What I admire most about Harrison Ford

Like most of you, I’ve always admired actor Harrison Ford. He just seems like a pretty decent human being, in addition to being an outstanding actor. And with his 79th birthday on Tuesday, July 13, I thought I’d give him a little shout out and tell you what I admire most about him.

First, the obvious. How can anyone not like his string of blockbuster movies going back five decades? I still enjoy watching many of his now-classics from back in the era when we were both making action films. Some of my favorites include: “American Graffiti” (1973), “Star Wars” (1977), “Apocalypse Now” (1979), “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), “Witness” (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, 1985), “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989, with Sean Connery), “Patriot Games” – his first movie cast as Jack Ryan (1992) – “The Fugitive” (1993) and “Clear & Present Danger” (1994).

Cream of the crop for me, however, was “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which was released 40 years ago, in 1981. Difficult to believe it was that long ago. That’s one of those movies you can watch time and time again, and it never gets old.

Harrison also has a great sense of humor. One small proof came when he was asked about what influence his Jewish (mother) and Irish Catholic (father) may have had on him. He quipped, “As a man I’ve always felt Irish, as an actor I’ve always felt Jewish.”

On a more serious note, he said in a Parade magazine interview way back in 2002: “But there was always an ethical context to our lives, a very strong notion of individual moral responsibility.”

No surprise that Ford was a Boy Scout as a young man, back when the organization wasn’t tarnished in controversy, achieving the second-highest rank of Life Scout. That moral basis seemed to have helped him weather some tougher and leaner years and storms of Hollywood to become the legend he is today.

I do find some similarities with Harrison, in addition to the fact that we are both action actors. We were raised in non-acting environments away from the east and west coasts. We were raised by moral Christian parents. For years and years, we both worked hard by the sweat of our brows to make it in acting. We played a ton of our own action scenes rather than relying every time on stunt doubles. (I wonder if he feels the pain of those stunts today as much as I do!) Speaking of aging bodies, we’re just about the same age. And we both spend much of our time today helping others better their lives. I call it the switch between being successful and being significant.

I just love that Harrison always strives to be his best, no matter what age he is. Ford once said, “When I was a carpenter I worked with this Russian lady architect. I would tell her, ‘Look, I’m terribly sorry, but I want to change that a half-of-an-inch.’ And she would say, ‘There’s no limit for better.’ I think that is a worthy credo. You keep on going until you get it as close to being right as the time and patience of others will allow.”

I think that is what I admire most about Harrison Ford: his grit and his drive. Today, too many businesses and employers have jobs that no one wants to fill, because too many have learned to be dependent upon entitlements and government welfare. Harrison and I (and others like us) grew up in an age where a strong work ethic was expected and imperative to get anywhere in this life. To not have a strong work ethic was frowned upon by everyone. But having one is the modus operandi to help you achieve the American Dream.

Case in point was Harrison Ford.

Ford said in a Vanity Fair interview in 2020, by a flip of the coin, he came out west in the 1960s to act after being raised in Chicago and starting his young family in Wisconsin.

It was in Los Angeles in the 1970s that Ford was working as a carpenter to make ends meet while trying to get any movie role he could land. And where better for a rising actor to put his carpentry skills to use than around the Hollywood studios and industry executives’ offices?

Ford described to Vanity Fair that he was doing carpentry on Francis Ford Coppola’s office when George Lucas and Richard Dreyfus came walking in to do casting calls for the original “Star Wars.” Lucas also hired Harrison to build a door in the casting offices.

Harrison thought his chances were slim to none of getting any acting role in “Star Wars.” His reason was this: Despite his having a very small role in one of Lucas’ earlier films, “American Graffiti” (1973), Harrison also knew that Lucas wanted “new faces” in the “Star Wars” movie.

Legendary producer Fred Roos also shared, “Harrison had done a lot of carpentry for me. He needed money; he had kids; he wasn’t a big movie star yet. The day he was doing it, George happened to be there. It was serendipitous.”

Despite hundreds of people competing for the role of Hans Solo in “Star Wars,” Lucas decided Harrison was actually the best person for the part. And the rest, they say, is history.

It was hard and humble work in addition to serendipity that launched one of the greatest movie careers in history. Without it, “Star Wars” may not have been as big of a hit; we’d also have a different Indiana Jones, a different Blade Runner, a different Jack Ryan, etc.

Happy Birthday, Harrison, from my wife, Gena, and me! We hope this next year treats you well and that your shoulder injury from Indiana Jones 5 is healing up. Just a bit of advice: At 79 years of age, maybe it’s time you start using a stunt double.

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