Harrison Ford moved to Hollywood in 1964 where he took on an acting gig at Columbia Pictures that paid him $150 a week. Nothing came of this, so he decided to sign a deal elsewhere, this time with Universal. Again, this didn’t pay the bills, as he was only cast for minor rolls in television series. By 1970, he and his then wife had two kids. So he taught himself carpentry at the local Encino Public Library, stating that it was “simple and logical.”
The image above is courtesy of Sergio Mendes, and was taken after Ford and his carpentry crew finished their first big gig to build a $100,000 recording studio for the Brazilian artist. Ford became known around Hollywood as a skilled carpenter, and some of his work is still up to this day in the Hollywood Hills. He would even go on to do some carpentry work for director Francis Ford Coppola. But though carpentry was his day job, he never gave up on his dream of becoming an actor. In 1973, he appeared in a small but recognizable role in Lucas’ American Graffiti.
Coppola, who served as producer for American Graffiti, gave Ford some small roles in his films The Conversation (1974) and in Apocalypse Now (1976, but released in 1979). Still, Ford’s acting career never really picked up any steam. But the casting director for American Graffiti, Fred Roos, saw potential for him and recommended the carpenter to Lucas who needed someone to help out with auditions for Star Wars.
Although we see the actor as an obvious choice for the role as Han Solo now, it didn’t look too good for him back then. George Lucas had a policy of not reusing actors, and since he had been previously cast in American Graffiti Lucas wasn’t keen on casting Ford anyway. And Ford felt himself no more than a helping hand, gauging different potential actors to play as Luke and Leia by doing line reads as the character of Han Solo opposite them. During these line reads it soon became obvious that he was a better fit for the role of Han Solo than most of the actors that were actually auditioning for their respective roles. It wasn’t until Steven Spielberg, Lucas’ good friend, urged George to use Harrison Ford in the role that he eventually relented and tentatively cast him as Han Solo. But even after he tentatively cast him, Lucas began doubting this decision and almost recast the role with another young talent, Christopher Walken.
But thankfully that didn’t come to pass. Han Solo is perhaps the most beloved character in the entire Star Wars franchise, and that is in no small part due to Ford’s impeccable casting. Take a look at some of his line reads with co-star Mark Hamill:
Today Harrison Ford is the highest grossing domestic box-office star of all time, as his films have grossed over $4.6B in the US, as of January 2016.
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