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In the hot jungle of Belize during the sixteen weeks it took to shoot The Mosquito Coast, River would choose to make Harrison Ford his mentor. Said River of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones star, "Harrison's very down to earth - I've read that he's cold but he's actually very warm. It's just that in his position, you have so many phony people trying to dig at you that you've got to have a shield up. Harrison is a great presence. He's very wise too."
Speaking of River, Ford was to speak equally as highly. "What he has is some manner of natural talent. There are a lot of people who have that, but River is also very serious about his work, very workmanlike and professional, far beyond what you'd expect from a fifteen-year-old boy. River asks a lot of questions that require answers, none of which I can really supply but they're interesting questions."
River was to learn a great deal on the set of The Mosquito Coast with Harrison Ford, techniques that he would call upon throughout the rest of his career. "I don't think I nagged him," recalled River. "I didn't ask him all the time how Indiana Jones was. I learned a lot from him. The biggest thing about Harrison is that he makes acting look so easy, he's so casual and so sturdy."
Following River's death, Harrison Ford said "River Phoenix played my son and I came to love him like a son. I was proud to watch him grow into a man of such talent, integrity and passion."