LONDON – If you saw the term ‘lifelong stoner’ being bandied about, the stereotypical image that might invoke is a crusty, bearded Lebowski-esque older dude, possibly wearing a headband and maybe even rocking some beads around his neck. It certainly wouldn’t be someone representing the paradigm of heroism and adventure. For many decades now, the weed-toking exploits of Harrison Ford has been a semi-hushed Hollywood secret, akin to those famous actors who keep their true sexual orientation under wraps. And in the same way closeted male A-listers fear their fan base – particularly female admirers – might suddenly diminish drastically if they were to come out, perhaps the reason why Ford – not the most jovial or forthright celebrity at the best of times – has remained tight-lipped on the topic is because of how he is perceived by his legion of fans, particularly that perpetually young audience discovering Star Wars for the first time.
But in the age of Google, it doesn’t take a seasoned sleuth to unearth some funny weed-tinged anecdotes about the star, even in the years prior to his breakout role as that devil-may-care intergalactic smuggler. Eve Babitz is a little-known but pivotal figure in the Los Angeles cultural boom of the late sixties and early seventies. An artist and author, she was something of a West Coast socialite in that era, embarking on affairs with famous (or pre-fame) figures like Jim Morrison, celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz, singer Warren Zevon, Steve Martin and Harrison Ford. At the time of their dalliance, Ford had yet to make that brief appearance in George Lucas’ 1973 coming-of-age classic American Graffiti, and was still working as a carpenter who, yes, was also said to have dealt a little weed on the side.
It’s rumoured The Doors were customers of Ford – and being around the same milieu as Morrison might explain that – but there was another musical artist at that time who was a little more explicit about Ford’s little business venture. In an excerpt from the book on Babitz – Hollywood’s Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A. – author Lili Anolik recounts a story from The Mamas and the Papas’ Michelle Phillips as she settled in to watch Star Wars for the first time on the big screen, only to gasp: “That’s my pot dealer!” when Ford appeared on screen, much to the eternal surprise of the singer (“I didn’t even know Harrison was an actor.”). When Ford finally hit big with Star Wars, presumably the idea of selling an ounce bag wasn’t on his list of priorities anymore. But that ascension to superstardom didn’t mark his own farewell to MaryJane. Far from it.
His love for the chronic, particularly those potent strains available, was enough to scare even the pharmaceutically-inclined Carrie Fisher. As documented in her memoir The Princess Diarist, during her brief affair with Ford in the middle of filming A New Hope, she described his weed as having a “brutal strength” which caused her to forget much of the details from 1976. Another story from the time of the original Star Wars claims that Ford would smoke a large joint as he was driven daily to the set, even coming up with the ingenuous solution of heating up a saucepan to get high one day when he ran out of papers, much to the bemusement of his driver.
While stories of Ford’s weed hijinks mostly stem from the seventies, there was talk as recent as the forth Indiana Jones that the actor would blaze up with co-star and screen son Shia LaBeouf. The duo are alleged to have used Indy Jr’s trailer to grab a smoke between takes, even creating code names for being high – the kind of silliness stoners would cook up. All of this, of course, is pretty humorous and these escapades seem largely harmless, but it does throw up the intriguing question of maybe Ford using it as a performance enhancer, in the way some of those old-school Hollywood alcoholics would imbibe before action was yelled.
Did he stay away from the chronic on the most physically-demanding days during shooting the Indiana Jones films, choosing to treat himself to a spiff and a glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the evening following a particularly gruelling fight scene or horse ride? One thing is for certain – Ford was far from the first and certainly isn’t the last to indulge in a little herbal enhancement (or something stronger) during a shoot. You only need to watch the behind-the-scenes documentary on The Shiningto know that Nicholson was doing more than the occasional bump of coke to get into the frenzied mindset of an axe-wielding murderer. But above all, Ford’s marijuana misadventures also act as a fun reminder that the whole ‘wake and bake’ subculture isn’t exclusively reserved for students, fast food delivery drivers, freelancers and those ‘in-between’ employment.
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