Harrison Ford is a man who has the knack of being in the right place at the right time. And if he didn’t, he’d likely now be a retired carpenter who worked doing odd in and around Los Angeles.
Maybe he’d be living on a pension in one of those boardwalked coastal towns up and down California Highway 1 — but some of those are at risk now from rising sea levels. Or maybe Ford would have moved back to his home city of Chicago — though the storms hitting the United States Midwest are very severe, the climate variances there are becoming very extreme.
But because Ford was the right man in the right place at the right time, the part-time actor and whole-time casual carpenter happened to be working on the set in 1973 of what would become a cult classic, American Graffiti. They were stuck and needed a stand in. He was 31 then, and it took another four years of sawing two-by-fours and pounding nails before he landed the role that introduced him to global audiences as Han Solo in the Star Wars.
Now, aged 76, Ford has an extensive ranch in Wyoming, flies planes and helicopters as a hobby, has houses around the world — all the trappings one would expect from an actor who was the most bankable of Hollywood A-listers, the bullwhip-cracking archeologist hero Indiana Jones, and the star of so many blockbuster hits it’s just not funny.
But Ford is determined that he won’t just be remembered for the roles on the big screen. He was in Dubai last week, attending the World Government Summit, and delivering a strong and moving warning to the 4,000 delegates, heads of state, Nobel laureates and leaders of business corporations and international organisations on the need for urgent and sustainable action on climate change.
‘Roll up our sleeves’
“Nature doesn’t need people, people need nature,” was one of the key lines delivered with all the growl only he could muster. “We need to roll up our sleeves and work together for its protection.”
How very true indeed.
And when you’re as comfortable in your skin as Ford is, there’s nothing to fear in speaking out, even against the president of his own country.
“Around the world, elements of leadership — including in my own country — to preserve their state and the status quo, deny or denigrate science,” he said. “They are on the wrong side of history.”
Ford said the Earth’s temperature has risen by 40 per cent, accelerating climate change beyond our predictions, which, given that 75 per cent of the world’s largest cities are on a coastline — including Dubai — could lead to devastating effects.
“As our oceans warm, glacier ice melt and expansion drive sea levels higher, endangering these cities, threatening their population and their economies,” he added.
I’m sure he knows a thing or two around sea levels — after all, he did receive a $25 million (Dh91.95 million) pay cheque for his role as the Soviet submarine commander of the ill-fated K-19: The Widowmaker.
While oceans cover 71 per cent of the planet, the impact of rising temperatures would wipe out many island populations, Ford warned. The world will also experience more violent weather and unpredictable weather patterns as global warming rates increase, he said.
“We are faced with, what I believe, is the greatest moral crisis of our time. That those least responsible for nature’s destruction will suffer the greatest consequences.
“All of us whether rich or poor, powerful or powerless will suffer the effects of climate change and ecosystem destruction,” he added, while calling on humanity to work together and develop practical strategies by investing more in science and adopting behaviours that protect the climate.
There’s an honesty about Ford that seems genuine. His smile is lopsided and his leading man looks are less than perfect — his chin is famously scarred, the result of a car crash when he was 21. Still, it didn’t deter People Magazine from naming him as the World’s Sexiest Man in 1998. His reaction? “I never feel sexy,” he said. “I’ve got a completely unbalanced, irregular face, and a nose that’s been broken three or four times. One eye is higher than the other. When people photograph me, they have to kind of twist the lights around me to make me look like a movie actor.”
His work on the big screen spans six decades and, in US cinemas alone, he movies have grossed more than $4.7 billion — only Samuel L. Jackson has grossed more, at $5.7 billion.
He’s married now to actor Calista Flockhart, and has two sons from his first marriage to Mary Marquardt in 1964. That ended in divorce in 1979.
Ford went on to marry screenwriter Melissa Mathison, who penned ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, in 1983. After 17 years, another son and a daughter, they divorced in 2001 resulting in one of the biggest settlements then in Hollywood history — worth some $70 million.
He’s always been a lover of nature too, even if Indiana Jones hates snakes. The American Museum of Natural History in New York went so far as to name a spider after him — calponia harisonfordi — in thanks for narrating a nature documentary. It’s a topic that gives him some of his best lines.