Harrison Ford Pushed Through 'Incomprehensible' Pain In Order To Finish Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom

Part of Harrison Ford's appeal as an action movie star is that his characters are constantly getting hurt, stumbling, panicking, or otherwise failing to keep up their facades of being rugged, unflappable badasses. This not only gives them richer personalities, it helps create tension and higher stakes, reminding those in the audience that Ford's heroes are anything but invulnerable, no matter how many times they stare death right in the eyes and live to tell the tale.

The actor's knack for this type of self-deprecatory humor has also played a vital role in endearing the masses to his portrayal of globetrotting adventurer Indiana Jones. This goes back to "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark," a movie that begins with Indy acting calm and cool in his fedora, only to quickly devolve into a bumbling mess the moment he sets off a booby trap in an ancient temple. It helps that Ford performs many of his own stunts when playing Indy, allowing the camera to get up close and capture his various reactions whenever things aren't going the character's way.

Only downside is, Ford handling his own stunts also means he's far more prone to getting badly injured while doing his job. And even when that's not the case, he's risked inflaming earlier injuries, like he did shooting 1984's "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." (To quote Indy himself: "It's not the years, honey. It's the mileage.")

Oh sure, Harrison, blame the elephants

Shortly before "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" hit theaters the United States in May 1984, Harrison Ford spoke to the New York Times about his experience making the film, describing his definition of stunts as "running, jumping, and falling down in a greater variety of ways than you ever believed possible." This was also where the actor revealed he had reactivated an older back injury when "Temple of Doom" was only two-thirds of the way done with shooting.

So, out of all the intense stunts Ford had to perform for the movie, be it Indy's scuffle with an assassin at Pankot Palace or his battle with Mola Ram upon a rope bridge, which was the one that did him in?

In true Harrison Ford fashion, the answer was ... he got hurt doing something far less impressive.

"Ultimately, I think it was [riding] the elephants that did me in,” Ford told the New York Times, referring to the portion of the movie where Indy and his associates Short Round and Willie Scott (played by Ke Huy Quan and Kate Capshaw, respectively) make their way through northern India riding elephants. The scenes took several days to film and were apparently not to the actor's liking. As he put it, "The only fun thing about riding elephants is the getting off.”

Not wanting to hold up production, Ford continued working in spite of his pain. As "Temple of Doom" co-writer and executive producer George Lucas recalled in an interview for John Baxter's 1999 book "Mythmaker: The Life and Work of George Lucas" (via Newsweek), "He [Ford] could barely stand up, yet he was there every day so shooting would not stop. He was in incomprehensible pain, but he was still trying to make it happen."

Eventually, though, filming paused so Ford could be flown to Los Angeles and undergo surgery for the ruptured disk in his back, prior to him returning to the "Temple of Doom" set a mere six weeks later.

Ford gets hurt making movies — like, a lot

As indicated earlier, "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is far from the only movie Harrison Ford has worked on that led to him suffering some serious stunt-related injuries. For example, he tore an ACL in one of his knees when landing gear from a plane ran over him during the filming of a scene in "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark," where Indy fights a brawny Nazi mechanic. He then tore an ACL again while shooting a scene where his character, Dr. Richard Kimble, flees through the woods in "The Fugitive," despite having a knee brace on for support. As if that wasn't enough, there was also the time a hydraulic door from the Millennium Falcon malfunctioned on the set of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," breaking one of Ford's legs while, reportedly, coming all-too-close to killing him on the spot.

Has any of this discouraged Ford from carrying out his own stunts?

It seems the answer is no, seeing as the actor suffered yet another injury — this time to his shoulder — shortly before his 79th birthday while shooting "Indiana Jones 5" in June 2021, only to find his way back onto the set a few months later.

Much like the heroes he's made a career out of playing, Ford has become quite the expert at falling flat on his face, taking a moment to dust himself off, and continuing to truck along like nothing happened.