Oral History: Harrison Ford, From Philosophy to Acting

by Jack Tewksbury December 14, 2018
Actor Harrison Ford, Golden Globe nominee

Harrison Ford, 1986

hfpa archives

or over 40 years the HFPA has recorded famous and celebrated actors, actresses and filmmakers. The world's largest collection of its kind - over 10,000  items- is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Margaret Herrick Library.

In this excerpt from our archives, Golden Globe nominee and Cecil B. deMille recipient Harrison Ford explains how he became an actor - by way of fear and carpentry.


"I was a philosophy major in college, which prepares you to do nothing but teach philosophy or write. I had done a couple of plays. I was looking for something that was challenging and would provide me with a variety of experiences.

When I first went on stage I was frightened to death, so I was  interested in overcoming that  fear.  Later I became fascinated with the process of working with a group of people. If I had known then how difficult it was to get a job as an actor, I might have tried something else.

I worked as a carpenter only because I was doing the same part over and over again on episodic television. I wanted to begin to control my own career, so I found another way of making money to pay for food and rent. I wanted to be able to choose  from among  the parts that were offered to me.   

I do not hide behind a character. I pretty much use myself but I don't rewrite the role in terms of  myself. I try to play the  character. I don't became so immersed in the part that, if you were to talk to me after the camera stopped rolling, I would still be  in character.

I would  rather play something  written for Dustin Hoffman or another star than what is written for me. I don't think a character should be written to serve an actor. He should be created both by the screenwriter and the actor to serve the story."