Harrison Ford is certainly one of the all-time greats. From iconic roles such as Indiana Jones and Han Solo, this week marks the 74th birthday of this American icon. But it wasn’t always all sunshine and rainbows for this Hollywood star. Unlike some who grew up in the acting business, Ford’s career arc was fascinatingly different.
As we celebrate Ford’s birthday on July 13, I’d like to take some time to talk a little about his early years, prior to him becoming the movie star we all know and love. From action hero to dramatic roles, the man has proven time and time again that he can do it all. Let’s take a look back at a man who accidentally became a Hollywood powerhouse.
The Early Years
Ford grew up in the suburbs of Chicago with his parents Christopher and Dorothy. While in the Boy Scouts, Ford obtained the second highest-ranking honor called the Life Scout, and further developed as a Reptile Study Merit Badge Counselor at Scout Camps. Though Ford progressed relatively well in the Boy Scouts, he unfortunately struggled with the rest of his education.
Harrison encountered many hardships in school. While he did well in sports, he narrowly maintained a C average just to graduate. Ford did find success on his high school’s radio broadcasting team where he became a regular, but it was short-lived. Unfortunately, his rough times didn’t end there as he also had to deal with bullying. Bullying took a major toll on his life and continued to as he went to college to study theater production.
Though Ford found schooling too difficult and challenging at Ripon College in Wisconsin, it was there that he did meet his future wife, Mary Marquardt, along with getting a taste of a potential acting career. Ford ended up dropping out after deciding to move out West where he believed he would have a better shot at landing a job with a film studio.
Harrison And His Wife Mary Move To California
After he and his wife moved across the country, Ford studied some courses at Laguna Playhouse and a short time later, he accepted a job with Columbia Studios as an actor. His first acting gig with Columbia Studios was a short role as a hotel porter in Dead Heat On A Merry-Go-Round. However, he didn't find much success with Columbia so he opted to join Universal Pictures, hoping to finally solidify his career as an actor.
Ford unfortunately hit many roadblocks for a period of time, unable to find any real success with various studios. But as he was now a dad with children of his own, Harrison knew he had to support his family any way he could. Having had no prior knowledge of carpentry, Ford sought to establish some sort of income as a full-time carpenter.
In an interview with Business Insider, Ford once explained his reasoning behind his choice to pursue carpentry:
“My principle job at the time was carpentry. I had a house at the time I wanted to remodel, a bit of a wreck of a house. I’d invest money in tools but wouldn’t have enough money for materials, so I realized this was another way of putting food on the table.”
Ford had read many books to help him gain a better understanding of this unique skill set. Turns out, this was the big decision that eventually turned him into the star he is today.
Ford Meets George Lucas
Shortly before Harrison Ford met the legendary filmmaker, he used his carpentry skills to help build a recording studio for a Brazilian composer named Sergio Mendes. Ford also built a sun deck for Sally Kellerman as well as assisting the legendary band The Doors as a stagehand. Harrison received the title “Carpenter to the Stars” for his impressive work as a full-time carpenter for the rich and famous.
Through these connections, acting opportunities slowly began to present themselves. He eventually scored a small role in one of George Lucas’ early films, American Graffiti. This film also starred future Hollywood icons Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard. With this hit, Ford gained another small role in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. Ford’s status as an actor further took off in films such as Judgement: The Court Martial of Lieutenant William Calley and Dynasty, as well as a television series called The Possessed.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of Harrison Ford's life was when Lucas interviewed him for a role in his upcoming film titled Star Wars. Having worked with Ford in American Graffiti, Lucas caught Ford as he was at work one day building a doorway in a studio. Lucas mentioned to him that he was looking to cast an actor in a prominent role in his upcoming film. With nothing to lose, Ford tried a few of the lines Lucas had written for his script. After his brief audition, Lucas knew he had found his man. Little did Ford know that he had just landed the role that would change his life - and the world - forever.
In the same BI interview, Ford shared his thoughts regarding Lucas’s choice for Han Solo:
“I had helped George Lucas audition other actors for the principle parts, and with no expectation or indication that I might be considered for the part of Han. I was quite surprised when I was offered the part.”
Not only did Ford land the role of Han Solo, he also beat out other, more seasoned actors who had also for the role. Actors such as Nick Nolte, Kurt Russell and Christopher Walken were all looking to play the wise-cracking smuggler. But it was the self-taught carpenter who eventually won out.
The Rest Is History
You know the rest. Harrison Ford’s legendary status has captivated audiences for many years since. Not only has Ford starred in many of the most iconic films in movie history, he's also had the chance to work with some of the most influential directors of all time, most notably the great Steven Spielberg. Ford has also worked with Francis Ford Coppola, Ridley Scott, Wolfgang Peterson, Kathryn Bigelow, and most recently J.J. Abrams, who brought back our favorite smuggler for another go round in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Ford has played a college professor, a detective, a doctor, a captain, a colonel, an ex-police officer, a baseball executive, and a banker. In Air Force One, he also played the President of the United States. Simply put, Ford can do it all and has shown it throughout his entire career as an established actor.
Harrison Ford will always be one of my favorite actors. He has been in some of my favorite movies of all time including the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, as well as Witness, The Fugitive, and Air Force One. Let us all commemorate one of the greatest actors of our time. With Ford signing on to star in a Blade Runner sequel as well as another Indiana Jones film, it looks like Ford still has plenty of acting left in him. And now, in honor of his 74th birthday, take a look back at our birthday video tribute from last year:
What is your favorite movie starring Harrison Ford? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below and don’t forget to share this piece with your friends! Also, follow me on my main page to see my latest articles!