Date of Birth: 13/07/1942 – 13th Of July 1942, Chicago IL, USA
Harrison Ford, recently proclaimed by the Guinness Book of Records to be the highest grossing
actor in world, famous for his portrayal of Han Solo in the classic saga, Star Wars, has dominated Hollywood for the last twenty years making women swoon and the world laugh.
Son of a Russian mother and an Irish father, Harrison started out his life in Chicago and spent most of his formative years there.
As a child and young adult he wandered through school staying above water most of the time, but never going that extra length to excel.
He held no interest in sports, arts or academic challenges and by when he got to Ripon College he was there more through parental expectation than anything else.
Whilst at college, he turned his hand to acting with minimal success. The roles he was offered in the productions were few and far between, and he soon dropped out of college all together even though still in only his second year of enrolment. He has described as merely lack of motivation and discipline.
Looking for a new path to follow headed toward the sunny West Coast.
He soon landed in the midst of L.A.
For lack of any other calling and on the strength of the few college performances he got himself and agent and started to actively search for a studio. His luck was in and soon got a contract with Columbia.
This liaison did not bring Harrison the rewards he was expecting, he was given only small walk on parts in films like The Virginian (1962), in which he delivered one line and walked off the set.
His contracted was soon dropped, by mutual agreement, and Harrison turned his head away from acting for the time being.
He remained in Los Angeles working in show business, but in a totally different capacity; carpentry. He had tried this after delving in to both industrial and catering work.
During his apprenticeship he was approached by Universal Pictures who had seen his previous work and was eager to sign him on board. The age of studio contracts was dying fast and young hopefuls were being contracted everywhere.
Enthused by this appreciation, and not totally unaware of how the situation really stood, Harrison signed the five year contract, though he retained his carpentry job as his main income.
During this period he had more minor roles on television and in film but his presence, much to Universal’s dismay, was not sought after. The only minor success he had had was with American Graffiti (1973) and a supporting role in The Conversation (1974). These roles managed to establish him the right circles, and managed to gain him valuable contacts. Sadly no apparent success was forthcoming
Luckily by this point, he had a successful career and was dedicating more and more time to his newfound manual skill.
He has even admitted recently that he wanted to remain a carpenter and had decided to quit acting for good.
Fortunately, or not, he was hired to fit a set of offices on the set of new movie by previous director of the afore mentioned American Graffiti, George Lucas.
The film Lucas was planning was an intergalactic knight’s tale, to a scale previously unheard of; the epic production that would become Star Wars.
During casting Lucas would select five people for each role and whittle it down from there. Already having selected the hopefuls for the rest of the film, Lucas was still short of one actor for one of the main characters, his rogue space cowboy, Han Solo. One rumour has it, that Lucas spotted Ford on set building and wanted him to audition, others say that Harrison heard of the opening and approached Lucas.
However this scene played out, the result was that Harrison got the audition and the role.
To a degree that Harrison himself has admitted to not expecting, StarWars was a massive hit, and his character became a cult favourite over night.
So impressed was Lucas with his job that he mentioned Ford to his friend Steven Spielberg who at the time was looking for a lead in his adventure saga Indiana Jones.
The role in the Spielberg production was essentially the same as in Star Wars and Harrison had no trouble swapping his laser gun for a bullwhip and the Millennium Falcon for a fedora.
This fast paced, tongue in check adventure was an immediate success the world over.
Playing on Harrison's good looks and immediate charm Spielberg brought humour and sex appeal together in Ford
The Raiders Of The Lost Ark also brought Ford to the spotlight once again and took him beyond the realm of ‘one hit wonder’.
As the next few years went by, Ford appeared twice more on the big screen as Han Solo finishing the sci-fi trilogy and twice more also as Indiana Jones, completing the adventure trilogy.
By the end of this period offers were pouring in thick and fast for Harrison, he filmed the thriller Witness (1985) which earned him both an nomination for an Oscar and for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of a cop entrusted with the protection of a young Amish boy.
In a turn around performance for director Ridley Scott, Ford took on the challenge of portraying Rick Deckard, the Blade Runner in Los Angeles of the grim future. This film although dark and cynical showed a different Ford, and proved to the critics that he was worth his brass.
As the audience fell for him, he fell for sassy secretary Melanie Griffith (Working Girl – 1989) and made what he considers to be his best film, The Mosquito Coast (1986), alongside the still child and now deceased River Phoenix.
His next big step was the role in Regarding Henry.
This film set Ford as the big city lawyer who after being shot cannot remember anything and has to learn to be human again.
This powerful tearjerker brought him critical acclaim and helped him prove that not all of his acting was comic relief.
By now an established Hollywood star, he was free to take on roles in a variety of productions, such as the second and third part of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series, Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), assuming the leading role from Alec Baldwin. He also took on the project of playing Dr. Kimble in the big screen production of The Fugitive with Tommy Lee Jones hot on his heels as the US Marshall out to nail him.
In the last ten years Harrison even though growing old has retained his charm and his smile and never fails to impress in any role he cares to take.
He proved this by turning in a fine performance when taking up Humphrey Bogart's role in the remake of Sabrina (1995), he was the ass-kicking president in Air Force One (1997) and the professor prepared to do anything in the Michelle Pfeiffer chillier, What Lies Beneath (2000).
Now in his 60’s Harrison is spending more and more time in his Wyoming ranch, but even with his now occasional appearance on screen he still remains unsurpassed by any of the younger generation, and alongside Sean Connery is sometimes said to be one of the last leading men of Hollywood.
Married his college sweet heart and fellow actress Mary Marquardt in 1964 and divorced in 1979, Ford says they simply drifted apart.
They have two children together - Willard and Ben
Married screenwriter and friend Melissa Mathison in 1983.
Has two children with her - Malcolm and Georgia.
Melissa wrote the screenplay for E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).
He did not want to take the Han Solo role since he was being offered more money for his carpentry work.
He designed the famous curved bow of Millennium Falcon as a window for George Lucas’ offices on the set of Star Wars.
Used to staple his hat on during filming of Indiana Jones.
The famous scar on his chin was due to a car accident.
Is barred from entering Tibet due to a clash with Disney and Chinese officials about his wife’s script for Kundun (1997).
Private pilot, single engine fixed wing and helicopter. Owns a Bonanza, Gulfstream IV, DeHavland Beaver, and Bell Longranger helicopter Regularly flys himself between His New York City and Wyoming homes
"It's a little-known fact, but I wanted Han Solo to die at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). I thought it would give more weight and resonance.
But George Lucas wasn't sympathetic. He didn't want me killed by those teddy bear guys.
"I don't do stunts - I do running, jumping and falling down. After 25 years I know exactly what I'm doing
On playing Indiana Jones again- "No-one wants to see a hero have to pick a cane to hit someone, but I'm still quite fit enough to fake it."
Filmography (up to 2001)
Sources: IMDB, memory and the Biography Channel.