Even a cultural icon like Harrison Ford isn't too big to be generous.
Ford, who starred in the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" blockbusters, was in San Jose on Sunday to receive the Maverick Spirit Award from the Cinequest film festival. A group of diligent fans staked out the underground valet area at the Fairmont Hotel and encountered the superstar and his security detail as he was being shuttled over to the California Theatre.
At first, it seemed unlikely the 70-year-old star would oblige the fans pleading for autographs, but he surprised them, telling them to back up against the wall where they'd get one signature each. The fans lined up faster than you could say "Han shot first" -- and got their prizes.
MEET AND GREET: Ford was welcomed to Cinequest with a private reception at the California Theatre before the award presentation, with scrumptious bites provided by Tracy Lauth of Sunnyvale's Black Tie Desserts. The group that got to rub elbows with the star included Cinequest board members Ramune Ambrozaitis, Carlos Montalvo, Christine Storey and David Sobel, Fairmont Hotel General Manager Kelley Cosgrove and San Jose City Council members Sam Liccardo and Rose Herrera.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who later interviewed Ford on stage, arrived with her husband, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. Ford said he first met Jennifer Siebel Newsom when she was about "this high" as he served on the board of Conservation International with her father, investment manager Ken Siebel.
Ironically, Newsom -- with his slick-backed hair, million-dollar smile and open-necked shirt -- looked more like your typical Hollywood star than Ford, who was dressed in a slim-cut navy blue suit and tie with horn-rimmed spectacles.
By the way, this wasn't Ford's first visit to San Jose. He said he was here as part of a film crew doing a documentary on the Doors when they played the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in 1968.
REGARDING HARRISON: Of course, fans packed the 1,100-seat California Theatre for the award presentation and cheered at all the appropriate points during a montage retrospective of Ford's career. The cheers got louder when Ford walked onstage to receive the award from Cinequest co-founder and festival director Halfdan Hussey.
The ensuing interview with Siebel Newsom covered tales about how he wound up as Han Solo in "Star Wars," the amount of physical work he puts into his movies (a lot) and his role as Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers executive and owner who helped break baseball's color barrier, in next month's Jackie Robinson biopic, "42."
Ford said its a role unlike any he'd done and he had to fight for it because the director was looking more for a character actor than a movie star. "I persisted," Ford said in his grizzled voice. "I think it's an incredibly important American story."
Fans hoping for a clue about Ford's involvement with the upcoming "Star Wars" sequel went away empty-handed, though their ears must have pricked up when Ford mentioned "Episode VII" director J.J. Abrams. Ford made a point of saying the first script Abrams sold was for "Regarding Henry," the 1991 movie he did with director Mike Nichols.
Ford, who spent the night at the Fairmont, left for Atlanta on Monday to shoot a cameo for the "Anchorman" sequel.