Harrison Ford Biography

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Harrison Ford Biography

Actor. Born July 13, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois. Arguably the most bankable movie star ever, Harrison Ford came into his success relatively late in life. He grew up in the Chicago suburbs of Park Ridge and Morton Grove, where his father was an advertising executive, producer of TV commercials, and sometime radio actor. Never academically inclined, Ford failed out of tiny, conservative Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin, where he had majored in philosophy. After discovering drama in college, he did a season of summer stock in Williams Bay, Wisconsin before heading out to Hollywood in 1964 with his college sweetheart and new wife, Mary Marquardt.
A Columbia Pictures talent scout spotted Ford at a Laguna Beach stage production and signed him to a contract under Columbia’s New Talent program, the studio’s attempt to make movie stars out of good-looking, unknown young actors and actresses. The stubborn, opinionated Ford was fired from Columbia after only 18 months and immediately signed a contract at Universal. After a series of minor roles in forgettable movies by both studios, Ford was working as a self-taught carpenter when he got the chance to audition for the low-budget coming-of-age movie American Graffiti(1973). In this surprise commercial success, Ford played a secondary role alongside stars Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss. The most important aspect of that film, however, was that it marked Ford’s first collaboration with director George Lucas.

Ford was still making his living as a carpenter in 1977, when he landed his first major role, as the renegade starship captain Han Solo in Lucas’s intergalactic adventure movie, Star Wars. The film was the first ever to gross $10 million in its first weekend, and with $300 million in its first year of distribution, it became by far the largest box-office smash in history up until that time. By the time its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980, Ford had expanded his acting range in several other films, including a smaller role in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Return of the Jedi(1983) completed the trilogy of wildly successful Star Wars films, showcasing Ford’s appeal both as an action star and romantic lead.

In 1981, Ford again teamed with Lucas on a Lucas/Steven Spielberg collaboration.

The film was an action-adventure with a twist: directed by Spielberg, it centered around the swashbuckling international antics of—an archaeology professor? Ridley Scott, who directed Ford in 1982’s Blade Runner has said that before Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ford was “not a well-known actor, but the man who played Han Solo.” The film, starring Ford as the rumpled, fedora-wearing Professor Indiana Jones, transformed the 38-year-old into an international sex symbol. It grossed over $231 million and spawned two sequels, 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, also starring Sean Connery as Jones’s father.

Just as the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films cemented Ford’s reputation as an action star, other movies have focused on different facets of his immensely recognizable screen personality. In 1985, he gave one of his best-received performances—earning an Academy Award nomination—in Witness, as a police detective who must protect an Amish boy who has witnessed a brutal murder. He departed even further from type, with equal success, in 1988’s corporate romance, Working Girl, also featuring Melanie Griffith, Sigourney Weaver, and Alec Baldwin. Over the next ten years, his films ran the gamut from legal thrillers (1990’s Presumed Innocent) to classic romantic comedies (a remake of the classic Humphrey Bogart movie Sabrina in 1995) to more action-adventure blockbusters, most notably starring turns as Jack Ryan in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger(1994) and Richard Kimble in 1993’s The Fugitive). In 1999, Ford mixed romance and action (to somewhat middling results) in director Sydney Pollack’s Random Hearts. Most recently, he starred with Michelle Pfeiffer in the supernatural thriller What Lies Beneath (2000). A fourth Indiana Jones installment is reportedly in the works and slated for 2004, when the actor will be 62 years old.

Ford is famously reluctant to reveal too much about his personal life to the press. He and Marquardt divorced in 1978, and in 1983, Ford married Melissa Mathison, a screenwriter who penned the scripts for movies such as E.T., The Indian in the Cupboard, and Kundun. They have two children, Malcolm and Georgia; Ford also has two sons, Ben and Willard, from his previous marriage. Ford and his family have a home in Manhattan and a ranch near Jackson, Wyoming. Ford, who has his pilot’s license, owns six aircraft, including a helicopter and a Gulfstream Jet, as well as several motorcycles. In November 2000, Ford announced his separation from Mathison after 17 years of marriage. .

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