(LOS ANGELES) — He cheated death at the hands of Imperial Stormtroopers, spear-wielding South American natives, Indian voodoo warriors, and in real life, a vintage airplane he crashed onto a California golf course: yes, Harrison Ford turns 75 today.
Born July 13, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois, Ford went from being a bullied kid to a struggling actor making ends meet by doing carpentry work for up-and-coming filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola, to being the highest-grossing actor in history.
A job installing a door for director Coppola led to small roles in Coppola’s The Conversation and Apocalypse Now and eventually — apparently accidentally — Ford’s role as Han Solo in the Star Warssaga. Coppola’s pal George Lucas had already cast Ford in a small role in American Graffiti, but wanted fresh faces for the space epic, so didn’t consider him. Instead, Ford was used to help audition other actors, but wound up winning the role himself.
Fame followed when Star Wars became a phenomenon. Between the releases of sequels The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, in 1980 and 1983, respectively, Ford also played adventuring archaeologist Indiana Jones in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark and 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom — a role he reprised twice more, most recently in 2012’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
As Ford himself has pointed out, he wasn’t Lucas’ first choice for Indy, either: Tom Selleck couldn’t get out of his Magnum P.I. contract.
Nevertheless, Ford went on to star in classics like Ridley Scott’s 1982 seminal sci-fi movie Blade Runner. He scored a Best Actor nomination for 1985’s Witness, and won acclaim for playing a single-minded inventor in 1986’s The Mosquito Coast. He also starred opposite Melanie Griffith in the hit 1987 comedy Working Girl, and in the ’90s, Ford replaced Alec Baldwin in the role of Jack Ryan in Tom Clancy-book-based Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, as well as in the hits Presumed Innocent, The Fugitive, and Air Force One.
In 2010, he married Supergirl actress Calista Flockhart, and in 2015, he was seen one last time as Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens — a film on which he suffered a badly broken leg, thanks to the malfunction of a prop door on set.
An avid aviator, Ford was seriously injured in March of 2015, when the vintage World War II-era plane he was flying crashed shortly after takeoff from California’s Santa Monica Municipal Airport. The plane’s engine apparently quit, and Ford was forced to land on a golf course while attempting to return to the airport.
In February of this year, he had a near miss with a commercial aircraft when — to his embarrassment — he landed on the wrong runway at California’s John Wayne Airport.
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