Harrison Ford is one of the most recognisable faces in Hollywood. Having played characters as illustrious as Star Wars space cowboy Han Solo and the titular crypt-raiding archaeology professor in Speilberg’s Indiana Jones, it would be easy to assume that Ford’s favourite roles are also those he’s most famous for. However, to assume that would be to misunderstand the nature of Hollywood.
In an interview initially published by Gannett News, Ford revealed that the role he has always been the proudest of was his portrayal of Allie Fox in the 1986 film The Mosquito Coast.
The Mosquito Coast was directed by Peter Weir and is based on the novel of the same name by Paul Theroux And, yes, that is Louis Theroux’s dad. The film stars Helen Mirren, Adre Gregory, River Pheonix and, of course, Harrison Ford. It follows the story of a family who leaves the United States to find a happier and simpler life in the rainforests of Central America.
The film is by and large a faithful reproduction of Theroux’s original novel, which portrays Allie Fox as a character railing against modern American culture, obesity, corporate greed and pretty much everything else in between. In the warmer climes of Central America, Allie believes, he will be able to create the perfect society. However, as the reality of the family’s situation sinks in, their canopied paradise quickly becomes a dystopia, with Allie becoming increasingly unstable and aggressive. For the director, Peter Weir, Allie was “that kind of all-American hustler, that con man. You know, that Donald Trump character. That sawdust preacher.”
Whilst Ford, being a leading man, wasn’t an obvious choice for the role, the actor became fascinated with capturing the minutiae of Allie Fox’s personality. “I remember when we did the scene when Allie Fox tells his family that they can’t go back to America because it isn’t there anymore,” Harrison said. “Peter stopped me and said, ‘You’re playing this like the guy’s crazy.’ I said, ‘Well, Peter, he is crazy. He’s completely fucking nuts.’” Ford went on to express his fascination with the character, describing Allie Fox as a “love junkie of one kind or another. He requires respect and admiration from his family and everyone he meets, and he bullies his family into going along with everything. He carries the seeds of destruction within him.”
Harrison Ford, however, wasn’t Wier’s first choice for the film. In, fact, the part of Allie Fox was nearly played was Jack Nicholson. As screenwriter Paul Schrader recalled: “Jack was perfect for the character. And because Saul had made, or felt he had made Jack’s career with Cuckoo’s Nest, he felt that Jack owed him one, and he lowballed Jack’s price. Jack said, ‘Fuck you, Saul.’ And Saul said, ‘Fuck you, Jack.’ Now, it was a perfect collaboration, but egos got involved, and that’s that. He ended up paying Harrison Ford the same salary that Jack was asking. It got to be a pissing contest, and Jack did not want to be seen as an obligation. And obviously, it would have been a much better film with Jack.” Ouch, poor Harrison.