Locarno fetes Harrison Ford

Star gets surprise Golden Leopard at 'Cowboys & Aliens' screening

Harrison Ford was honored on Saturday with a surprise Golden Leopard for lifetime achievement at the Locarno Film Festival, where, on the industry side, some early deals have closed.

Ford, fellow “Cowboys and Aliens” stars Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde and helmer Jon Favreau were helicoptered in from nearby Lugano for the European preem of Paramount/Universal Intl.’s genre mash-up, which unspooled at the Swiss fest’s open air Piazza Grande, despite light rain.

“Tonight is history for the festival, for me and for all of us,” saidLocarno a.d. Olivier Pere thanked Paramount and Universal Intl. “for trusting us with this film.”

After a warm ovation from the 7,000-strong aud, a visibly moved Ford said, “I’m very grateful for this. It reminds me of my enormous luck in my career to work with so many talented directors, actors, crew, writers, producers. And I appreciate the fact that I still have the opportunity from time to time to make movies.”

Locarno, which is dedicated to indie cinema, has gone more high-profile this year, which is also reflected in some early biz deals inked in the run-up to the fest and during its first few days.

• Gaul’s Urban Distribution Intl. picked up world rights for cult Japanese helmer-thesp Hitoshi Matsumoto’s samurai comedy “Scabbard Samurai,” which will unspool on the Piazza Grande on Friday.

• Gaul’s Wide Management picked up world sales on competition pics “Policeman,” about an Israeli anti-terrorism squad, helmed by first-timer Nadav Lapid, and Romanian helmer Anca Damian’s toon drama “The Path to Beyond,” about a real miscarriage of justice case.

• Italy’s Intramovies has taken international sales on competition title “Sette opere di misericordia,” a drama set amid Italy’s illegal immigrants, the feature debut of documakers the De Serio brothers.

• Vienna-based Autlook Filmsales picked up world rights on Swiss documaker Martin Witz’s “The Substance — Albert Hoffman’s LSD.”

• Italo helmer Stefano Savona’s “Tahrir, Liberation Square” will be distributed internationally by Italy’s Doc & Co.

Fest ends Saturday.

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