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Harrison Ford's Extraordinary Measures

In his latest movie, the actor and producer brings to life the story of a father's quest to cure his children of Pompe disease.

Developing Enzyme Therapy continued...

Then came another blow. When Genzyme eventually developed a treatment for Pompe, his kids "were rejected to be part of the original drug trials because of conflict of interest," Ford says.

"That was more than frustrating," Crowley was quoted as saying in 2007. "Even though the FDA was comfortable with Megan and Patrick being part of the trial, the hospital's Internal Review Board rejected their application" because he was an executive of the company. "So I made it easy for them," he says. "I promptly quit my job." (Spoiler alert: In the film -- most likely for added dramatic tension -- he's fired.)

This third-act setback does lead to a happy ending, however. Free from Genzyme's constraints, Crowley's children received their first enzyme infusions in January 2003. While the stages of their illness were too far advanced to bring about complete recovery -- recent studies show infants receiving the therapy lead nearly normal lives -- both Crowley kids immediately improved. Megan's enlarged heart returned to its normal size within six months of getting that first dose. Patrick, too, gained strength.

Harrison Ford: Airplane Pilot

Seven years on, they are relatively healthy and, most important, alive. And they consider their father -- whose memoir about the experience, Chasing Miracles: The Crowley Family Journey of Strength, Hope, and Joy, is due out in January -- a true action hero.

Just don't call Ford that -- at least not to his face. The "action star" moniker, he thinks, comes from "my films that have made the most money. But [those who elevate him to such status] are not relating to my whole body of work." Even if Ford's biggest parts admittedly do involve light sabers, swords, or the occasional bullwhip, his protagonists are, without exception, "in way over their heads," he insists. He sees himself as a character actor who just happens to be a leading man. Extraordinary Measures included, he gravitates to plum roles that reveal "a path of development … I'm not a professional showoff. I'm a storyteller."

But if acting is all about taking action, look no further than to one of Hollywood's biggest icons. Ford has never rested on his Han Solo-Indiana Jones-Jack Ryan laurels. He challenges himself. Here at the Santa Monica Airport, he houses three of his own small planes and a helicopter.

"Around 14 years ago, I realized I hadn't learned anything new in a very long time," he says. "I wanted to learn how to fly: the skill of it all, the interface between responsibility and the freedom it grants you. It reinvented the world for me, and how I answer the question, 'What do you do?' Well, I now can say 'pilot.'"

These days, when Ford isn't busy searching for the next great script, he's hanging out in remote northern Idaho with his flying buddies.

"We set up a camp in one of these wilderness strips," he says, "and each day we break up into five or six flights and land in challenging places. It's beautiful, but it's about practicing, about what gets you safely up and down."

Ford also regularly flies between Los Angeles and his home in Jackson Hole, Wyo., one of several residences he shares with his fiancée, actor Calista Flockhart, and her son, Liam, 9. The actor also has four grown children -- Benjamin, Willard, Malcolm, and Georgia -- from two previous marriages.

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