How a Flop Harrison Ford Film Inspired an ‘Indiana Jones’ Movie

Harrison Ford is known for starring roles in classics like the Star Wars saga, the Indiana Jones franchise, and Blade Runner. During one of his peak periods — the 1980s — he starred in a flop movie with some notable actors. Here’s why he didn’t regret making the film — and how the movie paved the way for a future Indiana Jones adventure.

Indiana Jones with an idol
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Harrison Ford thought this movie was flawed but didn’t regret making it

Ford’s most famous films are spectacular adventures. However, he’s also taken the time to act in dramas as well. For example, he starred in the 1986 film version of Paul Theroux’s novel The Mosquito Coast. In the film, Ford plays an inventor named Allie Fox who gets his family to move from their home in the United States of America to the jungles of Central America because he believes nuclear war is on the horizon. In his new Central American home, Fox increasingly loses his grip on life. 

The Mosquito Coast is a far cry from a Steven Spielberg or a George Lucas’ blockbuster. Perhaps that’s why audiences didn’t embrace the film. According to Den of Geek, The Mosquito Coast merely earned $14 million on a budget of $25 million. Despite this, Ford defended his choice to star in The Mosquito Coast.

The trailer for The Mosquito Coast

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“It’s the only film I have done that hasn’t made its money back,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I’m still glad I did it. If there was a fault with the film, it was that it didn’t fully enough embrace the language of the book. It may have more properly been a literary rather than a cinematic exercise. But I think it’s full of powerful emotions.”

The impact ‘The Mosquito Coast’ had on ‘Indiana Jones’ and Apple TV+

Though The Mosquito Coast wasn’t a blockbuster, it still had significant impact on one of Ford’s subsequent blockbusters: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. According to Far Out Magazine, River Phoenix played Ford’s son in The Mosquito Coast. Afterward, Spielberg decided to cast Phoenix as the young Indiana in Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade because of his work in The Mosquito Coast.

Joaquin Phoenix in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

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“Harrison was actually the one who suggested River,” Spielberg said. “He said to me, ‘The guy who looks most like me when I was that age is this actor named River Phoenix.’ It was Harrison Ford’s idea, because he played Harrison’s son in The Mosquito Coast. So I met River and I thought he was great, and I cast him.’’ This wouldn’t be the end of The Mosquito Coast’s legacy.

According to Den of Geek, Apple TV+ is in the process of adapting the novel The Mosquito Coast into a television series. This adaptation is set to star Justin Theroux. The fact that this series is getting made so long after the film suggests the story of The Mosquito Coast has some resonance for a modern audience. For a flop movie, The Mosquito Coast has had quite a lot of influence.