An American Ford in Paris
02/10/1992 at 01:00 AM EST
THOUGH MOST ACTORS PRAY THAT their names will leap off casting rosters, Terence Ford is grateful that his blends in. "I'm a lot happier it's not Terence Costner or Terence Belushi," says the 46-year-old brother of superstar Harrison Ford, 49, to whom he is loath to be compared. In fact there's hardly a family resemblance between curly-haired Terence and his sib. "The family joke is that there were different milkmen," says Terence. "But sooner or later everyone does seem to make the connection."
After two decades of finding his way in the business, the younger Ford finally has something tangible to connect with, though he had to journey abroad to find it. Last autumn he whipped up suds as American photographer Simon Jones in the first pan-European soap opera, Riviera. His scenes in the Dynasty-esque drama about a wealthy family on the Côte d'Azur will air this spring in a half dozen countries. The show, which runs through July, was filmed in Paris, performed in English and has been dubbed in various languages.
"Because I'm so typically American, I'm actually a unique entity here," says Terence, whose juiciest stateside credit was last fall's syndicated movie Memories of Midnight, with Jane Seymour. He had no trouble landing the Riviera part in October, just after arriving in Paris, where he rents a two-room, fifth-floor walk-up in the fashionable Marais area.
The move from L.A. is giving Ford a chance finally to enjoy the fruits of a career stalled by an addiction to drugs and alcohol that began in the early 1960s. "Any substance that altered my mind, I took," he says. "It was probably an effort to overcome my basically shy attitude." In 1987, he says, he went clean, and he still attends recovery meetings. "The difference in my behavior and life," he says, "is like night and day."
Ford is also coming to terms with a more stressful change in his routine: a painful separation from his third wife, Los Angeles television executive Terri Guitron-Ford, whom he wed in 1987. "She is the best person I've ever met," says Ford. "Both of us are upset that it's ending in divorce."
He was first married, from 1969 to 1971, to a cashier at the late Manhattan nightspot Max's Kansas City, then from 1977 to 1982 to a waitress and secretary in L.A. "The marriages simply just didn't work out, and I assume my share of the responsibility," he says.
With relative anonymity and no current flame, Ford wanders around Paris practicing his 20-year hobby, photography, a passion he shares with his soap persona. Although he's still learning to speak French, Ford has won over his international Riviera colleagues. "He does everything with a humorous, dynamic spirit," says actor Jean Denis Monory. Oil-camera, Ford is earning another reputation that can only endear him to the French. Says Riviera's art director, Virginia Field: "He's a terrible flirt."
His commitment to acting, though, is in his genes. Terence and Harrison are the sons of former actor-advertising executive Christopher Ford and his wife, Dorothy. Their grandfather was a well-known vaudevillian, and a great-grandfather was also in showbiz. Raised with his brother in the Chicago suburbs of Morton Grove and Park Ridge, Terence says, "Harrison was always more confident and outgoing. I was shy and a lousy athlete. But our three-year age difference prevented any rivalry."
After attending three colleges in a two-year period, Terence moved to Hollywood in 1968, renting an apartment downstairs from Harrison, who at that time was a struggling actor making a living as a carpenter. But while Harrison buckled down to keep food on his family's table, freewheeling Terence became a member of the Sun Land, Calif., hippie commune, the Hog Farm, in the late '60s. By the early '70s he had lived in Morocco, cooked brown rice in a Tibetan meditation center in Scotland, wandered through Nepal and studied film in London, taking odd jobs along the way. When he moved back to L.A. in the mid-'70s, he worked as a commercial fisherman and then as a film grip. By 1983 his focus was on acting, and he started compiling credits on shows such as Falcon Crest and Dynasty. More recently he appeared on Beverly Hills, 90210. Throughout, Terence neither sought his brother's help nor checked himself against Harrison's fame. "He's in a different league," he says.
With Riviera, Terence found his own place in the sun. "I have no wish to emulate Harrison," he says. "We're close. We talk on the phone regularly. But I certainly don't wake up in the morning and say, 'Hey, I'm Harrison Ford's brother, and that makes me special.' " As for his own career, he adds, "There's no certainty about my future. I'm just a lonely cowboy in Paris."
JOEL STRATTE-MCCLURE in Paris