Richard Harris: Raising Hell and Reaching for Heaven


Joe Jackson

Based on a searingly honest series of interviews journalist Joe Jackson recorded with Harris between 1987 and 2001, plus the author’s journal entries and extensive notes, this book tells the real story of one of Ireland’s greatest actors.

Available: 18 November 2022 


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In 1987, when Richard Harris – the legendary star of This Sporting Life, The Field and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – was interviewed for the first time by Joe Jackson, they almost came to blows. Jackson was determined to unearth deeper truths about the actor than he usually disclosed during interviews. Harris had manipulated the media all his life, largely to keep people from getting to really know him. By the time that interview ended, they had become firm friends. It was only then that Jackson told Harris, ‘I want to show the public that there is far more to you than your superficial image as a boozing, brawling womaniser.’ Harris loved this idea and two years later he asked Jackson to write his biography.

Richard Harris: Raising Hell and Reaching for Heaven is that biography. But it is much more besides. Based on a searingly honest series of interviews Jackson recorded with Harris between 1987 and 2001, plus the author’s journal entries and extensive notes, this book is also a part-memoir that tells a highly personal and moving back story about why it was inevitable that Jackson and Harris would connect at the deepest possible level. This book will finally prove beyond a doubt that there was far more to Richard Harris, indisputably one of Ireland’s greatest actors as well as a Grammy-award-winning recording artist and published poet, than has previously been revealed.



Prologue: Richard Harris: The Man and the Masks

1 Angela’s Ashes versus Richard’s Ashes
2 A Rugby Dream Dies; an Actor is Born
3 Racism, Revolution and Limitless Sex in London
4 Mutiny on the Bounty Revisited
5 This Sporting Life Revisited
6 Major Dundee versus The Luck of Ginger Coffey
7 Not Exactly Camelot
8 ‘MacArthur Park’ Revisited
9 Duelling with Death to Have an Affair with Mia Farrow
10 My Boy Revisited by its Creator and a Fan
11 The Self-proclaimed Most Promiscuous Man on the Planet
12 Sliding Down the Cinematic Vine from This Sporting Life to Tarzan

13 The Dark Heart and Soul of Richard Harris
14 Lovemaking or ‘Hate-Making’ in a Sexual War Zone
15 Death Threats from Loyalists and the IRA
16 Going to War for Richard Harris
17 Becoming Richard Harris’s Biographer
18 Enter: The Field
19 A Minefield Called The Field
20 Raising Hell and Reaching for Heaven
21 An Academy Award Minefield Called The Field
22 Richard Harris in Full Flight Again
23 The Mysterious Disappearance of Excuse Me While I Disappear
24 Richard Harris Once Again Becomes a Man in the Wilderness
25 The Man Minus All Masks at Seventy
26 Hoping, Hoping, Hoping There is a God

Epilogue: One Last Drink with Richard and Beyond

About the Author

Joe Jackson is an author, journalist and broadcaster who has worked for all major media outlets in Ireland over his thirty-five-year career, including The Irish TimesSunday Independent and RTÉ Radio 1. His books include Boyzone: Our StoryTroubadours and Troublemakers and Nanci Griffith’s Other Voices. His articles and interviews have been published globally in magazines such as PlayboyRolling Stone and Der Spiegel. His radio programmes include People Get Ready, a fifty-two-part millennial music series, and The Years Go Pop, a twenty-six-part history of popular culture. In 2015 his two-part radio documentary Richard Harris Revisited was submitted by RTÉ for an IMRO award in the ‘Best Speech’ category. In 2016 he presented, at the Richard Harris International Film Festival in Limerick, a multi-media one-person show of the same name based on that radio programme. His interviews with Harris voice the ‘ghost’ in the 2022 Sky Arts documentary The Ghost of Richard Harris.

Praise for the book

‘It’s a fascinating read.’ – Miriam O’ Callaghan, Sunday with Miriam, RTÉ Radio 1

‘Based on dozens of interviews over the course of a 15-year friendship, a superb new biography of the late Richard Harris brilliantly recalls the mercurial Hollywood star … and the inner demons that tormented him.’ – The Daily Express

‘Richard Harris and Me: The journalist who cracked the actor’s “fake façade”, revealing the human behind the hellraiser.’ – The Sunday Independent

‘Jackson maps out Harris’s childhood in Limerick well, and his early career, his impecunious first marriage. His is incisive on the warped bond with Webb, who composed most of Harris’s songs, and the making of Jim Sheridan’s 1990 film The Field in which Harris fierily redeemed himself.’ – The Daily Telegraph

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