Although it’s a fairly meandering hangout movie, the production of “American Graffiti” was kind of a mess. Not only did the film endure many normal logistical nightmares that any lower budgeted movie faces, but some of the actors didn’t make it any easier. As recounted in Dave Pollock’s book “Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas,” Harrison Ford and fellow actors Paul Le Mat and Bo Hopkins were the “ringleaders for the goodnatured chaos.” Pollock writes:
“They drank large quantities of beer while waiting between takes in their cars, urinated in the motel ice machines, and conducted climbing races to the top of the local Holiday Inn sign. Lucas remembers one of the actors setting fire to his room one evening.”
Gary Kurtz bore witness to all of this, and if that is your image of Harrison Ford, it makes complete sense why you would be hesitant to have that guy coming over to England for months to be one of the leads in your new film. Ford knew this was his reputation, but he refutes that it’s true. In “The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive History Behind the Original Film” by J.W. Rinzler, Ford states:
“I heard that Gary had prepped certain members of the English production group with information that I might be very difficult to deal with … That was based on his experience with me on ‘American Graffiti,’ where most of Paul LeMat’s antics were pinned on me.”
As for the truth of Ford’s rowdy behavior, I bet it lies somewhere in the middle between the two extremes, not a menace or saint. Kurtz left the “Star Wars” films after “The Empire Strikes Back” but not on account of Ford. The split he had with George Lucas is far more complicated.