FLASHBACK: The Surprising Story Behind Harrison's Ford Viral '70s Carpenter Photo
By Joe Bergren
Harrison Ford turns 75 today, which is crazy. He’s one of
those people who seem to have lived 100 years, the only explanation that allows
for such an impressive body of work. Ford has portrayed countless heroes on the
big screen, creating ruses to evade the Empire and using book smarts to uncover
the Ark of the Covenant.
Many of his fans might be aware of his life as a carpenter
before landing the role of Han Solo in Star
Wars, as well as the often told legend of how he landed the part. But what
hasn’t been pointed out is how Ford was displaying the traits of his most
iconic characters years before stepping into the roles.
Around the 2015 premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Brazilian jazz star Sérgio Mendes posted a photo to his official Facebook account.
Jonnnneesssss! The caption read:
“Before Han Solo, there was a great carpenter named Harrison
Ford. And here he is, with his crew, the day he finished building my recording
studio back in 1970...Thank you Harrison...may the force be with you…”
The shirtless pic of a young, pre-fame Indiana Jones sent
the internet into a frenzy.
But there’s one detail behind this story that Mendes may or
may not be aware of. When ET talked to Ford about his early days working as a
carpenter, he revealed something that the musician didn’t know before hiring him.
“The first job I had was a $100,000 recording studio for Sérgio
Mendes in his backyard in Encino,” Ford told ET in 1982.
“A very nice man, Sérgio. And never asked me if I had done
“So, I never brought it up and it came out very well, thank
you. But thanks to books from the Encino Public Library,” said Ford.
Correct. Mendes had no idea this was Ford’s first carpenter
job, and that he was only able to build a recording studio by using his library
The actor added: “A little help from my friends.” Ford was
most likely referencing the library nonprofits that collect book donations and
go by the name “Friends of the Library.”
Apparently, the recording studio came out pretty well.
Mendes clearly has fond memories of Ford, and was even praising his
craftsmanship 13 years later.
“Well, when I decided to build this studio, a friend of mine
told me, well, ‘I know a young carpenter,’” Mendes told ET in 1983. “So he came
over. Young fellow with a beard and the long hair. And I said, ‘OK, let's do
the studio.’ And his name was Harrison Ford. And the rest, you know, is
history. And he is a great carpenter. He did a marvelous job.”
Needless to say, the customer was satisfied -- if Yelp had
been around in 1970, it’s safe to presume Mendes would have given five stars to
the young fellow with a beard.
Before Ford moved to being a movie star full-time, he continued
to do carpentry work in between film and TV roles. Valerie Harper and Sally
Kellerman were two other celebrities who employed Ford during that time. During
his conversation with ET, Ford explained why he wanted to take up the vocation
after his career hit a plateau.
“I stopped taking the same kind of job over and over again
in television, so I didn't wear out my welcome. And I thought [that] if I found
another job to make money, I wouldn't be tempted to take acting jobs merely to
have enough money to put food on the table,” said Ford. “So, I became a
carpenter, and in that time I was a carpenter -- eight years -- I only did
about three or four films. I never abandoned my ambition to be an actor, but I
only did those parts which were better than what I had been offered before, and
in good movies.”
Let’s zoom in on Ford in that photo... Now, that’s the face of a guy who knows what he’s doing, even
when he doesn’t.