Brad, Jeremy, Harrison and Bob? An Oscar Salute!

It may strike you as odd for a home improvement web site to publish an Oscar-related blog post, but while Bob Vila is surely a leading man of our DIY world, it may surprise you that he actually shares common ground with a number of Oscar-nominated actors—including one up for top honors this Sunday. With just three days before the live telecast of the 84th Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles, here is our salute to some of the other leading men of home improvement:

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford/

We know HARRISON FORD for countless films, from American Graffiti to his best-actor-nominated performance in Witness, but he is most often remembered for his role as Han Solo in the original Star Wars trilogy and as the title character in the Indiana Jones movies. Before his career took off, Ford paid the bills as a carpenter—a self-taught carpenter, that is. “I bought a house in the Hollywood Hills and started to fix it up,” the actor told Barbara Walters in a 1977 ABC Specials Reports. “I got some books on carpentry and started buying a few tools. Pretty soon I had too much invested in tools to buy materials. So I went and got a job as a carpenter,” he said. In that role, he became a stagehand for The Doors, built a sun deck for Sally Kellerman (the original “Hot Lips” Houlihan in M.A.S.H.), and assembled a recording studio for musician Sergio Mendes. It was his carpentry work for director George Lucas, however, that would be the job that paid off. In 1975, Lucas hired Ford to read lines for actors auditioning for parts in Star Wars and eventually cast him in the part of Han Solo. Clearly, good carpentry pays off!

Jeremy Renner

Jeremy Renner/

For JEREMY RENNER, a two-time Oscar nominee—first for his role as Sergeant First Class William James in The Hurt Locker (2009), then as the murderous Jem in The Town (2010)—home renovation has long been a sort of second profession.  According to an interview in the December 2011 issue of Details, Renner and his best friend Kristoffer Winters have been running a home renovation business since early in the actor’s career; a job that paid when acting didn’t. “The hands-on physicality of rebuilding those houses always serves as a hedge against the uncertainty of a career in the fickle movie business,” says Renner. In talking about the parallels between producing a movie and building a house, Renner goes on to say that “there’s no right way to do it, but a lot of wrong ways. You have to be flexible and creative. You have to move fast, be prepared—or it quickly becomes costly. It’s certainly affected how I approach my life,” he adds. Even today the actor asks himself, “Can I contribute to this movie?” If not, it’s back to building houses.

Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt/

And, then there’s BRAD PITT, known for his wide range of memorable characters from the hitchhiker in Thelma and Louise to the imaginary sparring partner in Fight Club, from the gum-chewing jock in Burn After Reading to the age-reversing Benjamin Button and countless more. This year, however, it’s Pitt’s portrayal of Oakland’s Athletics general manager Billy Beane in Moneyball that has positioned him at the top of his game for the Best Actor Oscar on Sunday. Like fellow actors Ford and Renner, Pitt has a strong connection with architecture and home building. In 2006, the actor used his passion and position to create the Make it Right foundation, organizing housing professionals in New Orleans to finance and construct 150 sustainable, affordable new houses in the city’s Ninth Ward after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Today, the US Green Building Council calls the 16-block area where Make it Right has focused its revitalization efforts America’s largest green neighborhood of single-family homes in the country, with all of the organization’s homes qualifying for LEED platinum certification (the highest designation for energy efficiency and sustainability awarded by the Council). Now that’s Oscar-worthy!

But where are the leading ladies of home improvement and DIY?  Perhaps next year we can reveal some Bob Vila-like connection to Meryl, Glen, Viola, Michelle, and Rooney.