One of the most recognizable actors in the world, and certainly one of the most enduring, Harrison Ford is also perhaps the most quintessentially American of movie stars, a modern personification of John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Clayton Moore rolled into one. Appealing to both male and female audiences the world over, Ford has come to epitomize the rugged hero—sometimes stalwart, sometimes cynical—always gets the job done, be he an ophidiphobic adventurer (“I hate snakes, Jock! I hate ’em!” Ford announces in Raiders of the Lost Ark) or the President of the United States.
Born in Chicago to a typically American family (an Irish-Catholic father and a Russian Jewish mother) in July 1942, young Harry never quite knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. He began acting at Wisconsin’s Ripon College, but flunked out three days before graduation. After a brief stint in summer stock, he headed for Hollywood and life as a studio contract player in films like Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966) and small parts on TV in Gunsmoke and The Virginian. Much has been written of Ford’s sporadic early career and his decision to give it up for the carpentry trade. When the film world did call with roles in American Graffiti (1973) and The Conversation (1974) he refused to quit his day job. He only hung up his professional hammer after finally hitting the big time as Han Solo in Star Wars (1977). It was that no-nonsense blue collar ethic that helped endeared him to legions of fans who instinctively sensed a kindred spirit.
Ford would have cemented his place in film history on the strength of the Star Wars trilogy alone, but in 1981 he went one better and created a legend in the form of Indiana Jones. With Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and its sequels, Ford became an icon. In the years that followed he made well-received forays into drama (Witness,1985; Presumed Innocent,1990), romantic comedy (Working Girl,1988; Six Days, Seven Nights,1998), suspense (Frantic,1988; What Lies Beneath, 2000) and even has one cult classic (Blade Runner,1982) to his credit.
Yet Ford is never more popular than when he’s running from danger, be it in the form of Nazis (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 1989) international terrorists (Patriot Games,1992; Clear And Present Danger,1994; Air Force One,1997) or the law (The Fugitive,1993). Perhaps this is because, despite his $20 million a picture paycheck, Ford still carries that “Regular Joe” mystique. Yes, he’s appeared in more of the biggest moneymakers in Hollywood history than pretty much anyone else, but he’s also the guy who built his own ranch in Wyoming, flies his own planes and helicopters (in 1999 he was involved in a helicopter crash in which he was pilot and in 2015 he was forced to make an emergency landing of his plane which left him with a broken pelvis and ankle), and helps rescue lost hikers off of mountains.
Still acting regularly and never one to shy away from his biggest hits Ford revived Indiana Jones in 2008 for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and hasn’t ruled out returning to the character again. 2015 saw one more outing as Han Solo in the revival of the Star Wars franchise The Force Awakens and in 2016 Ford revealed that he will starring in the hugely antiicipated sequel to 1982’s Blade Runner.
Ford’s private life has long been just that — in 2001 he separated from screenwriter Melissa Mathison, his wife of 18 years and in 2010 he married actress Calista Flockhart. They became a couple since 2002.