Harrison Ford Insisted On Doing One Of The Fugitive's Most Dangerous Stunts

"Star Wars." Indiana Jones. "Blade Runner." Jack Ryan. Harrison Ford has aligned himself with some of the greatest film franchises of all time. Many of his best-known characters are cool and confident — to the point of being cocksure, in the case of Han Solo. Even when these characters are in over their head, there's a self-possessed quality to them. Even so, Ford has only been nominated for an Academy Award once — in 1985 for Peter Weir's "Witness" — yet his best non-franchise role remains that of Dr. Richard Kimble in "The Fugitive."

"The Fugitive" did lead to a somewhat more forgettable spin-off called "U.S. Marshals," where Tommy Lee Jones reprised his Oscar-winning role as Deputy U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard. The first film, nominated for Best Picture, was even based on a 1960s television series, so technically, it is in a multimedia franchise and could even be considered part of a short-running film franchise.

For the purposes of Ford's career, however, "The Fugitive" was a one-off, which allowed him to display a bracing vulnerability as a man who has his whole life swept out from under him when he's forced to go on the run to prove his own innocence in his wife's murder. Released in the summer of 1993, "The Fugitive" is as engrossing now as it was then, thanks partly to memorable movie moments like the one where Ford's character leaps from a dam to escape Gerard, who just wants to catch him and isn't concerned with whether he's innocent or not (as evidenced by his famous line, "I don't care!")

No one really jumped from that dam — it was a dummy that went over the side — but Ford did appear in the establishing shot where Kimble looks over the edge, and that in and of itself was dangerous.

Ford looked over the edge and got in the water

In a previous post, we detailed how "The Fugitive" pulled off its dam jump, with a section of sewer pipe being trucked in on top of the dam and Ford being attached to a safety wire. Back in the summer of '93, The Los Angeles Times also took a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the dam jump. In doing so, it revealed that Ford himself "decided not to use a stunt double." He was there a few feet from the edge, looking right over the side of the dam, though of course the wire made him feel safer than he would have if he had been doing it without a harness.

Six dummies were used to film multiple takes of the actual jump, and since they were worth up to $12,000 each, this helped bring the cost of this one scene up to $2 million. The dummies were so busted up after the fall that it angered the owner who had rented them out to the production, since they were now no longer usable.

Down on the ground, Ford also went into the water for two takes, despite the fact that it was freezing. A couple of Navy SEALS acted as advisers, while another law enforcement official told Jones that a person who fell that far into 40-degree water in real life would have had "a one-in-a-million chance" of surviving.

"The Fugitive" is a one-in-a-million movie that turned out better than it had any right to be, considering its origins as a TV remake. In the intervening years, other movie stars like Tom Cruise have gained a reputation for doing their own death-defying stunts, but Ford's dedication to his craft in "The Fugitive" helped ensure the believability of a great action scene, and it remains an early model of a film where an actor flirted with peril under controlled conditions to deliver movie magic.