Lawrence Edward Kasdan (b. 1949) was born in Miami and raised in a small West Virginia town, where he was often picked on for being Jewish. He intended to become an English teacher, and graduated with a Master’s in Education from the University of Michigan (where he met his future wife of over 40 years). Kasdan couldn’t find a teaching job, however, instead winding up with a position as a copywriter. Despite finding success in the field, and winning the prestigious Clio Award for creative excellence in advertising, Kasdan didn’t like his job. He wanted to become a screenwriter and pitched his work in Hollywood, initially to no avail. One of his first scripts was The Bodyguard, which was rejected some 60 times! (It would eventually make it to the big screen in 1992, starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston.) Kasdan finally managed to sell a script – to Steven Spielberg. After this initial success, he was hired to write the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark (the first of the Indiana Jones series). Just as he finished that script, George Lucas hired him to write The Empire Strikes Back, the second of the Star Wars films. This movie went on to become the most popular of the series, and transformed Star Wars into a timeless film franchise (now worth over $30 billion). The Library of Congress chose the film for preservation because of its cultural and historical significance, and its famous “I am your father” quote has been nominated for the list of greatest American quotes of all time. Kasdan also wrote the screenplay for Return of the Jedi (the final film in the first Star Wars trilogy), and has co-written the newest film in the franchise, The Force Awakens, soon to be released. All in all, Kasdan has written, directed, or produced 19 major films, and has been nominated for four Academy Awards. He is working on one more Star Wars movie, about the early years of Han Solo, which he said will be his last.
Words of the Week
Just as it is forbidden to slander a fellow, it is forbidden to slander oneself. – Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch
Harrison Ford (b. 1942) was born to a Russian-Jewish mother and Irish-Catholic father, but was raised in a secular home. (He would later say that “As a man I’ve always felt Irish, as an actor I’ve always felt Jewish.”) He grew up a devoted Boy Scout, which later helped him immensely in his role as Indiana Jones. It was in college that Ford first became drawn to acting. In 1964 he did some acting at a local theatre, and then moved to LA. For several years he worked as an uncredited film extra, then had minor roles in a number of TV shows. To support his family during this time, Ford worked as a carpenter. His big break came in the early 70’s when he was cast for a role in American Graffiti and met director George Lucas. Lucas gave Ford a couple more small roles until finally casting him as a lead in his new Star Wars film, playing the role of Han Solo. He went on to play Han Solo in both Star Wars sequels, and will reprise his role again in the latest Star Wars film, to be released next month. Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg, too, was eager to work with the rising star, and pushed to have him cast as Indiana Jones (despite Lucas’ initial protests). By the time he was done starring in all three Indiana Jones films, Ford was a Hollywood superstar and a household name. Since then, he has starred in over two dozen more films, among them the classic Blade Runner (which also has a sequel on the way). Ford’s films have grossed over $6 billion, making him among the highest-grossing actors in history, and he has been ranked first among the Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time. Ford is also a pilot and owns both airplanes and helicopters, which he has used for emergency rescue services. He is a member of the humanitarian organization Wings of Hope, and vice-chair of the environmental group Conservation International. He is also on the governing board of the Archaeological Institute of America. The Calponia harrisonfordi spider and the Pheidole harrisonfordi ant are named after him. Ford has also been a peace activist (particularly for Tibet, where he is now barred from travelling to), and has criticized Hollywood for its portrayal of violence in film (he even turned down the lead role in The Patriot because he felt the film was too violent). Among his many other awards, Ford has won three Golden Globes for Best Actor, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has also won several aviation awards and was ranked among the “Heroes of Aviation” by Flying magazine.
Words of the Week
Fix yourself first, and then fix others. – Talmud, Bava Kamma 107b