He is best known for his performances as the tough, wisecracking space pilot Han Solo in the Star Wars films and the droll but tenacious archaeologist/action hero Indiana Jones of Raiders of the Lost Ark and its sequels.
As of January 2006, the combined domestic box office grosses of Ford's films total approximately US$3.05 billion , with worldwide grosses at approximately US $5.65 billion.
Ford is an Honorary Chair of the Indianapolis Prize, the world's leading award for animal conservation.
Ford was born in Chicago, Illinois at Swedish Covenant Hospital to Dorothy Nidelman (born Dora Nidelman on October 17, 1917 in New Jersey), a former radio actress, and Christopher Ford (born John William Ford on November 20, 1906 in New York City; died February 10, 1999), an advertising executive and a former actor. Ford's maternal grandparents, Harry Nidelman and Anna Lifschutz, were Jewish immigrants from Minsk, Belarus who met in Brooklyn and moved to New Jersey. His Catholic paternal grandparents were John Fitzgerald Ford (an Irish American vaudeville performer) and Florence Veronica Niehaus (a German American). Ford's parents were left-wingers and not particularly practicing members of any religion , and Ford, when asked as to what religion he was raised in, jokingly responded, “Democrat", though his parents did take him to occasional services. Speaking of his heritage, Ford has said that he feels "Irish as a person but I feel Jewish as an actor" .
In 1960, Ford graduated from Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Illinois, where he claims he was picked on by bullies and ignored by girls and also voted "Boy Least Likely to Succeed". He attended Ripon College in Wisconsin, where he was a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity. He took a drama class in his junior year, chiefly as a way to meet women. Ford, a self-described "late bloomer", became fascinated with acting. Toward the end of his college freshman year, he was a member of a folk band called The Brothers Gross, in which he played gutbucket. In 1964, Ford moved to Los Angeles , California, where he signed a contract with Columbia Pictures for $150 a week in the studio's New Talent program, playing bit roles in three films. Ford was credited as "Harrison J. Ford" for a small role in the 1967 Western, A Time for Killing, but the "J" didn't stand for anything because he does not have a middle name. It was added to avoid confusion with the other actor named Harrison Ford, who died in 1957.
Ford subsequently went to Universal Studios and did minor television roles. Not happy with the acting jobs being offered to him, Ford became a self-taught professional carpenter to better support his then-wife and two small sons before his break-through role in American Graffiti; some of Ford's carpentry work remains in the Hollywood Hills area. While working as a carpenter, he became a stagehand for the popular rock band, The Doors.
Coincidentally, it was his work as a carpenter that would land Ford his biggest role. In 1975, director George Lucas, who had cast Ford in a pivotal supporting role in "Graffiti", hired Ford to build some cabinets in his home and used him to read lines for actors being cast for parts in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It was Steven Spielberg who first noticed that Ford was well suited for the part of Han Solo.
The 6'0.75" (later 5'11" when in 70's) Ford went on to star as Han Solo in the original Star Wars trilogy; he had originally wanted his character to die in "Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi", saying that it would lend more dramatic weight to the film, but George Lucas disagreed with him. He starred as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark and its two sequels to date, and as Jack Ryan in Tom Clancy's Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Ford's other well-known films include Blade Runner, Witness, The Fugitive (1993), and the remake of Sabrina, among others. While often playing the leading man or the hero of many action films, Ford had a change of pace, playing an adulterous husband with a terrible secret in What Lies Beneath.
Many of Ford's major film roles came to him by default and other unusual circumstances - Han Solo, due to his reading lines for other actors; Indiana Jones, because actor Tom Selleck was not available; and Jack Ryan, apparently due to Alec Baldwin's fee demands (Baldwin had previously played the role in The Hunt for Red October). While some of his most revered work is in the science-fiction category with the Star Wars films and the cult classic Blade Runner, he has said the latter was one of his least favorite roles and has yet to return to the genre.
The 2001 edition of the Guinness Book of Records listed Ford as the richest actor alive: his reported salary for the 2002 film K-19: The Widowmaker was more than $25 million. The 27 movies that he has starred in have grossed a combined box office of more than $3.3 billion. However, despite being one of the most financially successful actors of his generation, Ford has received only one Oscar nomination, that of Best Actor for Witness. In 1999, he received the Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute and received a star in front of the Kodak Theatre at 6801 Hollywood Blvd. on June 2, 2003.
Ford's star power has waned in recent years, the result of appearing in numerous critically derided financial failures like K-19: The Widowmaker and Hollywood Homicide. He intends to film a fourth Indiana Jones movie with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, despite concerns that he is now too old to reprise that role. The movie may be released in 2007. In 2004, Ford declined a chance to star in the thriller Syriana, commenting that "I didn't feel strongly enough about the truth of the material and I think I made a mistake"; he was offered the role eventually played by George Clooney, who won an Oscar for the role.. He also turned down leading roles in Traffic and A History of Violence.
Ford has been married three times. He married Mary Marquardt in 1964, and divorced her in 1979. He had two children with her, Benjamin (born in 1967) and Willard (born in 1969). He married again, to Melissa Mathison, screenwriter of The Black Stallion, Kundun, and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, on March 14, 1983. They had two children: a son, Malcolm (born on March 10, 1987), and a daughter, Georgia (born on June 30, 1990). Mathison filed for legal separation on August 23, 2001, and their subsequent divorce in January 2004 has become one of the most expensive in Hollywood history. Ford began dating actress Calista Flockhart in 2002 and they have been married since 2010.
Ford is a private pilot of both planes and helicopters, and owns an 800-acre (3.2-km²) ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, approximately half of which he has donated as a nature reserve. On October 23, 1999, Ford crash-landed a helicopter during a training exercise, flipping the helicopter onto its side. Neither Ford nor the instructor were injured. On several occasions, Ford has personally provided emergency helicopter services at the behest of local authorities, in one instance rescuing a hiker overcome by dehydration. He is the current Chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association's Young Eagle program, taking over after Chuck Yeager retired. Ford also gives of his time and money for environmental causes. He sits on the board of directors of Conservation International. Ford has assisted musician Jimmy Buffett by recording whip cracks (a skill learned during "Raiders of the Lost Ark") used in the Buffett song "Desperation Samba (Halloween in Tijuana)".
Though he dislikes public speaking, Ford once appeared before a U.S. Senate subcommittee on behalf of the people of Tibet. His goal was to prevent China from gaining Most Favored Nation status, because of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. As a result, Ford is banned by the People's Republic of China from entering Tibet.
Ford is one of Hollywood's most notoriously private actors, rigidly guarding his private life. Outside of film promotion, he rarely appears in the press, preferring to keep to himself at his Wyoming home. In fact, Ford considers the Internet to invade his best intentions of privacy.
Though he has generally not commented on political issues during his career, in 2003 Ford condemned the Iraq war in an interview with a Spanish newspaper. He went on to criticise the proliferation of firearms in the United States, something that caused controversy given that he has used handguns in most of his movies. Ford later declared his opposition to the recall of Governor Gray Davis, and warned that replacing him with Republican candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger would be a disaster for the state of California.
- Harrison Ford cut his chin in a car accident in Northern California when he was about 20.
- In 1993, the arachnologist Norman Platnick named a new species of spider Calponia harrisonfordi and in 2002, the entomologist Edward O. Wilson named a new ant species Pheidole harrisonfordi (in recognition of Harrison's work as Vice Chairman of Conservation International).
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