[Fox News] ‘American Graffiti’ cast 50 years later: How film launched Harrison Ford from struggling carpenter to Han Solo

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American Graffiti” is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Since the release of the film five decades ago, it has gone on to be considered an American cinema classic. 

While the 1973 movie was made on a budget of less than $1 million, it earned $115 million at the box office worldwide and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture. Many attribute the success of the movie to the nostalgia it provided to audiences, who yearned to live in a simpler time, as depicted in the film.

Here is what the cast of the iconic film has been up to since its release. 


Ron Howard already had a long career in Hollywood, having starred in “The Andy Griffith Show,” before landing the role of Steve in “American Graffiti.” 

Reflecting on the success of the movie, Howard told Parade in July 2023, “I don’t think any of us thought it was destined to be a hit.” He further explained the cast thought they were making “a good, low-budget, kind-of-indie job.”

“It was amazing,” he recalled of his experience watching it with an audience. “Like a rock concert—people were clapping as soon as ‘Rock Around the Clock’ came on. And laughing—huge laughs. I had no idea how funny it would play to an audience. A couple of weeks into release, it had already taken on a kind of cult status.”

The success of “American Graffiti” led to him getting cast on “Happy Days,” one of the most successful shows of the 70s. It was on air for 11 seasons from 1974 to 1984, with Howard playing the main character, Richie Cunningham.

When “Happy Days” came to an end, he began to focus more on directing, going on to direct, “Splash,” “Parenthood,” “Far and Away” and “Apollo 13.” One of his first major successes as a director came in 2001 when he produced and directed “A Beautiful Mind.” The film went on to win best picture at the Academy Awards, with Howard also taking home the award for best director. 

Later, Howard produced and directed the “Cinderella Man,” “The Da Vinci Code” and “Frost/Nixon,” which earned him his third and fourth Academy Award nomination, two BAFTA nominations, a Golden Globe nomination and a Director’s Guild of America Award nomination.

He has since directed “Angels & Demons,” “Rush,” “In the Heart of the Sea,” “Inferno,” “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and “Hillbilly Elegy.” Howard has the rare honor of having two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in the television and motion pictures categories.

The director met his wife Cheryl Alley when they were both students at Burbank High School. The two eventually got married in June 1975 and have since welcomed four children together – actress Bryce Dallas, twins Jocelyn Carlyle and Paige Carlyle, and son Reed Cross.

Richard Dreyfuss had mostly appeared as a guest on a number of different television shows prior to accepting the part of Curt in “American Graffiti,” a role which earned him his first Golden Globe nomination.

Following the success of the movie, he went on to star in “The Second Coming of Suzanne,” “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “The Goodbye Girl,” playing Elliot Garfield, a role which earned him his first Academy Award win and nomination, as well as a BAFTA and a Golden Globe win.

Later on, Dreyfuss starred in “Whose Life Is It Anyway?,” “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” “Stand By Me,” “Let It Ride” and “Postcards From the Edge.” He then appeared in “The American President” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” a role which earned him an Academy Award and Golden Globe nomination. Most recently, he starred in “Murder at Yellowstone City,” “Every Last One of Them,” “Save Christmas” and “Sweetwater.”


In 2017, he was accused of sexually harassing a former writer in the 1980s, an allegation Dreyfuss denied. Dreyfuss said he flirted with her, but was “horrified and bewildered to discover that it wasn’t consensual.”

Dreyfuss married Jeramie Rain in 1983. They had three children, Emily, Benjamin and Harry, before getting a divorce in 1995. He was then married to Janelle Lacey from 1999 to 2005. Following his second divorce, Dreyfuss married Svetlana Erokhin in 2006, and they have been together ever since.

Harrison Ford’s first partnership with filmmaker George Lucas started when he was cast as Bob Falfa in “American Graffiti.” They would later go on to work together to create two of cinema’s most well-known franchises.

In 1977, Ford appeared on-screen as Han Solo for the first time in Lucas’ “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.” Ford also played Solo in “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back,” “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” and “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.”

During this time, he also appeared in “Hanover Street,” “Apocalypse Now,” “The Frisco Kid” and “Blade Runner.”

While conducting a Reddit Ask Me Anything in April 2014, Ford revealed prior to getting cast as Han Solo, his “principle job at the time was carpentry.” 

Ford wrote that he “was quite surprised when [he] was offered the part” of Han Solo because he was helping Lucas with auditions for other characters, “with no expectation or indication that [he] might be considered for the part of Han.”

In 1981, Ford began playing Indiana Jones in Lucas’ “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.” He continued to play the character in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

He then starred in “Witness,” which earned him his first Golden Globe nomination, as well as his first and only Academy Award nomination in 1986. He earned another Golden Globe nomination the following year, for his role in “The Mosquito Coast.” 

Ford also starred in “Working Girl,” “Patriot Games” and “The Fugitive,” which earned him his third Golden Globe nomination in 1994. Two years later, he was nominated for his fourth and final Golden Globe for “Sabrina.” Most recently, he starred in “The Call of the Wild,” “1923,” “Shrinking” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

Ford married his first wife, Mary Marquardt, in 1964 and had two children with her, Benjamin and Willard, before eventually getting a divorce in 1979. He then married screenwriter Melissa Mathison in March 1983, and together they had a son named Malcolm. They finalized their divorce in 2004.

When attending the 2002 Golden Globe Awards, he met his third wife, actress Calista Flockhart. He went on to propose to her in February 2009, with the two of them tying the knot in June 2010. Ford adopted Flockhart’s son Liam, who she adopted prior to marrying the actor.

Mackenzie Phillips got her start in the entertainment industry at the age of 12, with one of her first big roles being in “American Graffiti,” playing Carol.

Following her big screen debut, Phillips got a starring role on the hit CBS sitcom “One Day at a Time” in 1975, playing Julie Cooper Horvath. The show aired until 1984, however Phillips was reportedly fired twice due to her struggles with addiction. She would later return in a small capacity for the Netflix reboot of the show.

While on the show, she also appeared in “Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “More American Graffiti,” “The Incredible Hulk” and “Love Child.” From 1999 to 2001, Phillips starred as Molly Phillips in the Disney Channel series, “So Weird.” 


Phillips struggled with addiction since she was young, but eventually got sober and is now an addiction specialist.

In 1979, Phillips married Jeffrey Sessler, and was with him for three years before getting divorced in 1981. She was then married to rock guitarist Shane Fontayne from 1986 to 2000. The couple had one son together, Shane Barakan.

The actress married her third husband, musical director Keith Levenson, in 2005. They divorced two years later. 

Prior to getting the role of Terry “The Toad” Fields in “American Graffiti,” Charles Martin Smith got his start in the industry with a guest-starring role in an episode of “The Brady Bunch.”

He went on to appear in “Never Cry Wolf,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Untouchables,” “Deep Cover” and “Fifty/Fifty.” Smith continued to act steadily throughout the 1990s, appearing in “Speechless,” “The X-Files,” “Streets of Laredo,” “Deep Impact” and “Wedding Bell Blues.”

In the early 2000s, the actor appeared in “Ally McBeal” and “Touching Wild Horses.” Most recently, he appeared in “Fringe,” “Psych,” and “Motive.”

Aside from acting, Smith has also found success behind-the-camera, having directed “The Snow Walker,” “Icon,” “Stone of Destiny,” “Dolphin Tale,” “Dolphin Tale 2,” “A Dog’s Way Home” and “A Christmas Gift From Bob.”

Paul Le Mat’s breakout role was in “American Graffiti,” playing the character of John Miller, which earned him a Golden Globe Award for most promising newcomer in 1974.

The following year, he starred in another commercial success, “Aloha Bobby and Rose,” following that with starring roles in “Citizens Band,” “More American Graffiti” and “Melvin and Howard,” a role which earned him a second Golden Globe nomination.

He went on to star in “Death Valley,” “Jimmy the Kid” and “The Burning Bed,” a role which earned him a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actor in a TV movie, miniseries or anthology series.

Throughout the 90s, La Mat continued to act steadily, appearing in “In the Line of Duty: Siege at Marion,” “Woman with a Past,” “Caroline at Midnight” and “Sensation.” Most recently, he starred in “Big Bad Love,” “Stateside,” “The Long Shot” and “Chrome Angels.”

Le Mat was married to Suzanne de Passe from 1987 to 1994. They had three daughters together. 

The part of Debbie in “American Graffiti” was only Candy Clark’s third professional acting job. Her portrayal of the character would earn her an Academy Award nomination.

She went on to appear in films such as “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “The Big Sleep” and “More American Graffiti.” Clark also appeared in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Baywatch Nights,” “The Month of August,” “Zodiac,” The Informant!,” Bob’s New Suit,” “Cold Moon” and a few episodes of “Twin Peaks.”

Most recently, Clark has appeared in “Five Weddings,” “Two Girls” and a number of “Criminal Minds” episodes.

In 1978, Clark married her first husband, Marjoe Gortner, however the two divorced the following year. She was then briefly married to Jeff Wald from 1987 to 1988.

Cindy Williams had made a few appearances on television and had some small parts in a couple of movies before landing the role of Laurie in “American Graffiti,” which earned her the best supporting actress nomination at the BAFTAs.

Following her success in the film, Williams met and befriended actress Penny Marshall, leading to her brother, Garry Marshall, the creator of “Happy Days,” to cast her on the show as Shirley Feeney.


She appeared as Shirley on five episodes of “Happy Days” from 1975 to 1979. However, the character is most well-known as part of an iconic duo on another show created by Garry Marshall, “Laverne & Shirley.” 

“Laverne & Shirley” was a big hit, and by its third season was the most-watched show in America — even surpassing “Happy Days.” Williams left the show in its eighth and final season.

Her final projects included, “A Dream of Christmas,” “Still Waiting in the Wings” and the series “Sami.”

Williams was married to musician Bill Hudson from 1982 to 2000. They had two children together, Emily and Zachary Hudson. The actress died in January 2023 at the age of 75 following a brief illness. 

Suzanne Somers had a minor role in “American Graffiti,” playing Blonde in T-Bird.

In 1977, Somers landed the role of Chrissy Snow on “Three’s Company,” alongside John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt. The role earned her a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a comedy.

Somers starred on the show for four seasons, but when she asked for a raise ahead of season five, executives decided to let her go. Somers had asked to go from $30,000 an episode to $150,000, which was on par with Ritter. She was then replaced by Jenilee Harrison and then Priscilla Barnes.

She and her husband Alan Hamel subsequently moved to Las Vegas, where she started a successful 15-year residency. Somers was so successful, she was named female entertainer of the year in 1987.

Somers became an even bigger household name in the ’90s when she was tapped as the spokesperson for ThighMaster. She appeared in countless infomercials for Thighmaster, as well as other products, and in 2014, was inducted into the Infomercial Hall of Fame.


In 1987, Somers starred in her own sitcom “She’s the Sheriff,” which lasted two seasons. In 1991, she landed the role of Carol Foster Lambert in the successful sitcom, “Step by Step,” starring opposite Patrick Duffy. The show lasted for seven seasons before coming to an end in 1998.

In 2005, Somers made her Broadway debut in her one-woman show, “The Blonde in the Thunderbird,” which told the story of her life and career. She then had two talk shows, “Breaking Through” and “The Suzanne Show.” 

The actress was diagnosed with skin cancer in her 30s and breast cancer in her 50s. In July 2023, she told Fox News Digital that she has battled breast cancer for the second time.

Somers married her first husband, Bruce Somers, in 1965 at the age of 19. The two went on to have a son, Bruce Somers Jr., before getting a divorce in 1968. She then met Hamel when acting as a model on “The Anniversary Game,” and the two tied the knot in 1977.

Prior to playing Joe Young in “American Graffiti,” Bo Hopkins made his on-screen debut in 1966 on an episode of “The Phyllis Diller Show.” 

He portrayed Crazy Lee in the 1969 western about a group of aging outlaws in “The Wild Bunch,” and became a favorite of director Sam Peckinpah, who cast him as a bank robber in “The Gateway” in 1972 and then a weapons expert alongside James Caan in the 1975 flick “The Killer Elite.”

Hopkins worked with Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty in “White Lightning,” and Brad Davis and Randy Quaid in “Midnight Express.”


He appeared in more than 100 films throughout his career, including “The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing,” “Posse,” “Sweet Sixteen” and “The Bounty Hunter.” In addition, Hopkins worked on television classics, including “The Rockford Files,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “The A-Team” and the oil-rich soap opera “Dynasty.”

Hopkins’ final film role was in the 2020 movie “Hillbilly Elegy” with Amy Adams and Glenn Close. Hopkins died in May 2022, his wife of 33 years, Sian Eleanor Green, confirmed at the time. Hopkins is survived by two children, Matthew and Jane.

Wolfman Jack – whose real name was Robert Weston Smith – was a popular radio personality in the 1970s. At the peak of his career, Jack was heard on more than 2,000 radio stations in over 30 countries. In 1973, he appeared as himself in “American Graffiti,” and promoted the film on his radio show.

In the film, friends Curt, Steve, Terry and John cruise the streets while a mysterious disc jockey (Wolfman Jack) spins classic rock ’n’ roll tunes. 

Jack returned for the sequel “More American Graffiti,” but was only heard via voice over. He would later appear in “Motel Hell,” “Mortuary Academy,” “The New Gidget” and “Married… with Children.”

He also hosted a variety show, “The Wolfman Jack Show,” which was syndicated in the U.S. It ran for one season from 1976 to 1977.

Wolfman Jack died from a heart attack in July 1995. He was 57.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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