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Cowboys & Aliens just about lives up to its sweetly bonkers title. Harrison Ford (69) plays the grizzled old cattle baron Woodrow Dolarhyde, his wealth and status keeping the one-horse town of Absolution under his thumb until alien ships come screaming down, lassoing the natives . . . .

What was Harrison Ford's grip on this juicy hybrid when it was first presented to him?

"Well, I didn't know what the intention was from the title," he says. "Whether it was going to be a jokey kind of thing, or . . . What I came to understand from the director is that he wanted to make a serious Western, of which the aliens were an element, and that seemed an original idea. There was a character that I wanted to play, there were people involved that I respected, as far as their work is concerned, so, I was happy to become involved."

It must be on promotional tours like this when Ford questions how he spends his time. After all, he's got a young(ish) wife at home (the 46-year-old Calista Flockhart, the two having married last June in Santa Fe, during the Cowboys & Aliens shoot), and a 10-year-old adopted son, Liam, Ford's fifth child. Then again, battling aliens in strange locations is nothing new to this old hand.

"It's not my first rodeo. Movies are made in little chunks of work, whether a guy has got a ping pong ball on his head -- later to become an alien -- or whatever, there's a specific task at hand, and the process has always intrigued me. Still does."

Ford has been busy lately, popping over to the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award. It's pretty ridiculous that the man who starred in such movies as American Graffiti, Blade Runner, Mosquito Coast, Witness, The Fugitive and the Star Wars and Indiana Jones outings has never been given an Oscar.

Perhaps he isn't up for all the shaking babies and kissing hands of an Oscar campaign? Or does he feel no great need for an Oscar?

"Well, that's an either/or question," he says, "and I can't pick one or the other. I'm not losing any sleep over it. Work is what appeals to me. I like to make movies."

When I spoke with Ford last year, we didn't have time to talk about his father, Christopher, who, yep, has Irish blood. Real name John William Ford, did Harrison's dad ever speak about where those Irish roots came were?

"No," he says. "My father lost his father quite early, and I don't think he knows much about his family history."

You could be related to the great filmmaker John Ford. You could even own a castle on a beautiful river. . .

"Nice. I really should look into it then. And being related to John Ford? Yeah, I could certainly live with that."

Cowboys & Aliens is released in cinemas today. Read George Byrne's verdict, page 37