Small gray paws scratch against the door, hopeful yips giving way to a low whine. Harrison Ford, sipping coffee at his dining room table, doesn’t budge. “That’s Webster,” says Ford, barefoot in blue Wranglers after an early-morning tennis game. “We tolerate each other. Calista rescued him from a Dumpster when he was a pup. He’s 15 and deaf as a post.” Behind the room’s other door, another little guy – Calista Flockhart’s 2 1/2-year-old son, Liam – excitedly proclaims from the kitchen, “Haaarrisson! Haaarrisson! Haaarrisson is working! Haaarrisson!” Ford doesn’t blink. These days he’s used to the din that fills his five-bedroom New England-style farmhouse in the Los Angeles hills. He’s used to the dog bowls in the laundry room. The baby monitor on the washing machine. The gigantic stuffed yellow duck propped beside his redbrick patio. And, for better or worse, he’s particularly used to one thing. “I’m good at changing diapers,” says Ford, a father of four and grandfather of two. “No sense letting that experience go to waste.” Besides, it’s all for a very good reason. A few days later, Ford says softly: “I’m in love.”
Such declaration of his feelings for Flockhart, 38, is a veritable sonnet from the taciturn Ford, 60, who has specialized in “no comments” since the When-Harry-Met-Ally headlines first trumpeted the match a year ago. “Romantic love is one of the most exciting and fulfilling kinds of love, and I think there’s a potential for it at any stage of your life,” says Ford, who was separated from his second wife, screenwriter Melissa Mathison, in 2001. (The two recently “settled everything amicably” and have only to sign the paperwork on their divorce, according to Mathison’s attorney.) “I was not surprised that I was able to fall in love, and I wasn’t surprised that I did. But I’m very grateful.”
So is Flockhart, who moved in with Ford earlier this year. As for their much-vaunted age difference, “it doesn’t faze me. Sometimes I even say, ‘Wow, I keep forgetting that he’s (22) years older than me.’ It doesn’t factor into our relationship at all.” What fills her thoughts instead: “I like the way he looks first thing in the morning,” she says. “It’s not handsome. It’s more cute. He looks like a little boy. You know how when you wake up in the morning and you’re kind of puffy and rumpled and you look kind of vulnerable? That’s what he looks like.”
Those who know the touchy-feely twosome – Flockhart can get Ford to giggle on cue with a quick tummy tickle – have watched the romance defy early it’ll-never-last chatter. “Harrison doesn’t approach anything about life frivolously,” says his friend Bernie Pollack, the costume designer on six of his films, including his new cop comedy Hollywood Homicide. “They’re two mature adults who have found something in each other, and there’s no question that they’re 100 percent committed. It’s funny for me going up to Harrison’s house now, where it was always quiet. Now I drive up and in the driveway there are 40,000 kids’ toys. There’s a whole different feeling to the house. You can just tell that Harrison is happy.” Lena Olin, Ford’s girlfriend in Homicide, sees the pair as well-matched: “They’re both very cool, creative people who go their own way,” she says. Ford’s magnetism is as strong as ever, she adds. “He’s an attractive, sexual guy at 60, and he’s okay with that – as opposed to someone who’s 60 and desperately tries to be 40.”
Still, with his pierced left earlobe, affection for the music of Blackalicious and Eminem (“It’s the originality, the wordcraft, the storytelling”), sculpted biceps and fleet of Harley-Davidsons, Ford isn’t your typical senior citizen. “There are a range of parts that are no longer reasonably available to me,” he says. “Audiences don’t want to see a 60-year-old man do things that Keanu Reeves could do.” But Hollywood’s all-time box office leader – he’s set to start shooting a fourth Indiana Jones film next summer – is ever game for action. “He’s out there jumping off buildings and jumping into cars and riding motorcycles – he scared the hell out of all of us on the set,” says Homicide screenwriter and former LAPD Det. Robert Souza. Especially when costar Josh Hartnett miscalculated during a car chase and plowed the pair’s convertible into a police cruiser, leaving Hartnett with a concussion and Ford with a pulled groin. “It wasn’t a bad injury,” says Ford, who has soldiered on through worse in his 40-film career (including a herniated disk from too many takes atop an elephant in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). “There are a lot of people depending on me,” he notes, “and paying me a lot of money.”
Ford’s $25 million asking price these days is a nice raise from the $150 a week he once made as a contract player for Columbia Pictures, which briefly made the Chicago native over as an Elvis Presley clone when he arrived in Hollywood in 1964. “I wasn’t very cooperative, and I can’t sing,” says Ford, who had dropped out of Wisconsin’s Ripon College and headed west in his Volkswagen bus with his new bride, college sweetheart Mary Marquardt. For almost 15 years Ford pocketed more working as a self-taught carpenter than as an actor. Then George Lucas, who directed Ford in 1973’s American Graffiti, cast him as Han Solo in 1977’s Star Wars. His career exploded?but his family life with Marquardt, now 60, and kids Ben (now 36 and an L.A. chef) and Willard (34 and an L.A. writer) had been suffering. He and Marquardt divorced in 1979. “I was young and impatient,” he says. “I wasn’t angry and frustrated with my marriage, I was angry and frustrated with my life.”
Ford seemed to strike a better balance with Mathison, now 53, whom he wed in 1983. Despite work demands, he spent long stretches with kids Malcolm, now 16, and Georgia, 12, at his 800-acre ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyo. and often took them on location. But once they started school in New York, “you can’t drag the kids along with you,” he says. “You make a choice to continue to work and to really sacrifice in our line of work, where you have to go away for a sustained period of time, and I was absent from the kids.”
Ford kept as private as ever, but some saw hints all was not well. During filming of What Lies Beneath in 1999, “he never said anything outright, but sometimes you could tell he was troubled,” says Pollack. In November 2000, Ford and Mathison announced their split. Despite a brief reconciliation, Mathison filed for legal separation nine months later.
This is an online excerpt of PEOPLE magazine’s cover package.
– SAMANTHA MILLER
– ELIZABETH LEONARD in Los Angeles