Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Indiana Jones Series, Star Wars Series, Blade Runner Series
Currently Known For:
Actor and Producer
Indiana Jones Series, Star Wars Series, Blade Runner Series
“I’ve been very, very lucky. Extraordinarily lucky. Many, many people with, you know, more brains, more talent, cuter, have not had the luck that I’ve had.” Harrison Ford is one of the most recognizable actors in the world and is certainly among the most talented leading men in Hollywood. After launching his career in 1966, Ford spent the last six decades captivating audiences with jaw-dropping performances in blockbusters like American Graffiti (1973), Apocalypse Now (1979), The Fugitive (1993), Air Force One (1997), and numerous others that have made him the second highest-grossing box office star in the United States.
A large part of the 76-year-old’s fame comes from his iconic roles as Han Solo in the Star Wars film series. He also enjoyed another huge round of success in the 1980s when he was cast as the star in the Indiana Jones film series. Along the way, he’s added in credits as Jack Ryan in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994) as well as playing Rick Deckard in Blade Runner (1982) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017). Earning dozens of awards and building an impressive fortune along the way, let’s take a closer look at Ford’s rise to fame, his opinion of stardom, and his life at home with his wife of eight years, actress Calista Flockhart!
“The kindest word to describe my performance in school was ‘sloth.’” The eldest of two sons born to an actor turned advertising executive and a former radio actress, Harrison Ford came into this world on July 13, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois. As a kid, Ford was involved in the Boy Scouts of America and earned the organization’s second highest honor as a Life Scout. Outside of his involvement in the Boy Scouts, Ford attended Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Illinois where he was the first student to broadcast on the school’s newly established radio station, WMTH. During his senior year, he served as the school’s first sportscaster and, after graduation in 1960, left his small-town roots for Wisconsin where he enrolled in Ripon College.
A philosophy major, Ford was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity but considered himself to be a late bloomer even in college. During his senior year, he forced himself to enroll in an acting class to overcome his shyness. It turns out, one acting class was all it took as Ford was instantly bitten by the acting bug. He joined the Belfry Players theater company for summer stock and ventured to Los Angeles to look for voiceover roles on the radio. Although he struggled to find work, he refused to give up and worked as a carpenter and contract actor in his spare time.
“I knew how to run the tools. I knew how to cut a straight line. I cared that it was straight, which was the biggest part of it,” Ford said of his carpentry work. “My dad had a little workshop in our basement and we’d done so work together…. I watched him cut his finger off one day down in the basement. Yeah, so there was a good lesson. He was cutting a sheet of plywood on a little table saw and it kicked back and he’d cut off this finger… I picked it up and wrapped it in Kleenex and put it in my back pocket, but when I got to the hospital—we went there in the back of a police car—I handed it to the emergency room surgeon who went and threw it in the bin…”
Continuing his work as a carpenter (and a careful one at that), Ford’s struggle as an actor came as little surprise since he caught the tail end of the older Hollywood era when actors were typically given seven-year contracts and taught the trade. Instead, he was pushed around and criticized by talent agents and agencies across Hollywood. “They said, ‘Harrison Ford is not a good name for you. It sounds, I don’t know, pretentious,’” Ford recalled. Told to think of a new name, Ford suggested the name—Kurt Affair. “It was just the stupidest name I could think of,” he said. The agency didn’t find it funny and told Ford to get lost.
Eventually, Columbia Pictures offered Ford a weekly contract after he won an audition in their talent program. This earned Ford a string of minor roles with his film debut coming in an uncredited role in the 1966 flick, Dead Heat on a Merry Go Round. Landing several more non-speaking roles, Ford continued to hone his talents until 1967 when he was cast in his first credited film role in A Time For Killing. Ford was credited in the film as “Harrison J. Ford” because the filmmaker and director didn’t want him confused with the silent film star, Harrison Ford. At the time, it didn’t matter that Ford didn’t actually have a middle name.
Ford soon left Columbia Pictures and signed a contract with Universal Studios where he was known as “Harrison Ford.” He made several guest appearances on popular television series like Ironside (1967), The Mod Squad (1968), My Friend Tony (1969), The F.B.I. (1969), Gunsmoke (1972-1973), and Kung Fu (1974). However, Ford was frustrated with the types of roles he was offered and picked up another job as a carpenter to support his family at the time—wife Mary Ford Becker (m.1965—d.1979), and their sons Benjamin (1966) and Willard (1969).Catching His Big Break: Ford Becomes a Household Name
Amid working as a carpenter, Ford was still determined to make it as an actor and, in 1972, caught his first big break when producer Fred Roos helped him snag an audition with director George Lucas on his next big project, American Graffiti. Lucas took an instant liking to Ford at the audition and cast him as Bob Falfa in the 1973 film. A year later, Ford was cast in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation and worked with Coppola again in the 1979 epic war film, Apocalypse Now.
In 1976, George Lucas started work on his next project, Star Wars, and needed to cast an actor to play Han Solo. Lucas invited several high-profile actors to read for the part but every audition paled in comparison to Ford’s. Ford won the role in what marked the turning point of his career as he made his debut in the 1977 epic. The film quickly became a cultural phenomenon and launched Ford to superstardom as he reprised his role in Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Return of the Jedi (1983). He also became famously outspoken about the franchise and openly voiced his concerns about the dialogue to Lucas. “George, you can type this sh-t, but you sure as hell can’t say it,” he once said. After the original film wrapped and audiences went wild, Ford apologized saying, “I was wrong. It worked.”
By 1980, Ford struggled to separate himself from his Han Solo character since many critics and fans thought he had little range as an actor beyond the Star Wars realm. Fortunately, that all changed when Ford landed the title role as Indiana Jones in George Lucas’ and Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Lucas was initially hesitant to use Ford in another role and offered Tom Selleck the part, but Selleck couldn’t commit due to filming Magnum P.I. This made Ford the obvious choice as Raiders of the Lost Ark launched the young actor to even bigger fame as he reprised his role in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1993), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). Ford will also reprise his role in a fifth Indiana Jones film that’s set to release in July 2021!
Outside of his stellar work in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones film franchises, Ford continued to prove his talents as an A-list actor and starred as Rick Deckard in Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult sci-fi classic, Blade Runner. He followed up with roles in Witness (1985), The Mosquito Coast (1986), and Frantic (1988) before welcoming the 1990s as Jack Ryan in Tom Clancy’s Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994). He snagged credits in The Presumed Innocent (1990), The Fugitive (1993), Sabrina (1995), Air Force One (1997), and The Devil’s Own (1997).
In the new millennium, Ford took on more dramatic roles and regrettably turned down the lead in the 2004 thriller, Syriana, which went to George Clooney. Despite his regret, he pushed forward and appeared in Crossing Over (2008), Extraordinary Measures (2009), Morning Glory (2010), Cowboys & Aliens (2011), Paranoia (2011), Ender’s Game (2011), 42 (2011), Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2011), and The Expendables 3 (2014). In 2017, he reprised his role as Rick Deckard in Blade Runner 2049 and has a string of projects in the works including voicing Dr. Francis in The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019), playing John Thornton in Call of the Wild, and reprising his role as Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones 5 (2021).Personal Life: Relationships, Flying, and More!
With his films grossing over $4.7 billion in the United States and over $6 billion worldwide, the 76-year-old actor certainly seems to have it all from his illustrious career to his life at home as a husband, father, and pilot. As one of Hollywood’s most private actors, Ford keeps a tight lid on his personal life including his first two marriages to Mary Ford Becker and screenwriter Melissa Mathison (m.1983—d.2001). After divorcing Becker, he married Mathison in 1983 and added two more children to the mix with the births of Malcolm and Georgia in 1990. A decade later, he was newly divorced when he met actress Calista Flockhart backstage at the 2002 Golden Globes. Instantly feeling a connection, the two kept their relationship quiet over the next few years before announcing their engagement in February 2009. They married the following year on June 15, 2010, in a private ceremony in Santa Fe, New Mexico where Ford was filming Cowboys & Aliens. Flockhart wore a modest dress and Ford wore his best blue jeans for the momentous occasion.
Still together today, Ford and Flockhart enjoy life at home on their 800-acre estate in Jackson, Wyoming with their son, Liam. Aside from his family and busy film career, Ford spends his free time pursuing his greatest hobby—airplanes—and is a licensed pilot on both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Ford first got his pilot’s license in the 1960s and has spent the last five decades honing his craft and adding to his hangar at the Santa Monica Airport. He’s also been a hot topic in the media after a handful of accidents, the first of which occurred in 1999 when he was piloting a helicopter on a routine training flight when it crashed to the ground. Luckily, Ford and the instructor pilot remained uninjured. “I broke it,” Ford later said of the incident that totaled the helicopter.
In 2015, Ford was involved in another incident when he made an emergency landing on the Penmar Golf Course in Venice, California. This time, he suffered a broken pelvis and a broken ankle as well as other minor injuries. Two years later, his abilities as a pilot were questioned again when he landed on the taxiway and blocked a Boeing 737 at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. “Embarrassing,” Ford said of the incident. “It’s thoroughly embarrassing. I didn’t fly over him (the Boeing] and it wasn’t a near miss. Officially, I admitted to two of the common mental processes that can lead a pilot to make a mistake—distraction and fixation.” At the time, Ford was returning from visiting his 101-year-old aunt in hospice care. “It was a good landing, in the wrong place…”
Despite his most recent aviation incident, the 76-year-old Ford continues to fly, a passion he takes just as seriously as acting, being a husband, and a father. As for whether or not he plans to retire anytime soon, that’s simply out of the question. “I think retirement’s for old people,” Ford says. “I’m still in the business, thank you… I have a young child… and I want to live as long as I can to see him grow up. I’m enjoying my life and I want to stick around for as long as I can.”