Still a swashbuckler at 75: Happy Birthday, Harrison Ford! | Film | DW | 13.07.2017
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Still a swashbuckler at 75: Happy Birthday, Harrison Ford!

An action star with an affinity for taking flight, Hollywood star Harrison Ford turns 75. Age doesn't seem to be slowing him down - he's got several new movies in the works.

Whether playing Han Solo in "Star Wars," Rick Deckard in "Blade Runner" or "Indiana Jones" himself, Harrison Ford has made a name for himself as one of Hollywood's most successful actors. Of course he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and too many awards to count, including an Oscar nomination.

A late starter in the film industry, Ford trained and worked as a carpenter until he was 30. A husband and father of two, he then started supplementing his income with appearances on television. Those minor roles included bit parts in westerns like "Gunsmoke" and "The Virginian."

Action hero with a crooked grin

That is, until director George Lucas cast him in a side part in his low-budget production, "American Graffiti," in 1973. The small role was enough to impress Lucas, who brought him on board for his next project: At 35, Ford made his debut as space smuggler Han Solo in the original "Star Wars" in 1977.

Harrison Ford, as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher, as Princess Leia Organa, and Mark Hamill, as Luke Skywalker in a scene from the 1977 Star Wars

Harrison Ford as Han Solo in the original "Star Wars" - with Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker

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That wouldn't remain his only adventure role. Lucas cast the friendly actor with the crooked smile in his "Indiana Jones" films, where Ford travels the world as an archaeologist with a whip and a leather hat, rescuing valuable cultural treasures from the Nazis and other bad guys. Three "Indiana Jones" films were released between 1981 and 1989, with several more following between 1992 and 2008.

Already a Hollywood name, Ford caught the attention of star director Ridley Scott, who picked him for his dark science fiction film "Blade Runner" (1982) - a movie that was underestimated at first, but later became a cult hit.

Harrison Ford in a scene from Blade Runner

Harrison Ford in a scene from the cult sci-fi classic, "Blade Runner"

Ford also played a number of character roles, including in "Witness" (1985) and "The Mosquito Coast" (1986). In his more challenging roles, he tends to play responsible men who are able to display incredible strength in times of danger in order to rescue themselves or others.

Ford ages with his roles

Now with a considerable resume under his belt, Ford continues to make movies - and Hollywood still can't get enough of the characters he played in his younger days. In 2015, he returned to "Star Wars" as an older Han Solo. In "Blade Runner 2049," coming out in October 2017, he'll once again portray ex-police officer Rick Deckard alongside young star Ryan Gosling.

Producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg are also continuing to keep Ford busy. As Professor Dr. Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones, he'll be returning to the silver screen in 2020 - considerably older, but not without his whip and leather hat.

Director Steven Spielberg, US producer George Lucas and US actor Harrison Ford

Dream team: Director Steven Spielberg, producer George Lucas and actor Harrison Ford teamed up for four "Indiana Jones" films

Hollywood star without major scandals

Ford is known for keeping his private life more or less under wraps - although we do know that he went through one of Hollywood's most expensive divorces. After 20 years of marriage with his first wife Melissa Mathison, he paid out $72 million in alimony in 2004. But that's a drop in the pond for Ford, who, according to the 2009 Forbes list, was once Hollywood's best-earning actor with a yearly income of around $57 million.

Now Ford is married to actress Calista Flockhart, who made a name for herself as "Ally McBeal." He has five children and two grandchildren and lives on a ranch in Wyoming.

Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart

Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart have been married since 2010

Passion for planes

Ford's hobby is flying. He collects old airplanes - he supposedly owns seven - and flies them regularly. But his airborne passion has not been without incident.

In 2015, Ford crashed on a golf course near Los Angeles. He survived, but was severely injured. In February 2017, he landed on a taxiway instead of a runway and came close to a jet airliner. He almost lost his pilot's license.

The plane Harrison Ford crash-landed on a golf course in the Venice area of Los Angeles in 2015

The plane Harrison Ford crash-landed on a golf course in Los Angeles in 2015

For years, Ford has been committed to environmental protection, including the struggle against the pollution of the Hudson River. He has advocated for rainforest protection in Indonesia and is on the board of Conservation International, an NGO committed to preserving biodiversity.

Ford was honored for his environmental commitment by having two living creatures named after him: a Californian spider, the Calponia harrisonfordi, and a Central American ant, the Pheidole harrisonfordi.


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