
Ford, like Indiana, does not leave without his hat. He’s stuck with one, the actor said, but he values the experience of making the movies more. “Things are great, but it’s not about the stuff.”
Ford still turns heads. A reporter declared that the 80-year-old was “still handsome” and asked Ford, who appears briefly shirtless in the film, how he stays in shape. After a few laughs and some mention of his avid cycling, Ford responded with mock pomposity.
“I have been blessed with this body,” he replied. “Thanks for pointing it out”.