Always an advocate of privacy, and even – as I claim – a lover of solitude, Harrison Ford is more and more similar to himself from his childhood and early youth in adulthood.
He was born on July 13, 1942, in Chicago, as the first of two sons of factory worker Christopher Ford and his wife Dorothy Niedelman. The father was rigid and strict, he adhered to his Irish roots and the Catholic faith, while the mother was much milder and did not burden the children with her Jewish origin and ancestors who came to the New World at the beginning of the 20th century from Belarus. Despite his father’s insistence that his sons regularly go to church and worship God, they took completely different paths, and Harrison Ford today claims to be indifferent to all denominations.
As a child, he was withdrawn and modest, which made it difficult for him to make friends, but the environment did not reject him in spite of that. The lack of communication with other children at school, and also outside of it, came to the fore especially after high school, when he had to choose a profession that he would pursue in life.
Harrison had no idea where he could go next or what exactly he was interested in, so – mostly out of a sense of obligation to his parents – he enrolled in English language and philosophy at Ripon College in Wisconsin. His studies were slow and difficult, “as if he were swallowing fish oil”, as he once explained, but that was not a consequence of his incompetence, but resistance to the realization that when he graduated, he would do some boring work and sit at his desk every day. From nine to five.
The motivation to study thus melted faster and faster, he started to miss classes and soon accumulated so many unjustified absences that he was expelled from college. However, he did not have the guts to admit to his parents that he had messed up.
Moreover, when it came time for graduation, the parents were overjoyed to rent a restaurant and start preparing for the celebration of their son’s success. Desperate because of the delusion into which he brought them, he still gathered his courage and told them the truth, and then immediately after that he picked himself up from his parents’ house and started looking for a job.
It was not easy for him: without any qualifications, he could only do auxiliary and occasional jobs, so he delivered newspapers, waited, maintained greenery in the city park, worked at the gas station, and for a while even cooked on luxury ships.
Although he liked the job more than the others, he had to leave it because he was suffering from seasickness, and after one unplanned landing, he heard that extras were being sought at the theater in Wisconsin and immediately applied. Among hundreds of candidates, he had even a small advantage, because as a student he acted in several plays. Then he tried out for the role of an actor exclusively because he thought that the performance would free him from anxiety and excessive shyness, but as he devoted himself to those attempts very superficially, the results were absent, so he gave up even before he warmed up. This time, however, he could not back down, because he had to make a living from something, and his pride did not allow him to turn to his parents for help. Because of all that, today he remembers his first theatrical roles with undisguised horror.
– I was very nervous and I was convinced that everyone in the audience heard my bones rattling with fear – he admitted.
Still, things went much better than he had hoped and he got a few more engagements. In Wisconsin, he became close with the theater secretary Mary Markart, whom he married in 1964. The marriage was impulsive and a bit reckless, but Ford did not regret it. On the contrary, many years later, when he became a star, he admitted that he owed his first wife the most in his life.
– She endured what few could: she endured me while I was insecure, sometimes desperate and hard, when we lived on very little money and barely settled our bills, and nothing in the world indicated that one day I would succeed as an actor – claims.
Mary admits that she persuaded him to take an uncertain step – moving to Los Angeles. Ford made no secret of the fact that he froze in fear at first, but he himself was aware that his acting ambitions in Wisconsin had little chance, so he packed everything they had in a small used van, and in October 1965, traveled to California.
– Luckily I had no idea what I was getting into. I had no idea where I should go, how to look for a job, who to contact, what studies exist in the city at all! In short, I was a calf who had no idea how to proceed.
He met dozens of young people who, like him, came to Hollywood eager to succeed, and only then did he realize that it was just a “drop of water in the ocean”, and that the path to fame was not nearly as easy as it seemed at first. After listening to the advice of those who had more experience in rejecting film thresholds, he first applied to the “New Talents” program, through which the film company “Columbia Pictures” recruited young actors. The fee was modest – only $150 a week – but Ford was much more frustrated that for that money he came to the studio every day, sat and – waited.
Of course, it was not possible to live on such a small amount, especially since in 1967 the young couple had a son Benjamin, who is now a famous cook, and in 1969 Willard, who dedicated himself to science and is now a respected historian, so the family needed get more money. To provide enough at least for housing and basic expenses, Harrison Ford, after a whole day of waiting in the film studio, worked in a pizzeria next door in the evening, but even that was not enough for a family of four, so he began to wonder if it all made sense.
– At one point I lost my temper, terminated my contract with “Columbia” and moved to “Universal”, hoping that it would be better there.
However, little has changed: Ford still had to wait to be called, only this time he was not sitting idle. He procured literature, some tools and materials, made room in the garage and began to process wood and make first modest and undemanding pieces, and then much more complex furniture. Always skillful with his hands, he quickly perfected himself and became an excellent carpenter, and fate wanted it to pay off: when he heard from an acquaintance that the Brazilian musician Sergio Mendes wanted to make a sound studio out of three garages, he immediately connected with him and got work.
Mendes was delighted, and Ford soon had so many orders that he could barely breathe. The most important customer, it will be shown, was the director and producer George Lucas, to whom he made several built-in closets, but much more important was that he left a good impression on Lucas, who offered him a role in the film “American Graffiti” in 1973. Enabled him several more engagements. A glimmer of hope that he would gain fame thus appeared after a minor role in Francis F. Coppola’s 1974 film “Eavesdropping”, and even more so when Lucas hired him again in 1977, this time for the film “Star Wars”.
The legend was born
When he accepted the role of Han Solo, Ford had no idea that the film would be a huge success, and he would become one of the most sought-after and highest paid actors in Hollywood. He received, for him at that time, an astronomical 10,000 dollars for “Star Wars”. But, for the next sequel, he signed a contract for 500,000 dollars, and the dream of film fame after thirteen years of waiting became a reality.
According to rough estimates, the films in which he acted earned more than six billion dollars, so it is not surprising that the producers quickly started approving his astronomical fees.
However, every success story has a flip side, and that fate did not bypass Harrison Ford either.
Great success and long absences from the family due to obligations on the film, shook the hitherto harmonious marriage and it fell apart in 1979. Although the break-up was not painless, Ford behaved correctly – although he did not have to do so, he left the villa in which he had lived until then to his ex-wife, and bought himself a smaller house nearby, in order to be with the children as much as possible.
But he was not alone for long. On one shoot, he met screenwriter Melissa Methison, with whom he became inseparable. The couple soon settled in Ford’s new villa, which he bought in 1982, as money began to flow into his account for the films “Empire Strikes Back” and “The Return of the Jedi”. But, after an unsuccessful marriage, Ford was in no hurry to enter into another, so he and Melissa did not get married until 1984, four years after they met. In 1987, they married a son Malcolm, and three years later a daughter Georgia.
Melissa wholeheartedly supported her husband’s career, because she was really in the perfect position for it: she worked as a screenwriter in a team with one of the strongest filmmakers of today, Steven Spielberg. On the other hand, in the early eighties, he was looking for the main actor for the character of the fearless and charming adventurer Indiana Jones, for the film “The Losers of the Lost Ark”, and Melissa proposed to Spielberg to entrust her to her husband. The famous director listened to her and – he did not regret it. Ford played the role of Indiana Jones in three more films and achieved incredible success and popularity, but also huge financial gain.
A turning point
Namely, in addition to millions in fees, he also agreed on a percentage of the film’s earnings, which proved to be an inexhaustible source of income.
Offers were pouring in from all sides, and Ford, with unmistakable instinct, chose several great and very lucrative roles: in 1982, Rick Deckard in Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner,” in 1985, the role of Detective John Buk in Peter Weir’s brilliant thriller “The Witness.” “, then the well-received role of retired CIA analyst Jack Ryan in Philip Neuss’s suspenseful film The Patriotic Games and, many claims his best role, in the 1993 film The Fugitive, in which he played the innocent accused doctor Richard Kimble.
The great successes and fees that were growing with each film had another face: it became so popular that it had no peace anywhere.
– I felt incredibly uncomfortable, almost persecuted. Everywhere I looked, I saw my photos, jumbo posters, commercials! In a way, I became a slave to my own popularity and it frustrated me endlessly.
In order to live normally at least occasionally, in 1985 he bought a large estate in the Jackson Hall Valley in Wyoming, where he would retire whenever he could. There, far from glamorous Hollywood gatherings, he could work in peace in his carpentry workshop, sit relaxed on the terrace in the evening, and ride during the day. In time, he afforded himself what he had wanted for a long time – he learned to fly.
He took courses, passed all exams and in 1986 received a license to fly a helicopter and smaller aircraft. Since then, flying has been for him “relaxation, therapy, pleasure, recharging batteries, an opportunity for perfect meditation”.
Although he went through many turbulent periods professionally and privately, his life in adulthood prepared another surprise for him. Namely, when it seemed that he had achieved everything he wanted and that his life could not be more fairytale-like, Ford found himself on thin ice again.
His wife, Melissa Matheson, stated that she “does not want to be married to herself anymore, because he is never there” and filed for divorce in 2001.
It turned out that it was easy for her to separate from her husband, but much harder than his millions, so the procedure lasted for a full three years and was declared one of the most expensive Hollywood divorces. Melissa received $90 million in an out-of-court settlement and an unknown percentage of earnings from all Ford films that he will make until the children reach adulthood.
In a relentless fight for every penny, the media – atypically – sided with him. When asked if he felt like a “skinned rabbit”, Ford calmly replied “it’s just money”, but at that moment, few people knew that the sixty-year-old actor was in love again.
Harrison Ford today
At the Golden Globes in 2002, Ford met the then 38-year-old actress Kalista Flockhart, and for him, everything else became irrelevant.
Hollywood immediately started juicy gossip, because Callista is only three years older than the actor’s first son, but the couple did not hesitate. Although many predicted that it would cool down quickly and that it would not be able to keep up with the pace and demands of its young partner, the exact opposite happened.
After eight years of living together, the couple got married on June 18, 2010, in New Mexico. When the news leaked to the public, the actor was overwhelmed with questions about how, at the age when he was already a three-time grandfather, he decided to take that step and how he would treat Liam, his wife’s eight-year-old adopted son, and he just waved his hand.
He agreed to the interview only if the questions concerned his professional or philanthropic activities, of which, since 2000, there have been more and more. Ford took part in actions for the preservation of nature and environmental protection, so in 2006 it received the prestigious “Jules Verne Spirit of Nature” award. He got even more fans when he forbade hunters to go to his huge estate and hunt deer on it, and in 2006, on Thanksgiving Day in Los Angeles, he organized and paid for dinner for four thousand homeless people.
– I am proud of my work, of course. I am also happy with the awards I received as an actor, I am pleased with the recognition of the American Film Institute and the Lifetime Achievement Award – he said on the occasion of his 70th birthday. – But, all that falls into the shadows when I fly over my property in Wyoming and see a herd of deer that are not in danger from humans. People mistakenly think that money is a source of happiness. It’s not. It’s just a shame that most of us come to that realization too late.
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