It was a classic case of destiny when the carpenter at MGM Studios landed the lead in a blockbuster movie. Out-of-work actor Harrison Ford was fitting a door for Francis Ford Coppola when a studio executive, testing actresses for a new film, asked him to help out by reading the lines written for the male lead. The hero was Han Solo, the movie was Star Wars the rest is legend.
Born on July 13, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois, Harrison, the son of ad exec Christopher and homemaker Dorothy, was hardly the leading-man type at Maine Township High School East. In fact, he claims he was the class wimp. His star began to rise after he enrolled at Wisconsin's Ripon College, where he caught the acting bug and began performing in student plays.
The would-be star launched his professional acting career at the age of 21 when he signed a $150 a week, seven-year contract as a studio player in Los Angeles. Working in minor roles in film and TV, he earned his way as a carpenter even after he got his break with a small but memorable part in the 1973 flick American Graffiti. Four years later, aged 35 and still struggling, he finally shot to fame in Star Wars and followed up with roles in the Vietnam War drama Apocalypse Now, sci-fi thriller Blade Runner and, of course, two sequels to the George Lucas epic that made him famous.
Harrison's recurring stints as Han Solo and the bullwhip-wielding archaeologist Indiana Jones he starred in the first instalment in 1981 soon cemented his place in cinematic history as one of Hollywood's most successful leading men. He received an Oscar nomination for Witness in 1986, during the course of that decade starred in five of the top ten highest-grossing films of the decade, bringing in over $1 billion at the box office. And although 25 years have passed since his first hit, Harrison's popularity hasn't cooled, as demonstrated by his ever-increasing salary he earned a whopping $25 million for K-19: The Widowmaker.
Though known for his repeat roles as the hero in Hollywood blockbusters CIA agent Jack Ryan in screen adaptations of Tom Clancy's best-selling novels, as well as Han and Indy Harrison has also tried his hand at non-action parts, from cad Jack Trainer in the comedy Working Girls to a recovering amnesia patient in Regarding Henry. "I made a conscious effort when I first did Star Wars to do different types of roles in between to make sure I wasn't typed," he says. "And, I think it seems to have worked."
Today the actor's vast fortune includes a sprawling Wyoming ranch, multimillion dollar homes in Connecticut and New York, a collection of 19th-century art and a number of aircraft, including a helicopter and $6 million Gulfstream jet. And what do you give the man who has everything? The American Museum of Natural History in New York named a spider after him Calponia harrisonfordi as a thankyou for narrating a documentary film.
Despite his Hollywood riches, Harrison prefers the simplicity of rural living, spending much of his time at his 700-plus-acre ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. "After about ten years in Los Angeles, one of my ambitions became not to live in LA," he says. However, duty often calls, forcing the actor to leave his refuge. Harrison is an avid pilot and when he does so head out he takes the controls himself.
The multimillionaire has been married twice. His first marriage to Mary Marquardt in 1964, from which he has two sons, Willard and Benjamin, ended in divorce in 1979. Harrison wed screenwriter Melissa Mathison, best known for writing ET: The Extra-Terrestrial,in 1983. After 17 years together and two children, Malcolm and Georgia, the two split in 2001, divorcing two years later in one of the biggest settlements - £50 million for his ex-wife - in Hollywood history. He currently is seeing Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart.
Now in his 60s, Harrison has signed up for the fourth installment in the Indiana Jones series, and is typically sanguine about the physical challenges posed by the action-packed role. "I still feel physically adequate to faking it just like I've been doing for 30 years. I'm looking forward to it. It's good fun," he said at the time.
With his lopsided smile, leading-man looks and famously scarred chin (from a car crash when he was 21), Harrison is still as hunky as ever something the actor himself won't admit. "I never feel sexy," he insisted, when he was chosen as People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive in 1998. "I've got a completely imbalanced, irregular face, and a nose that's been broken three or four times. One eye is higher than the other. When people photograph me, they have to kind of twist the lights around to make me look like a movie actor."
The question of flattering lighting aside, Harrison has garnered a reputation as a talented actor who's as clean-cut as Jack Ryan, as dashing as Han Solo, and as rugged as Indiana Jones. But the last word comes from the film star himself, who says: "With Harrison Ford, what you see is what you get."