Harrison Ford continues to lead the box office charge.
By Michelle Talsma Everson
Han Solo. Indiana Jones. Actor Harrison Ford’s taste for adventure and famous swagger is synonymous with some of Hollywood’s most enduring characters and movie franchises.
And, at age 73, he shows no plans on slowing down as the long awaited Star Wars: The Force Awakens (also known as Star Wars: Episode VII) opens nationwide on Dec. 18.
The latest Star Wars installment is set about 30 years after Return of the Jedi and features many of the series’ major characters—including Ford as Han Solo—returning to the big screen. According to Fortune.com, online ticket sales for The Force Awakens were at a record high in late October. In fact, the day movie tickets were available online, many popular ticket websites (Fandango, Movietickets.com, AMC and others) crashed due to the high demand. Several analysts predict that the movie will rake in billions nationwide.
Popular entertainment website HitFix.com noted that, this past July, Ford made an appearance at the San Diego Comic-Con and told fans how he felt about being involved in the Star Wars franchise once again: “It should have felt ridiculous… I will tell you, it felt great. I was proud and grateful to once again be involved.”
Moreover, when asked at the San Diego Comic-Con about The Force Awakens script, Ford made it clear that he was impressed: “I read something that was really remarkable, really well written with some very intriguing developments. I was very happy.” Still, he’s been mum on the plot details.
The rise to the top
Success didn’t always come so expectedly for Ford. Surprisingly, he discovered his love of acting almost by chance, according to his profile on Biography.com. As a student studying philosophy and English at Ripon College in Wisconsin, he took a drama class, hoping for an “easy A.” He instead found his passion.
“I was terrified to get up in front of people, but I really enjoyed the storytelling part,” Ford said to People Magazine about the drama class.
He didn’t finish college, instead pursuing his dream of becoming an actor and moving out to Hollywood in the early 1960s. But, success wasn’t easy and Ford eked out a living as a contract actor. He told the Hollywood Reporter that, at one point, a studio official told him that he’d never make it in the entertainment business.
Moving forward, Ford supplemented his income working on Hollywood sets as a carpenter. He worked with George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola in both small acting roles and carpentry before his big break depicting Han Solo in the original Star Wars franchise in the late 1970s through early 1980s. Around the same time, he cemented his place as a Hollywood powerhouse in the Indiana Jones franchise. By the 1980s, Ford was a member of the Hollywood elite.
From Star Wars and Indiana Jones Ford starred in several memorable films in the decades to come, including: Witness, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, Air Force One, and more. He earned $20 million per film with 15% of the film’s gross take at the box office at his peak, cites Biography.com.
As Ford entered the new millennium, he took on less and less acting roles. Still, the roles he played often continued to resonate with audiences. Notable works included Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Cowboys & Aliens (2011), Ender’s Game (2013), and others. Earlier this year, it was announced that he’d reprise his role in a sequel to Blade Runner.
According to several media sources and social media buzz, rumor has it that Ford might be reprising his role as Indiana Jones in the fifth installment of the popular franchise. More details on the movie are still under wraps.
While Ford is often dubbed one of Hollywood’s most private actors, his love of flying is well known. A private pilot, he is qualified to fly both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft; he’s even provided emergency services at the request of local authorities.
In March 2015, he made international headlines when he had to conduct an emergency landing on a golf course in Santa Monica, Calif. He suffered serious injuries but was back to flying within three months.
During a recent segment on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Ford shared how he only remembers parts of the incident.
“Yeah I remember. Not all of it, I remember some of it,” he recalled about the landing. “I remember the engine stopping, I remember that part very well. And then I remember the tower; I remember their suggestion. Their suggestion was that I take the normal route to land and I knew I wasn’t going to do that, so I said no. And that’s the last thing that I remember until five days afterwards actually.”
Several sources report that the accident was due to engine failure; Ford has flown numerous times since the accident.
When asked at the San Diego Comic Con where he thought Han Solo would have ended up, Ford replied honestly: “It never occurred to me to think about it because I never thought it would come back. I never thought we’d do another.”
Ford is among a handful of older Hollywood action stars that continue to make movies that attract audiences from across the globe. A recent New York Post article, which detailed Ford’s involvement in the movie Expendables 3, explained it most succinctly with: “There is a precedent for veteran actors punching and kicking their way into old age…”
Moreover, The Washington Post notes that Ford is part of a generation of Hollywood stars that are shaping how the general public perceives aging.
“Indeed, the steady stream of films being made with the likes of Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Tommy Lee Jones and Helen Mirren bode well for a new view of the possibilities of the years opening up between midlife and the end of life. These films are both reflecting and shaping a new zeitgeist,” cites the article.
That’s good news for a new generation of Ford fans.