Harrison Ford’s expert guide to avoiding career suicide
In a recent interview, Ford acknowledged that his long and successful acting career began with Han Solo, the space mercenary in Star Wars, and that “I was basically not out of work again for about 40 years.”
Yet he wasn’t always so happy to be associated with the character.
In fact, he became so unhappy playing Han Solo that by Return of the Jedi, the last of the original trilogy, Ford wanted George Lucas to kill the mercenary off, but the director had other plans. Ford said, “Three is enough for me. I was glad to see that costume for the last time.”
As far as Ford was concerned that was the end of Han Solo. Except we all know that forty years later he returned in The Force Awakens. During that long hiatus, Ford made peace with the role that made him famous.
However, many actors have been less fortunate when publicly criticising their work and would do well to imitate Harrison Ford’s measured approach when it comes to character and co-worker appraisals.
Heigl had a promising career. She co-starred in the award-winning television series Grey’s Anatomy and in several popular movies.
Her career went downhill when she shunned an Emmy nomination for Grey’s Anatomy. Asked why she had withdrawn as nominee she replied that the quality of the scripts was unworthy of an award.
Then she said Knocked Up, a movie in which she’d starred, was a little sexist. This upset co-star Seth Rogan and director Judd Apatow, both of whom are well regarded.
Harrison to Katherine: Don’t diss your colleagues and expect to work in Hollywood again.
Before avoiding his taxes (which resulted in a jail term), Wesley Snipes was famous as Blade, the hybrid vampire.
Blade spawned a couple of sequels. However, by the third film, Blade Trinity, Snipes fell out with the director and producers and accused them of giving his co-stars more screen time. He tried unsuccessfully to sue the studio for withholding wages.
Harrison to Wesley: The only money due was your taxes.
Fox became famous in Michael Bay’s Transformer movies and was poised to topple Angelina Jolie’s crown. However, the director was unimpressed when Fox compared him to Hitler. Pretty soon Michael’s crew were ‘baying’ for her blood and Stephen Speilberg, the executive producer, demanded she be fired from the third Transformers movie.
Harrison to Megan: Don’t ever compare your boss to Nazis.
So how did Harrison Ford remain unscathed after dissing Han Solo?
1/ Before criticising the character, Ford expressed his gratitude for the role. He appeared sincere, saying that Solo was a missed character development opportunity.
2/ Ford dismissed the character, but not anyone else involved with the movies.
3/ Ford achieved more success playing Indiana Jones. He was now a bankable and popular star. Therefore, his Han Solo comments did not affect his box office status.
4/ Harrison Ford was a friend of Francis Ford Coppola (another famous Hollywood director) who was also friends with Spielberg and Lucas. Ford was a regular at Coppola’s parties and part of the Hollywood clique. He could be upfront with George Lucas because of their friendship and less of a disgruntled employee.
5/ Ford was professional. He arrived on time, said his lines and didn’t cause any trouble on set. Catherine Heigl, Megan Fox and Wesley Snipes were difficult. When their careers came to a halt there were no friends in powerful positions to help them.
In conclusion, if you want to retain goodwill and good references then don’t blame your colleagues (even if it’s true) and don’t offend the boss.
Because one day, just like Harrison Ford, you might find the job wasn’t so bad after all.
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About the author
Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.