There are many ways in which actors can break into the industry. They might be close friends with a filmmaker, they might work their way through the ranks with meatier and more substantial roles, or they might direct their own movie and give themselves top billing. While at Star Wars Celebration, Harrison Ford revealed that the way he landed his Han Solo role was a combination of having previously worked with George Lucas on American Graffiti and a lucky break while demonstrating carpentry skills.
When the question of how he landed the role, Lucas said that it was because Ford hung out in front of his office and "pretended to work on something," which Ford refuted as "rubbish."
Ford clarified, "I was actually installing a door for Francis Ford Coppola as a favor to his art director, who had built the door but couldn't find anyone to install it. And I said I'll do it, but I'm only gonna do it at night because I don't want people walking through there while I'm trying to do the thing. And one morning, in walked, while I was finishing up the door, in walked George with Richard Dreyfuss."
Lucas chimed in, "But I was also working with Brian De Palma. So he was in that room with me. Remember him?"
"No. No, I don't remember that," Ford joked. "George walked in, and it was a surprise, and I thought it was an interview for a new science fiction film. Anyway, we just chatted and said hello."
George seemed a little disappointed by this news, hoping that Harrison merely pretend to work as to be noticed by Lucas.
Ford pointed out, "I wouldn't sit out front and wait for you, George. I love you, but I don't wait out front."
However, Ford clearly appreciated Lucas casting him, adding, "I was working. Making a living. And happily, I still am."
Ford's regular career as a carpenter just proves how helpful it can be to have a backup plan when pursuing any career. Even if Lucas hadn't seen him hanging a door for Francis Ford Coppola, he could have still made a living as a carpenter to this day.