“I Was Frustrated, but I Never Felt Defeated,” Harrison Ford and His Epic Rise From Carpenter to Celebrity Actor
Most of us know our favorite actors in their moments of glory. However, before they achieved recognition and fame, there was hard work and intense perseverance that took place. And the perfect example of this can be seen with Harrison Ford, who, while seeking to become an acclaimed actor, took up woodworking, which ultimately ended up serving his goal.
At Bright Side, we want to tell you how the actor behind the famously cunning Han Solo came to Hollywood, having previously worked as a carpenter and showing that every path to success has a humble beginning.
Finding his passion for acting
Harrison Ford’s first steps into acting were in some drama classes he attended back when he was still in college. He was studying English literature and philosophy in Wisconsin, and because he wasn’t the best student there, he decided to move to Los Angeles with his wife, Mary, in 1964.
By that time, Ford was 22 years old; young and handsome, he managed to get a couple of contracts as an extra at Columbia Pictures. The roles improved slightly, but Ford was not satisfied, and his responsibilities were increasing as his family was growing.
This led him to think of an extra way to earn money to support his family and not have to accept roles he didn’t like. That’s how he ended up working in carpentry. It all came about by doing repairs in his own home. He discovered that he had a knack for it and started doing jobs for his friends and acquaintances in Hollywood.
His first job as a carpenter
He began working for Sergio Mendes, a Brazilian musician, who commissioned him to build his recording studio. In 1982, Ford recalls the kindness of the renowned jazzman in trusting him in a heartbeat. 13 years later, in 2015, the musician mentions in this regard that Ford “did a wonderful job.”
Mendes didn’t know that his commission was Ford’s first job as a carpenter, nor did he mention it to him. Nevertheless, the now acclaimed actor attributed the project’s success to his library card: “It turned out very well, thank you, but that’s thanks to the books at the Encino Public Library.”
New opportunities on the horizon
Thus, Ford’s path to better opportunities in Hollywood was woven, alternating his work as an actor and cabinetmaker; and as one thing led to another, he ended up meeting influential people for whom he did carpentry work. Among them was casting director Fred Roos. Ford was close to the role that would launch him to fame, all thanks to a door.
Francis Coppola wanted to remodel his office, so Roos recommended Ford. He replied, “Yeah, I can use the work, thanks. But I’m only going to do it at night, when there’s no people around. [...] This is Francis’ office. I love being a carpenter, I love being an actor. I’m just not going to confuse the two.”
So, it just so happened that as Ford was finishing his day, very early in the morning, George Lucas arrived, who would use Coppola’s office for business on his film, Star Wars (1977). It was an ordinary morning that would turn his life into an extraordinary one.
His great moment
Lucas and Ford talked spontaneously, as they already knew each other from a small role Ford had played in the film, American Graffiti (1973).
Shortly thereafter, Fred Ross, Lucas’ casting director, called him to read a few lines: “I read with more than a hundred actors. [...] They asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said, ’Sure, why not?’” Ford wasn’t auditioning on purpose, there was nothing planned, but he did so well that, by force of fate, he won his first major role, playing Han Solo.
The rest is history. Star Wars (1977) was a huge success, the highest-grossing film of that year, which would end up one of the most relevant film franchises to date. It was also the gateway that would lead Harrison Ford to stardom, with subsequent roles in major productions, such as the Indiana Jones saga and Blade Runner (1982).
Admittedly, woodworking proved key in the actor’s life: “Through carpentry, I fed my family and began to pick and choose from among the roles offered,” he said. “I could afford to hold out until something better came along. But I never gave up my ambition to be an actor. I was frustrated, but never felt defeated by my frustration.”
In addition to having achieved his goal of becoming the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, Ford found the love of his life at the age of 60, Calista Flockhart, also an actress, best known for her role as Ally McBeal. They met at the 2002 Golden Globes and married in 2010. Since then, they have been very happy.
Harrison Ford will be 80 years old this year, but his work does not stop. With multiple and notorious awards and nominations, he has shown his support for important causes, such as environmental preservation, archeology, social work, and aviation. Soon, he will be part of a comedy series for Apple TV, returning to the small screen as he did in his early days.
There’s no doubt that Ford’s story of perseverance and commitment is an inspiring example, as he is a self-taught carpenter, responsible family man, the protagonist of unforgettable heroes, and philanthropist. His iconic legacy shows that passion and determination are the perfect formula for opportunity.
What would you be willing to do to achieve your career goals, and what other jobs have you done apart from your main profession?