Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What If Harrison Ford Had Played Alan Grant?

Jurassic Park is what I believe to be a masterpiece of filmmaking. It is one of those rare movies that I feel the script was perfect, the directing was perfect, the acting was perfect, there just is nothing I do not love about the movie, but as always with any movie there is the, "What If?" What if this actor had done this part? Or what if this director had chosen to do this movie rather than this director? As it is, I find it almost impossible now to see anyone other than Sam Neill as dinosaur expert, Alan Grant, but that was not always the case. Spielberg's first choice for the role was none other than Indiana Jones himself, Harrison Ford. Now, Ford turned the role down for still undisclosed reasons, but that is neither here nor there. The real question is what would Jurassic Park be like had Harrison Ford portrayed Alan Grant rather than Sam Neill? This is what I am going to try and figure out through some good ol' speculation.

Now, for a frame of reference, the early 1990s was Harrison Ford at the peak of his career. He was one of the world's biggest box office draws, after successfully starring in three Indiana Jones films and Star Wars films, then nabbing a new franchise in the form of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series, he was a hot commodity (not to mention he was coming into his own as an actor in films like Regarding Henry and The Fugitive). On the other side, there was Spielberg, the most financially successful director to ever live, having previously worked with Ford on all three Indiana Jones' flicks, offering Ford the lead in his new sure-fire mega-hit, which Jurassic Park was, surpassing Spielberg's own E.T. as the highest grossing film of all-time.

Taking into account Ford's star status at the time of Jurassic Park's making, I believe that the movie itself would have remained the same, but the audience perception of the movie would be different. Ford has never really been the sort of star who argues over screen time or whatnot, so I do not think he would have wanted Alan Grant to of been in every single frame of the movie, and as it is, I feel he would have knocked the role out of the park, having already played similar roles of curmudgeonly guys with kids in movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Witness. But what Sam Neill ultimately brought to the role was a face that you felt like you knew and could trust, but with a name that you did not know unless you loved movie credits.

Ford's star power would have overpowered Jurassic Park to where the star of the movie would have become him, rather than the dinosaurs. When Indiana Jones and Star Wars was made, Ford was much like Neill was when Jurassic Park was made, but by the time Jurassic Park came around, he was a household name. I think it is safe to say, the dinosaurs are the stars of Jurassic Park and the humans are there to give emotional weight to the proceedings. I believe had Ford been in the movie, the dinosaurs would have played second fiddle, rather than being the thing that drives the audience through the story.

Just imagine for a second if Ford had been Alan Grant, what would the marketing have been like? It probably would have had Harrison Ford's face front and center on the poster with his name in as large lettering as the movie's title, rather than this great poster showcasing the dinosaurs:

This would have more than likely changed the entire perception of the movie, that this is not a movie about this fantastical situation and how human beings have come so little since the days of dinosaurs. People leaving the theaters would had more than likely raved about Harrison Ford, rather than telling their friends how awesome the dinosaurs looked and how crisp the action was. Ford might have even overshadowed Jeff Goldblum's brilliant performance as Ian Malcolm!

Looking back on it, I am happy that Ford did not portray Alan Grant. While I can see him in the role, Sam Neill is the perfect Alan Grant, and always will be because he was just that, a face and not a name.

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