Harrison Ford Was One Of The 'Few People' Who Actually Thought Star Wars Could Work

For so many of us, it's hard to remember a time when "Star Wars" wasn't a ubiquitous piece of western culture. It doesn't matter whether the prequels took you out of it all, if the originals are your favorite, if you loved or hated the sequels, or if you care at all about the Disney+ offerings. It's part of the world we live in, and it will always be a huge entry into the world of sci-fi and movies overall.

There was a time, however, before the first film came out in 1977 when very few people believed it would succeed. Creator George Lucas had seen some breakout success as the writer and director of "American Graffiti" in 1973, which opened the door to him getting to make "Star Wars," but sci-fi wasn't necessarily regarded as high art in the years before that. There were, of course, well-received sci-fi films prior to that (think "2001: A Space Odyssey"). Still, the genre didn't have the cache it does today. I remember asking my own father about it a few years ago, and he said, "No one thought this would be anything other than the usual sci-fi stuff. And then we saw it, and everything changed."

Among those who thought "Star Wars" might actually work were Harrison Ford — or so the actor told Empire in a 2002 interview (rerun in 2019), in which he looked back at his legendary role as rogue pilot Han Solo in the franchise.

'It was a long time ago and far, far away'

When "Star Wars" came around, Harrison Ford had already worked with George Lucas on "American Graffiti." It's a good thing he knew the director because he was only getting $2,000 a week "in wages and expenses" for the role of Han Solo, according to the Empire interview. Ford wasn't a fresh young actor like co-stars Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher. He was 35 at the time, and "had some degree of maturity and some degree of experience, yet physically I still looked young. That had been an impediment early on in my career, but then it turned out to be an advantage," he explained. Considering how good he still looks in 2023 playing Jacob Dutton in the TV series "1923," it's still working for him.

Though he joked about that first film being "a long time ago and far, far away," it still looms large. Ford believed in the film, particularly its mythological elements. He told Empire: 

"I was one of the few people who thought it was going to work, and I hadn't even seen any special effects. I just thought George [Lucas] had tapped into something primordial, some myth that I recognized the power of. The wise old warrior played by Alec Guinness, the callow prince played by Mark Hamill, the princess played by Carrie Fisher — and I knew that I was the rapscallion of the universe. 

"And I thought it was funny. I always thought 'Star Wars' and 'Indiana Jones' were basically comedies. The humor came out of their relationships; it came out of the fact that we were basically types."

The myth that inspired Star Wars

The "myth" that Harrison Ford mentioned to Empire came from the world of mythologist Joseph Campbell, who wrote (among other titles) "The Hero With a Thousand Faces," something that heavily influenced George Lucas' work on "Star Wars." Campbell explored archetypes and universal themes that go along with so many stories of young heroes worldwide, across cultures and lands, and how the idea of a hero's journey speaks to something deep within us. Lucas had clearly tapped into that with his script.

The humor Ford brought up was also a huge part of "Star Wars" for me as a little girl, and remains so. Though Ford has voiced his criticism of Lucas' dialogue writing before (and to Lucas directly), I still find myself giggling at lines like, "We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?" despite the fact that I've heard it hundreds of times. (Okay, it's mostly for Ford's delivery, but still.)

Ford was obviously correct, as we can see all these years later, and friends, I recommend doing a rewatch of the original "Star Wars" film. I spent a bit watching clips for this story, and I feel compelled to give it yet another viewing, even though I can recite every line in my sleep. If you want to do the same, all the "Star Wars" films are currently streaming on Disney+.