Biography: Harrison Ford

Ryan Loftis By Ryan Loftis, 14th Jul 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3ga661t0/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Biography & Autobiography

A biography of legendary actor Harrison Ford, who has been named the greatest movie star of all time.

Early Years

Harrison Ford was born on July 13, 1942, in Chicago and raised in the Windy City suburbs. In a 2000 interview with the Associated Press, Ford described himself in those years as "a kid who never found a niche. I wasn't an athlete, I wasn't a student leader, I wasn't anything. I was a late bloomer, I think."

Ford found his niche when he took a drama class at Ripon College in Wisconsin. "I did a couple of plays, and people encouraged me," he said. "It was the only utility I found in college where I felt a sense of community and utility." The philosophy major left school before graduating - Time magazine included Ford on its "Top 10 College Dropouts" list in May 2010 - and went to Hollywood.

Carpentry and "Graffiti"

Ford's first film role was as a bellboy in 1966's Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round, but acting jobs were hard to come by. He had quit acting to become a carpenter when producers Fred Roos and Gary Kurtz recruited him for a role in the coming of age drama American Graffiti. Ford initially turned down the role and the $485 weekly salary it offered, explaining he could make far more as a carpenter. When the salary was increased to $500 a week, Ford took the role.

American Graffiti was an enormous success when it opened in August 1973. Adjusted for inflation, the movie ranks 45th on the list of the highest-grossing movies of all time. It also earned five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for George Lucas.

"Star Wars"

American Graffiti's success was minor compared to the triumph of the next project Lucas directed Ford in, 1977's Star Wars. The film has earned $1.44 billion when adjusted for inflation, making it the second highest-grossing film of all time, but it wasn't just the money that made Star Wars a cinematic icon. "George Lucas' space epic has colonized our imaginations, and it is hard to stand back and see it simply as a motion picture, because it has so completely become part of our memories," Roger Ebert wrote in June 1999. "Like Birth of a Nation and Citizen Kane, Star Wars was a technical watershed that influenced many of the movies that came after. . . Star Wars melded a new generation of special effects with the high-energy action picture; it linked space opera and soap opera, fairy tales and legend, and packaged them as a wild visual ride. Star Wars effectively brought to an end the golden era of early-1970s personal film making and focused the industry on big-budget special-effects blockbusters, blasting off a trend that we are still living through." Few would argue that trend still exists more than 15 years later.

Ford's Star Wars character, Millennium Falcon captain Han Solo, also became an icon. Solo ranked 14th on the American Film Institute's (AFI) list of the 50 greatest movie heroes; seventh on Entertainment Weekly's "20 All-Time Greatest Heroes in Pop Culture" list; and fourth on the British film magazine Empire's "100 Greatest Movie Characters" list. Ford returned to the character for 1980's The Empire Strikes Back and 1983's Return of the Jedi. Unsurprisingly, both films were huge blockbusters. Empire is the 12th highest-grossing movie of all time adjusted for inflation, Jedi the 15th.

Indiana Jones

In 1981, Ford starred in Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark, another phenomenal box office success and the 20th highest-grossing film of all time adjusted for inflation. Archaeologist Indiana Jones became another iconic character for Ford. Jones ranked second on the AFI's list of the 50 greatest movie heroes; second on Entertainment Weekly's "20 All-Time Coolest Heroes in Pop Culture" list; and sixth on Empire magazine's "100 Greatest Movie Characters" list.

Ironically, Ford almost didn't get the role. George Lucas co-wrote the Raiders of the Lost Ark script and didn't want to work with Ford on yet another movie. Tom Selleck's screen test impressed Spielberg and Lucas and he was offered the role, but his commitment to the TV show Magnum P.I. prevented him from accepting it. Lucas later admitted his opposition to casting Ford had been wrong, calling him "perfect for the part."

Ford played Jones twice more in the '80s. 1984's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is the 88th highest-grossing movie of all time adjusted for inflation, and 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the 101st. After a nearly two-decade absence, Ford returned to the character for 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Like the earlier entries in the series, it was directed by Spielberg. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull grossed $317.1 million domestically and a total of $786.6 million worldwide against a $185 million production budget, proving audiences would gladly accept a 65-year-old Ford in the classic role.

The Greatest

From 1980 to 2000 Ford starred in at least one of the year's 10 highest-grossing movies 10 times (1988's Working Girl and 1990's Presumed Innocent finished in 11th and 12th places in their respective years). Witness, the eighth highest-grossing film of 1985, also brought Ford his sole Oscar nomination. 1997 was an especially successful year for the actor: He starred in two of the year's popular films - a special edition release of Star Wars and Air Force One - and that October was named the greatest movie star of all time by Empire magazine. In 2000, the same year he enjoyed a huge hit with What Lies Beneath, Ford earned the AFI's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ford stayed busy as he entered his 70s. 2013 saw him appear in four films. In 42, the first sports movie in his long career, he played Branch Rickey, the real-life Brooklyn Dodgers executive who signed Jackie Robinson to a major league contract.

When Bruce Willis departed the cast of The Expendables 3 in 2013, Ford was chosen to replace him. Series co-star Sylvester Stallone gleefully announced the casting change on his Twitter account. The Expendables 3 opened in August 2014 and earned 81 percent of its $206 million worldwide gross in the foreign market.

"The Force Awakens"

One person not enamored with Han Solo was the actor who played him. In a 2008 interview, Ford described the character as "dumb as a stump" and said, "He's got a good heart, but I think he's a much less interesting character than Indiana Jones. The breadth of his story was never extensive." Ford suggesting Solo be killed in Jedi because "I thought it would be fascinating to have him die and give the movie some emotional bottom. It wasn't a heroic arc so much that I was interested in but giving the film some emotional strength."

Star Wars fans worldwide were no doubt elated when it was announced that Ford, along with fellow original cast members Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, would appear in the series' seventh film, The Force Awakens. Several of the film's stars, including Ford, were featured on the cover of the June 2015 issue of Vanity Fair. The Force Awakens is scheduled to be released on Dec. 18, 2015.

Tags

Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones, Star Wars

Meet the author

author avatar Ryan Loftis
I graduated from Central Michigan University with a journalism degree and have been a freelance writer for various print and online publications since then.

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Comments

author avatar simplyoj
14th Jul 2015 (#)

I have always been a fan of Harrison Ford, his films are classic.

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author avatar Ryan Loftis
14th Jul 2015 (#)

Hard to believe he was once told he would never make it as an actor.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
14th Jul 2015 (#)

Thanks for this detailed take on the career of an iconic actor - siva

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author avatar Ryan Loftis
14th Jul 2015 (#)

You're welcome. Hope you enjoyed it.

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26th Sep 2017 (#)

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