“Did You Know?” Episode 3: The True Death of Han Solo

Let me just put this right out there: aside from Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford is my favorite actor of all time. Boom. Between his roles as Indiana Jones, Han Solo, and — shucks — even President James Marshall (“GET OFF MY PLANE!”), there was no greater movie hero during my childhood. Heck, even in adulthood, looking back and watching Ford’s sideways smirk and headstrong bravado, it’s still very hard to dissuade my total reverence of him as an actor. And yet…we all know what happened to Harrison Ford’s career post-1999. Many amazing things occurred in the new millennium. Harrison Ford’s career was not one of them. So when did Ford’s career start to shift? Well, ironically enough, once Ford decided to go “all villain” for the first time in Robert Zemeckis’ vastly underrated horror film, What Lies Beneath (2000), his career followed that of his status at the end of the flick: dead and gone. And no, loyal fan boys, as much as I defend Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) while people are still throwing stones at its silliness (honestly, is an extraterrestrial encounter more far-fetched than the quests for the Fountain of Youth and the cursed Ark of the Covenant?), that fourth entry in the beloved franchise is nothing but a career cheat, a gimme if you will. Every film Ford has participated in after What Lies Beneath, besides the aforementioned Indy flick, has been either a commercial flop or critical disappointment — in most cases, both. So by killing Harrison Ford in What Lies Beneath, and turning him into a villain for the first time, did Zemeckis inadvertently “kill off” Ford’s career altogether? Find out the truth that lies beneath in this week’s Did You Know?

The beginning of the end? Let’s hope not!

As I mentioned above, Harrison Ford had two real “firsts” for casual moviegoers in What Lies Beneath: he was killed off for the first time and cast as the villain. This one-two punch from Zemeckis, to the humorous albeit tragic irony of many moviegoers, was the damnation of Ford’s career from then on. But while the latter fact is true — Harrison Ford had never before played a purely evil baddie in his career — the former is actually false. Did You Know that Harrison Ford’s first on-screen death came from a film that I’m guessing many have never seen, heard of or even thought could have existed for the invincible Harrison Ford: Peter Weir’s The Mosquito Coast (1986). At the end of the film, Harrison Ford’s character is *SPOILERS* fatally shot and dies pretty much off-screen after he says goodbye to his wife, played by Helen Mirren, while the two drift down the river on a raft with their family. I’m guessing a majority of movie lovers have never heard of this film, because at that time it was one of the only movies Harrison Ford starred in that made less than its total budget ($14 million gross against a $25 million budget), something Ford admitted to being proud of although unaccustomed to (just wait fifteen years, pal). So yes, while Zemeckis may have indeed played a huge role in the “death” of Harrison Ford’s career, the true death of our beloved Han Solo came first in Peter Weir’s The Mosquito Bite. Harrison had always wanted Han Solo to die in Return of the Jedi, and is rumored to desire a similar fate for Indiana Jones in an upcoming sequel. I’ll just say this: be careful what you wish for — oops, too late. Here’s to hoping Harrison Ford will be resurrected by Gavin Hood in next year’s Ender’s Game (sci-fi made his career, and hopefully it’ll revive it again…without the damn cowboys)!

Here are the only two death scenes involving Harrison Ford where the Grim Reaper shot first:


That’s it for this week’s Did You Know?