carpenter turned actor actor Harrison Ford in the movie Witness

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford made his living as a carpenter. At least he did so prior to making “American Graffiti.” There is a story about how he was working around tinsel town, building sets when he was approached by George Lucas to play a role in Graffiti. When Ford heard what the studio was willing to pay him for the project he said: “I can make more money as a carpenter.” Some negotiations ensued and Ford took the role. More importantly, established the connections which launched his acting career.

Another story is that when Star Wars rolled around Ford became even savvier about the business end of things. He asked for a percentage of what the film ultimately grossed. If this story is true, with one single move, it seems he set himself up for life.

Ford’s background as a tradesmen gave something of an everyman quality to his acting. There was a rugged depth to his early character work that made his action heroes believable. Even in the far out personages of Han Solo, Indiana Jones or Rick Deckard, Ford seemed at home. I once read a quote from him about his acting style that I will paraphrase here: “when I am playing a guy who is in trouble I just try to think and feel like a guy who is in trouble.”

It is one style of acting to stay close to oneself, taking each action and reaction on a personal level.  And while this style does not always endure and remain believable. Over the course of a long career, when Ford (playing John Book in Witness) is seen using a block plane or climbing into the rafters during a post and beam barn raising, it is believable.