Harrison Ford: A wasted career?

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He said “no” to Alien and Schindler’s List and “yes” to Ender’s Game – we love you Harrison Ford, but some of your career decisions have been terrible.

Harrison Ford’s first feature film role was as a bellhop in James Coburn’s Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round in 1966. After the film’s release, a studio executive told him that he had no future in the film industry, and in typical Ford style, Harrison completely ignored the advice. 11 years after that was said, Harrison Ford had become a household name, thanks to his appearance in the epochal first entry of the Star Wars trilogy, as Han Solo.

Harrison Ford has never really struck anyone as a particularly talented actor

In the ten years that followed his break-through role, Ford would go on to appear in films as magnificent as Apocalypse Now, Blade Runner and Raiders of the Lost Ark. However, with such brilliance behind him, Harrison Ford’s upcoming parts in films like The Expendables 3 and Anchorman 2 would appear to be a waste of his talents, unless that studio executive was right after all.

Strangely, Harrison Ford has never really struck anyone as a particularly talented actor. Given his many roles, and the success his career has afforded him, you’d expect some notable or standout performances. Instead, Ford has been streamlined over the years into the same recurring roles, typecast as the charming cynic and the reluctant hero. It’s no wonder that he has shown immense resentment to the effect Star Wars has had on his career (though you’d think the bottomless pit of money would take the edge off of his sorrows).

Harrison Ford Star Wars

However much Harrison Ford dislikes the way his career has taken shape, it’s not hard to see why it’s gone the way it has. Han Solo was a brilliant character, and few people could have done the part with as much apathetic wit as Ford. Fast-forward his career to the early 80s, and it’s that same reluctant grin that lands Harrison Ford the role of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark and, to his credit, I doubt anyone else would have suited the role so well.

Among the many titles in Harrion Ford’s rejection list are films like Alien, Schindler’s List, Syriana, Jurassic Park, Cape Fear and JFK

Just a year after Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ford would star as the lead for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, by far the most experimental film Ford had taken on at the time. Tonally, Blade Runner was to be worlds apart from Ford’s other leading roles, and yet it asked little new of Ford, who had been playing a quiet protagonist since the early 70s. While none of this demonstrates that Ford is talentless, it does go some way toward suggesting that he lacks any range. Of the many films he’s been credited for over his 50 years of acting, few have seen him venture outside of those aforementioned character traits. Over the years we’ve seen him as a detective, a colonel, a doctor, a space-smuggler and President of the Unites States of America, but it’s always just been Harrison Ford underneath.

If anything, Harrison Ford has attained greatness through his limited range; like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Seth Rogen, he has his own niche in the film industry. And yet, Harrison Ford has had some outstanding opportunities offered to him over the years. Among the many titles in his rejection list are films like Alien, Schindler’s List, Syriana, Jurassic Park, Cape Fear and JFK. So while he could have been a part of Syriana, he was busy in the all too forgettable Firewall. Where he could have been in Alien, he chose instead to be a part of The Frisco Kid – the list is an agonising read.


Did Ford think himself above those roles? Or did he simply get it wrong? Either way, it’s hard to fathom why an actor would decline so many top-notch parts to appear in an endless stream of unremarkable melodramas. Still, his alternative choices were by no means awful; throughout the 80s and even the 90s, Ford showed a decent consistency both in terms of the quality of the films he starred in, and in the performances that he gave.

You wonder why Harrison Ford is still slugging it out over franchises that have already had his best

However, soon after entering the 21st century, Ford’s choice in roles took a turn for the worse. As if it was a sign of things to come, the haggard and unoriginal What Lies Beneath came out in 2000, to reviews that were mixed at best. Things continued to slide downhill, with Ford picking up one trashy role after another: Hollywood Homicide, Crossing Over, Extraordinary Measures, Cowboys & Aliens and Paranoia, to name a few.

Now into his 70s, and with a terrific career under his belt, you’ve got to wonder why Harrison Ford is still slugging it out over sequels and franchises that have already had his best. That he’s even considering Blade Runner 2 serves as the best sign of how far gone his better days are and, sadly, I won’t be surprised to see his name slapped across that title once more.


Featured image: Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate

Inset images: 20th Century Fox; Paramount

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