11/16/1998 at 01:00 AM EST
After watching him pilot that Millennium Falcon into millions of dreams, we figured Harrison Ford could handle anything. But at the photo shoot for our annual special issue on male magnetism, we found one thing he won't do: Fake a smile. "He agreed to one real smile for each roll of film," recalls photographer Michael O'Neill. "He said, 'If I do more, they'll look frozen.' "
Fortunately, our selection of Ford as this year's Sexiest Man Alive (page 79)—the 12th stunner so anointed—seemed to give the actor reason to grin. "Absurd," he said with a laugh. "I'm average and ordinary." PEOPLE special-issues photo editor Maddy Miller begs to differ: "He can really attract a crowd. Men like him, women like him. Everyone at the shoot—people who are used to meeting stars—they fluttered around him."
At the photo sessions for our "Fathers and Sons" story (page 124), the mood was more poignant. Watching Jimmy and Kino Smits thumb wrestle and Robert Urich tear up looking at son Ryan made photographer George Lange miss his own dad, who died this year. "I understand how close someone can be to his father," Lange says. "I was looking for that in these relationships, and I found it."
Authenticity was also key for photographer Richard Corman, who traveled to four cities to snap the striking black-and-white photos in our "Men @ Work" story (page 154). "In the end, we were able to capture a certain honesty," says Corman. "What you see is what you get." Which is, with all our sexy men, a very appealing package.