By Brent Lang
Executive Editor of Film and Media
Indiana Jones. Han Solo. Rick Deckard. They’re some of the most enduring characters in the history of Hollywood and Harrison Ford, who turns 80 on July 13, is responsible for bringing them all to the screen.
He’s one of the biggest box office stars of all time, having headlined Tiffany franchises such as Indiana Jones and Star Wars, and a few B+ series such as the Jack Ryan films. But Ford is also an accomplished actor, whose success is attributable to the way he grounds his characters in even the most fantastical situations. When Ford rode to the pinnacle of his fame in the 1980s, he was the antithesis of the steroidal action heroes on display in films like “Rambo: First Blood Part II” and “Predator.” Those heroes dispatched their enemies with cyborg-like efficiency. Ford’s characters always broke a sweat. They showed their fear. Indiana Jones may have prevailed, but you got the sense that he knew that with one false step it would have been his ass and not the Nazi mechanic getting shredded by the propeller in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Ford had the good sense to mix things up too. Indiana Jones and Star Wars made him bankable, but he used the clout to get edgier films like “The Mosquito Coast” and “Witness” made. There were false steps along the way, of course. Missed opportunities, such as his boneheaded decision to pass on roles in “Traffic” and “Syriana,” and money grabs that were unworthy of his talent (sorry “Firewall” stans). But through it all, Ford has kept audiences entertained thanks to an alchemic combination of charm, humanity and heart, making him a true icon.