Harrison Ford reprises his role as Indiana Jones in the upcoming movie ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,’ in theaters June 30
But truth be told, Ford didn’t set out to be a Hollywood superstar. Or famous at all.
“I never thought that I would be a leading man,” he tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “I really was just hoping I could make a living as an actor and not have to supplement my income with some other side hustle… I thought I would be lucky to have a character part on a regular TV show.”
Fate—and fans—had other plans, of course. Over an unparalleled five-decade career, the dry-witted Chicago native has carried films, including the epic Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, that have grossed nearly $10 billion worldwide.
And Ford, who turns 81 in July, has lost none of his love of the game. “I probably enjoy making movies more now than I ever did,” he says.
He acknowledges age takes its toll—he’s still recovering from tearing a shoulder muscle on the second day of shooting Indiana Jones—but he has no interest in turning back the clock. “I don’t want to be young again,” says Ford, who has been married to actress Calista Flockhart, 58, since 2010 and is a father of five. “I was young, and now I enjoy being old.”
He adds: “You are certainly physically diminished by age but there are wonderful things about age—richness of experience, the full weight of all the time you’ve been spending getting to being old— and there’s a certain ease in it for me.”
Not one to be nostalgic or flashy, Ford has long preferred to keep his head down, and just get to work. “No one ever believes this, but I never wanted to be rich and famous,” he says. “I just wanted to be an actor.”
These days Ford is busier than ever. He leapt into TV this year with two hit shows: Shrinking, on Apple TV+, and the Yellowstone prequel 1923 on Paramount+. He recently wrapped his first entry into the Marvel universe, Captain America: Brave New World: “I saw a lot of great actors having fun,” he says, “so I thought, ‘Hey, I want some of this!’”
But perhaps his most sentimental turn—at least for fans—is the reprisal of the swashbuckling Indiana Jones. “I wanted to see him rally for one last adventure,” he says.
At the film’s world premiere at Cannes, where Ford was honored with a Palme d’Or for lifetime achievement and received a rapturous reception, he did pause to take in the affection.
“I was just trying to keep myself composed,” he says. “There was very generous applause from the crowd [and] it was positive and humbling and nice.”
For that moment, and for all the support he’s received from fans over his still-thriving career, Ford is thankful. He says: “I am very gratified that I still have the opportunities that I have to work, and I owe that to the audience.”