07/03/1998 AT 12:00 AM EDT
Han Solo is going it solo. Harrison Ford, 58, and his wife, "E.T." screenwriter Melissa Mathison, 50, announced their separation yesterday after 17 years of marriage and two children, ages 13 and 10. (Ford also has two grown kids from a previous marriage.) "We have been living apart for the past month. We sincerely hope that we can work out our differences," the couple said in a statement released by Patricia McQueeney, Ford's manager for the past 30 years. "We would appreciate it if the media and the public would respect this as a very painful time for both of us and consider this a private matter henceforth." The announcement comes during the same week that the National Enquirer published a photo of Ford, who in 1998 was named PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive, cozying up over champagne in a New York club with "The Practice" actress Lara Flynn Boyle, 30. Two months ago, Boyle ended a year-long relationship with Jack Nicholson, 63. (She was then reportedly linked to Bruce Willis.) New York's tabloids, the Post and the Daily News, have also been keeping score on a reputed Ford-Boyle romance over the past month. McQueeney, however, specified that she released the statement to discount the Enquirer story, saying that Ford and Mathison had separated well before the photo surfaced. "There's just no third party involved," said McQueeney, "not another woman nor another man."