Career Switchers: Harrison Ford

Career Transition Apr 11, 2021


This week saw some big Hollywood news, with new cast members added to the upcoming fifth installment of the Indiana Jones saga.

The film’s female lead Phoebe Waller-Bridge has had a well-documented rise over the last few years. After appearing in a number of short films and UK theatre productions,  her one-woman show ‘Fleabag’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival led to a TV adaptation that catapulted her to becoming one of the world’s most in-demand writers and actors, including working on the next edition of another famous franchise - James Bond.

But while Waller-Bridge has grown up in a digital world where every project and career step is so easily documented (and spend all her career working in the arts), her Indiana Jones co-star comes from somewhere a little different.

Before he hit the big time as Han Solo in Star Wars, Harrison Ford had a very different career. Although he’d begun acting straight out of high school, he became frustrated with the roles being offered to him (it probably didn’t help that the head of Columbia Pictures thought he had "no future" in the film business). Needing to support a wife and two young children, Ford put some of the skills he learned as a Boy Scout to use and became a self-taught professional carpenter.

In fact, Harrison Ford was a professional carpenter for nearly 15 years. Given the entertainment business is the most-well known in Los Angeles, a good gig for carpenters in the area was working for the studios.

Towards the end of the 70s, Ford was hired to build sound stages and an office for none other than George Lucas. After doing an impromptu reading for Lucas, he was connected to a young director friend of Lucas’. This director was called Steven Spielberg and he saw something special in the carpenter/actor.

Ford ended up being offered the part of Han Solo for Lucas’ ‘Star Wars’ movie, which soon led to his second franchise - a Spielberg/Lucas collaboration called Indiana Jones.

Not a bad way to harness those Boy Scout and Carpentry skills.