Costume Whips Ford Into Character

This photo released by Paramount Pictures shows actor Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in a scene from "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," due out May 22, 2008. (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, David James)
The hat. The jacket. The whip. That's all actor Harrison Ford needs to transform himself into cinema icon Indiana Jones.

"When you put it all on -- you know, you start looking around for Nazis or somebody doing some kind of evil," Ford told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith Friday, May 23, 2008, the day his latest adventure movie "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" opened in theaters.

"It's a very specific kit," Ford said. "It's not something you'd normally wake up and put on. But the character, it creates the character."

And what a character it is. Introduced 27 years ago in "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark," the intrepid archaeologist-adventurer has been shepherded by director Steven Spielberg through three previous cinematic adventures, ending with 1989's "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade."

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Now, after a 19-year hiatus, he is back on the big screen in one of the season's most anticipated summer films.

"It's all comfortable and familiar after 20 years," the 65-year-old actor, who pilots his own planes, told Smith, admitting that it took some training to get back into shape for the film.

"I worked myself up to it," Ford explained. "And it wasn't just, you know, for vanity's sake. It was because I wanted to be in the best possible shape to do all the kinds of stuff. And prevent injury.

"Because I killed myself on the first two," he added. Ford, known in Hollywood for doing most of his own stunts, suffered a back injury while making 1984's "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" severe enough to require surgery.

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Ford, the father of five and People magazine's 1998 "Sexiest Man Alive" told Smith he was struck by nostalgia when he was reunited on the set with actress Karen Allen, who played his love interest Marion Ravenwood in the earlier movies.

Of director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas and some of the other cast members, Ford said, "I see those guys over the years. We don't hang out that much, but we see each other frequently. But Karen brought back a lot of nostalgia.

"I saw her on the streets of New York once and I saw her one other time. And I haven't seen her since then. She's great. And she's back."

But the real test of Indy's mettle, Ford says, is Oscar winner Cate Blanchett in a new role as a black-bobbed villainous Russian agent.

"Cate Blanchett is the baddie," Ford said. "And the measure of Indiana Jones is always what he comes up against. And she's formidable."

Of Oscar winner Blanchett, Ford says, "She's a terrific actress. The character is so strong and indelible. It just leaps right off the page. She's great."