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Harrison Ford

Actor, aviator, environmental activist

Harrison Ford 

(born July 13, 1942) is an American actor, aviator, and environmental activist. He gained worldwide fame for his starring role as Han Solo in the original Star Wars trilogy and would reprise the role decades later in the sequel trilogy. Ford is also widely known for his portrayal of Indiana Jones in the titular film franchise and as Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan in the spy thrillers Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger.

His career spans six decades and includes collaborations with some of the most acclaimed and influential filmmakers of all time such as George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Peter Weir and Mike Nichols. Outside of his franchise roles, Ford has notably portrayed heroic characters in many films, including Witness (1985), The Fugitive (1993), Air Force One (1997), and 42 (2013), which featured him as the real-life Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey. In addition to his heroic roles, Ford has played morally ambiguous and darker characters in such films as The Conversation (1974), The Mosquito Coast (1986), Presumed Innocent (1990), What Lies Beneath (2000), and his role as Rick Deckard in both Blade Runner (1982) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017). He has also appeared in several romantically-themed comedies and dramas, including Working Girl (1988), Sabrina (1995), Random Hearts (1999), Morning Glory (2010), and The Age of Adaline (2015).

As of 2019, the U.S. domestic box-office grosses of Ford’s films total over $5.1 billion, with worldwide grosses surpassing $9.3 billion, making him the fourth highest-grossing domestic box-office star of all time. In addition to his box-office success, Ford is also an Academy Award nominee, a four-time Golden Globe nominee, a two-time Saturn Award winner, and the recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award and the Cecil B. DeMille Award.

Early life

Harrison Ford was born at the Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, on July 13, 1942, to former radio actress Dorothy (née Nidelman) and advertising executive and former actor John William “Christopher” Ford. His younger brother, Terence, was born in 1945. His father was a Catholic of German and Irish descent, while his mother was Jewish, the daughter of emigrants from Minsk, Belarus, which was part of the Russian Empire at the time. When asked in which religion he and his brother were raised, Ford jokingly responded “Democrat’ and more seriously stated that they were raised “to be liberals of every stripe.”When asked about what influence his Jewish and Irish Catholic ancestries may have had on him, he quipped, “As a man I’ve always felt Irish, as an actor I’ve always felt Jewish.”

Ford was active in the Boy Scouts of America, and achieved its second-highest rank of Life Scout. He worked at Napowan Adventure Base Scout Camp as a counselor for the Reptile Study merit badge. Because of this, he and director Steven Spielberg later decided to depict the young Indiana Jones as a Life Scout in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). In 1960, Ford graduated from Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Illinois. His voice was the first student voice broadcast on his high school’s new radio station, WMTH, and he was its first sportscaster during his senior year. He attended Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin, where he was a philosophy major and a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. A self-described “late bloomer”, Ford took a drama class in the final quarter of his senior year to get over his shyness and became fascinated with acting.

Career
1964–1976

In 1964, after a season of summer stock with the Belfry Players in Wisconsin,Ford traveled to Los Angeles to apply for a job in radio voice-overs. He did not get it, but stayed in California and eventually signed a $150-per-week contract with Columbia Pictures’ new talent program, playing bit roles in films. His first known role was an uncredited one as a bellhop in Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966). There is little record of his non-speaking (or “extra”) roles in film. Ford was at the bottom of the hiring list, having offended producer Jerry Tokovsky after he played a bellboy in the feature. He was told by Tokovsky that when actor Tony Curtis delivered a bag of groceries, he did it like a movie star; Ford felt his job was to act like a bellboy.

His speaking roles continued next with Luv (1967), though he was still uncredited. He was finally credited as “Harrison J. Ford” in the 1967 Western film A Time for Killing, starring Glenn Ford, George Hamilton and Inger Stevens, but the “J” did not stand for anything since he has no middle name. It was added to avoid confusion with a silent film actor named Harrison Ford, who appeared in more than 80 films between 1915 and 1932 and died in 1957. Ford later said that he was unaware of the existence of the earlier actor until he came upon a star with his own name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Ford soon dropped the “J” and worked for Universal Studios, playing minor roles in many television series throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Gunsmoke, Ironside, The Virginian, The F.B.I., Love, American Style and Kung Fu. He appeared in the western Journey to Shiloh (1968) and had an uncredited, non-speaking role in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1970 film Zabriskie Point as an arrested student protester. French filmmaker Jacques Demy chose Ford for the lead role of his first American film, Model Shop (1969), but the head of Columbia Pictures thought Ford had “no future” in the film business and told Demy to hire a more experienced actor. The part eventually went to Gary Lockwood. Ford later commented that the experience had been nevertheless a positive one because Demy was the first to show such faith in him.

Not happy with the roles being offered to him, Ford became a self-taught professional carpenter to support his then-wife and two young sons. Casting director and fledgling producer Fred Roos championed the young Ford and secured him an audition with George Lucas for the role of Bob Falfa, which Ford went on to play in American Graffiti (1973). Ford’s relationship with Lucas would profoundly affect his career later on. After director Francis Ford Coppola’s film The Godfather was a success, he hired Ford to expand his office and gave him small roles in his next two films, The Conversation (1974) and Apocalypse Now (1979); in the latter film, Ford played an army officer named “G. Lucas”.

1977–1997

Ford’s previous work in American Graffiti eventually landed him his first starring film role when he was hired by Lucas to read lines for actors auditioning for roles in Lucas’ upcoming epic space-opera film Star Wars (1977). Lucas was eventually won over by Ford’s performance during these line reads and cast him as Han Solo. Star Wars became one of the most successful and groundbreaking films of all time, and brought Ford, and his co-stars Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, widespread recognition. He returned to star in the similarly successful Star Wars sequels The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), as well as the Star Wars Holiday Special (1978). Ford wanted Lucas to kill off Han Solo at the end of Return of the Jedi, saying, “That would have given the whole film a bottom,” but Lucas refused.Following Star Wars, Ford began to receive bigger roles in films throughout the late 1970s, including Heroes (1977), Force 10 from Navarone (1978) and Hanover Street (1979). Ford also co-starred alongside Gene Wilder in the buddy-comedy western The Frisco Kid (1979), playing a bank robber with a heart of gold.

Ford’s status as a leading actor was solidified with Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), an action-adventure collaboration between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg that gave Ford his second franchise role as the heroic, globe-trotting archaeologist Indiana Jones. Like Star Wars, the film was massively successful and became the highest-grossing film of the year. Spielberg was interested in casting Ford from the beginning, but Lucas was not, having already worked with the actor in American Graffiti and Star Wars. Lucas eventually relented after Tom Selleck was unable to accept. Ford went on to reprise the role throughout the rest of the decade in the prequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), which co-starred Spielberg’s future-wife Kate Capshaw, and the sequel Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), which co-starred Sean Connery as Indy’s father, Henry Jones Sr. During the June 1983 filming of Temple of Doom in London, Ford herniated a disc in his back. The 40-year-old actor was forced to fly back to Los Angeles for surgery and returned six weeks later.

Following his leading-man success as Indiana Jones, he played Rick Deckard in Ridley Scott’s dystopian science-fiction film Blade Runner (1982). Compared to his experiences on the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, Ford had a difficult time with the production. He recalled to Vanity Fair, “It was a long slog. I didn’t really find it that physically difficult—I thought it was mentally difficult.” Ford and Scott also had differing views on the nature of his character, Deckard, that persist decades later. While not initially a success, Blade Runner went on to become a cult classic and one of Ford’s most highly-regarded films. Ford also proved his versatility throughout the 1980s with dramatic parts in films such as Witness (1985), The Mosquito Coast (1986), and Frantic (1988) as well as the romantic male lead opposite Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver in the comedy-drama Working Girl (1988). Witness and The Mosquito Coast in particular allowed Ford to explore his potential as a dramatic actor and both performances were widely acclaimed. Ford would later recall that working with director Peter Weir on both Witness and The Mosquito Coast were two of the best experiences of his career.

The 1990s brought Ford his third franchise role as Jack Ryan in film adaptations of Tom Clancy’s Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), both co-starring Anne Archer and James Earl Jones. Ford took over the role from Alec Baldwin who had previously played the character in The Hunt for Red October (1990). This led to a long-lasting resentment from Baldwin who claimed to have wanted to reprise the role but Ford had negotiated with Paramount behind his back. Ford also played leading roles in other action-based thrillers throughout the decade such as the critically-acclaimed The Fugitive (1993), The Devil’s Own (1997), and Air Force One (1997). For his performance in The Fugitive, which also co-starred Tommy Lee Jones, Ford received some of the best reviews of his career, including from Roger Ebert who concluded that, “Ford is once again the great modern movie everyman. As an actor, nothing he does seems merely for show, and in the face of this melodramatic material he deliberately plays down, lays low, gets on with business instead of trying to exploit the drama in meaningless acting flourishes.” He also played more straight dramatic roles in Presumed Innocent (1990) and Regarding Henry (1991) as well as another romantic lead in Sabrina (1995), a remake of a classic 1954 film with the same name.

Ford established working relationships with many well-regarded directors during this time, including Peter Weir, Alan J. Pakula, Mike Nichols, Phillip Noyce, and Sydney Pollack, collaborating twice with each of them. This was the most lucrative period of Ford’s career. From 1977 to 1997, he appeared in fourteen films that reached the top fifteen in the yearly domestic box office rankings, twelve of which reached the top ten. Six of the films he appeared in during this time were also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture amongst numerous other awards: Star Wars, Apocalypse Now, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Witness, Working Girl, and The Fugitive.

Personal life

Ford has been married three times and has five children. He was first married to Mary Marquardt from 1964 until their divorce in 1979. They had two sons, chef-restaurateur Benjamin Ford (born 1966) and clothier Willard Ford (born 1969). Benjamin Ford co-owns Ford’s Filling Station, a gastropub with two locations: at The Marriott, L.A. Live, Downtown Los Angeles, and at LAX Terminal 5. Willard is the owner of Strong Sports Gym, and was co-owner of the Kim Sing Theater and owner of the Ludwig Clothing company.

Ford’s second marriage was to screenwriter Melissa Mathison; they married in March 1983 and separated in late 2000, subsequently divorcing. They had two children, actor/musician Malcolm Ford (born 1987) and actress Georgia Ford (born 1990). Ford began dating actress Calista Flockhart after they met at the 2002 Golden Globe Awards, and together they are parents to her adopted son, Liam (born 2001). Ford proposed to Flockhart over Valentine’s Day weekend in 2009.They married on June 15, 2010, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Ford was filming Cowboys & Aliens. Ford lives with Flockhart and Liam in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He retains a base in Los Angeles, California

In her 2016 autobiography The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher claimed that she and Ford had a three-month affair in 1976 during the filming of Star Wars. Ford is known as one of Hollywood’s most private actors, guarding much of his personal life.

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