50 unknown facts about Star Wars, many gleaned from How Star Wars Conquered the Universe. I’ve heard some of these before, but not many…the list doesn’t include low-hanging fruit like Harrison Ford’s carpentry.
Favorite facts: 1. Early on, Luke Skywalker’s nickname was “Wormy”. Wormy! 2. The actor who portrayed Vader, David Prowse, spoke his dialogue on set not knowing he would be dubbed over. Because of his West Country accent, the other cast members referred to Prowse as Darth Farmer.
Speaking of Harrison Ford’s carpentry, the new biography of Joan Didion has a good story about that time Didion and her husband John Dunne hired Ford to do some construction for them.
Off and on, for over six month, the Dunnes engaged a construction crew to expand the waterside deck, install waxed pine bookshelves, and lay terra-cotta floor tiles. The men tore out prefabricated plywood walls and pulled up “icky green” flooring. Harrison Ford headed the crew. “They were the most sophisticated people I knew,” Ford said. “I was the first thing they saw in the morning and the last thing they saw before cocktails.”
In Vegas, Dunne wrote, “[W]hat had started as a two-month job … [stretched] into its sixth month and the construction account was four thousand dollars overdrawn… I fired the contractor. ‘Jesus, man, I understand,’ he said. He was an out-of-work actor and his crew sniffed a lot of cocaine and when he left he unexpectedly gave me a soul-brother handshake, grabbing my thumb while I was left with an unimportant part of his little finger.” The next day, Dunne realized the only thing separating him and his family from the Pacific Ocean was a clear sheet of Pliofilm where the French doors were supposed to go. “I rehired the contractor,” he wrote. “‘Jesus, man, I understand,’ the contractor said.”
Much later, when Didion’s daughter was ill, Ford did the family a further service.
The following day, Didion flew from Teterboro to Los Angeles on Harrison Ford’s private plane, along with her friend Earl McGrath. Ford “happened to be in New York and heard about Q’s condition … and called to offer to take Joan,” said Sean Michael. “I find that to be a beautiful thing,” he said. “A man you hire to build cabinets, thirty years later is flying you in his private jet to your daughter’s hospital bedside.”
Jesus, man, I understand.
Update: Some of Ford’s comments from the book were taken from Carolyn Kellogg’s reporting on an awards festival.
As if to make up for her absence, a parade of stars was in attendance. Harrison Ford, who was prepared to present her the award, spoke somewhat extemporaneously instead. “I just want to tell you all how much her friendship has meant to me,” he said. Forty years ago, Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, were “The most sophisticated people I knew.”
Then a carpenter, Ford was hired by Didion and Dunne to build their beach house in Malibu. “I was the first thing they saw in the morning and the last thing they saw” — he paused — “before cocktails.”
You may have heard by now that Ridley Scott has signed on to “direct and produce a new installment of Blade Runner.” Nobody seems to know if it’s a prequel or sequel, but I imagine either way, Harrison Ford will be around for a paycheck if there’s a role for him. It’s often said that Hollywood is out of ideas, but this is a perfect project for Ridley Scott whose next film, Prometheus, is a “cousin” of the Alien franchise.
If it seems I’m not giving this story the proper respect, it’s because I only saw Blade Runner once while [Redacted because it’s too long of a story for the throwaway sentence at the end of a post. You’ll have to trust it was less than ideal cinematic viewing conditions.].
If you need a reminder of Harrison Ford’s ability to play Indiana Jones after nearly 20 years on the shelf, it comes in the movie’s opening scene. Indy is roughly extracted from a car and tumbles to the ground. We see him stumble towards his trademark hat with that walk, a graceful stuttering step, wary of booby traps even on solid ground. Even though the camera shows us only his boots, it’s unmistakably Indiana Jones.
That walk is also a signal that Lucas and Spielberg didn’t screw this whole thing up…aside from the goofy film title (although having seen the movie, anything else would have ruined the surprise). They didn’t take the bait offered by Casino Royale or The Bourne Ultimatum and attempt to shoehorn Dr. Jones into a frenetic, circa-2008 thrill-ride. Oh, there were thrills alright and plenty of swashes were buckled, but this was an action/adventure movie straight out of the 80s. Safe territory for Lucas and Spielberg perhaps, but for someone who believes that the best 80s action adventure movies have something to teach contemporary filmmakers (#1 of a long list: Don’t make the special effects the star), the film was a thoroughly enjoyable territory in which to spend an evening. (thx to nextnewnetworks for the ticket hookup)
They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Sort of. According to Wikipedia, there are seven different versions of Blade Runner, from a 113-minute workprint version shown to test audiences in early 1982 to the “Final Cut” supervised by director Ridley Scott and released in late 2007. I saw the latter version1 and with the exception of Rachael’s giant shoulder pads and the slower pacing, the whole thing seemed surprisingly contemporary (or not-too-dated at least). The film has aged well, like a fine wine.
 Which I watched in HD on a large TV…a fantastic way to view this beautifully cinematic film. I think this is what David Lynch is taking about when he says that you shouldn’t watch movies on a “fucking telephone”. ↩
Action films tend not to age well. Raiders is a happy exception. Expertly paced, a trait not shared by many contemporary films, action or otherwise.