MOTW: Harrison Ford: Carpentry to Camera

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
August 1st, 2013

MOTW: Harrison Ford: Carpentry to Camera

Renowned American actor Harrison Ford was born on July 13, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois. Known for his roles in many popular movies such as "Star Wars" and various others, Ford's acting career didn't take off immediately. As a youngster, Ford grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in an area known as Des Plaines. Ford's father was an advertising executive while his mother stayed at home.

During his high school years, Ford attended Maine Township High School where he was a part of the model train and social science clubs. Upon graduating high school in 1960, Ford went to college at Ripon College in Wisconsin where he studied English and philosophy. Ironically, it was there that Ford's acting career essentially began, apparently, by accident. Reportedly, Ford signed up for an acting class in order to get an easy good grade. While he says he didn't particularly enjoy having to get up in front of people, Ford said he loved the storytelling part of the process.

Not quite committed to college, he left before finishing his degree. Ending up in Hollywood in the mid 1960s, Ford's first gig was with Columbia Pictures as a contract player. The job only paid $150 a week, but following that gig, he landed his first film role in 1966 in "Dead Heat on a Merry Go-Round." Ford told the Hollywood Reporter that the film's studio officials were not impressed with his performance.

A little exasperated with the way his acting career was going, Ford started doing a bit of carpentry work on the side to help pay his bills. Although in 1973 George Lucas gave him a role in "American Graffiti," Ford's acting career still wasn't taking off. Between 1974 and 1979, he worked as a carpenter and had two small roles in two other Lucas films, "The Conversation" and "Apocalypse Now."

In 1977, George Lucas, impressed by Ford's audition, cast him in the role of Han Solo in "Star Wars." His role in the film greatly boosted his Hollywood image, and his strong performances in the 1980 and 1983 sequels contributed even more to his rising star status. In addition to the "Star Wars" films, Ford starred in another 1981 blockbuster, "Raiders of the Lost Ark," that also positively contributed to his Hollywood career. The film, directed by Steven Spielberg, has had three equally successful sequels in the "Indiana Jones" franchise.

Throughout the mid 1980s, Ford had several other roles that contributed to his success, including his role in "Witness" that landed him an Academy Award nomination in 1985. During the rest of the decade, he had several other roles in popular films such as "Working Girl" and "The Mosquito Coast." By the time 1994 rolled around, Ford had just had a significant role in the film "Clear and Present Danger" and had become one of Hollywood's biggest stars, earning on average around $20 million per film.

In the 1990s, Ford had a couple of movie mishaps, but he also had a solid role in the film "Air Force One." In the early 2000s, he began to take on fewer roles and had a few misses. However, in 2008, he played a strong role in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," a film which ended up at the top spot at the box office on its opening weekend and has earned around $786 million globally.

In the past couple of years, Ford has starred in films such as "Cowboys and Aliens" and "Morning Glory." Most recently, he landed a role in "42," a film about African-American baseball player Jackie Robinson.

Ford has been married three times; once to his college girlfriend, Mary Marquardt, that lasted five years and produced two sons. In 1983, Ford married a screenwriter, Melissa Mathison, after originally meeting her during filming for "Apocalypse Now" in 1979. Although the two separated in 2001, they had two children together. In 2010, Ford married actress Calista Flockhart, and the couple now have one child together.

In addition to his acting career, Ford also maintains an 800-acre ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Along with all his acting successes, he has been chosen sexiest man alive by People magazine twice. Ford has also been an advocate of nature and wildlife preservation, and in 2006, he was awarded the Jules Verne Spirit Award for his work in that area.