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Further Phoenix
at Rio's Attic:


Stand By Me

The Mosquito Coast

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade


Steven Spielberg

Harrison Ford

The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Rob Reiner

Joe Dante

Peter Weir

Charlie Fox

Helen Mirren

Allie Fox

Garry Jenkins

Harrison Ford: Imperfect Hero

Air Force One

The Virginian



Melissa Mathison


Working Girl

John Baxter
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
American EnglishEn Français

Harrison Ford: Imperfect Hero

by Garry Jenkins.
First published in 1997.

ISBN 0-671-85464-X (Paperback, 416 Pages)

In March 1994, at their annual convention, America's National Association of Theatre Owners, decided to present an award entitled, "Box-Office Star of the Century." With a list of films that have, to date, grossed more than $2 billion, more than any other performer in history, they presented the award to Harrison Ford. The book documents, in much detail, Ford's life and his eventful career that led to that ceremony before continuing further right through to Ford's appearance as the President of the United States in the 1997 blockbuster Air Force One.

The book talks about Ford's numerous early appearances in theatre as well as guest-parts he obtained in TV shows such as The Virginian, Ironside and Gunsmoke. Indeed, it is more than halfway through the book, chapter eighteen in fact, before the author examines one of Ford's lesser known performances, that of Allie Fox, in Peter Weir's The Mosquito Coast.

The gifted English actress Helen Mirren had been cast as Allie's wife, while the fifteen-year-old River Phoenix, star of Joe Dante's off-beat space adventure The Explorers and soon to shine in Rob Reiner's Stand By Me, was chosen as the narrator of the story, Allie's son Charlie.

To Phoenix he was the voice of common sense. His advice to the young actor - sadly ignored as it turned out - was: "Keep your head on your shoulders. It's just a job." "He's sturdy, a real father figure. In control, very centred", the young star said later.

Ford's bitter disappointment at the treatment of the movie by the critics was eased when his second wife, Melissa Mathison announced she was pregnant. Ford was accompanied by his new family over the next three years as he worked on the movies Frantic and Working Girl. Ford would then be reunited with his Mosquito Coast co-star in Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

ISBN 1-5597-2443-9 (Hardback, 408 Pages)

River Phoenix's performance in The Mosquito Coast - not to mention his striking physical resemblance to Harrison - landed him the role of the young Indiana.

Harrison was, on the face of it, delighted by the casting of Phoenix. He insisted on working with him on the physicality of the part. "I wanted to make sure he got the moves right," he said later. Some, however, interpreted his interest in Phoenix's performance as mild paranoia brought on by fears that he might be about to be permanently usurped by Young Indy. "The young actor [Phoenix] was warned never to imitate Ford's mannerisms on-screen, nor to suggest he had any interest in taking over the Indy role", wrote Spielberg biographer John Baxter. Certainly the success of Phoenix's performance was strong enough to inspire a Lucasfilm television series, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Fate, however, would not allow a definitive answer to the rumours that circulated Hollywood. Within six years, Phoenix would be dead.

It is most fascinating to read about the career of an actor now well into his fifties - an actor with around forty movies to his name. Just for a moment we caught ourselves looking forward to, say, thirty years from now, and what a joy it would be to read another biography - a biography about the career of one of Harrison Ford's co-stars, another man who by then would also be in his fifties. His boyish looks long gone, his much older face, now marked with deep lines representing the passing of time, adorns the cover of the book, just like this one. Forty or fifty extraordinary movies are detailed within it, also just like this one.

But of course, that's not going to happen now.

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