When film fans talk about their favourite fictional US Presidents, it’s usually Harrison Ford’s President James Marshall that gets their vote – just ahead of Bill Pullman’s President Thomas J. Whitmore from Independence Day, of course.
President Marshall isn’t just a damn fine President either, he’s also the star of Air Force One, an action movie that’s part presidential drama, part Die Hard on a plane.
20 years on from when the film first touched down at cinemas, here are 11 things you probably don’t know about Harrison Ford’s Air Force One.
The part of President James Marshall was originally written with Kevin Costner in mind. However, he was too busy working on The Postman at the time and suggested Harrison Ford in his place.
If Ford had been unavailable, then Arnold Schwarzenegger, Keanu Reeves and Dennis Quaid were all alternative suggestions for the part. John Malkovich and Tom Hanks were also rumoured to have been considered for the role.
Future Donnie Darko star Jena Malone was encouraged to audition for the role of the President’s daughter Alice Marshall. However, the then-14-year-old actress turned down the opportunity to feature in the box office hit, claiming she would rather seek out other roles of more interest to her.
Director Wolfgang Petersen was initially denied access to the real-life Air Force One for research purposes. That all changed when Harrison Ford put in a personal phone call to the White House though, which fields 10s of hundreds of requests of this kind.
All four branches of the US military assisted in the making of the film, lending both equipment and advisers to the project which is almost unheard of. The crew had access six F-15 fighter planes, transport planes and even Blackhawk helicopters, Some 250 military personnel were also employed to operate all the equipment, including 20 ground vehicles.
Gary Oldman did NOT stay in character when the camera stopped rolling. In fact, Oldman was something of a popular presence on set with Petersen claiming the British actor spent much of his time making the crew laugh between takes. Ford ranks him as his favourite on-screen nemesis too.
Glenn Close was a last-minute addition to the cast as Vice President Kathryn Bennett and had to wear a wig for the film as her hair was short at the time. She also refused to one scene from the original script, which was subsequently cut:
“They had written a scene of her breaking down and crying. And I said, ‘I will not do that.’ Because I thought we’d be doing women a disfavor if we had that cliché moment where she breaks down.”
Toy Story soundtrack king Randy Newman actually provided the original score for the film but it was cut by Petersen who felt it was “too loud and bratty”. Jerry Goldsmith and later Joel McNeely was brought in in his place.
Xander Berkeley’s villainous Secret Service Agent Gibbs, the agent who turns traitor while on board, had more of a back story in the original script. It explained how he was angry at the US government over his treatment as an undercover CIA operative during the Cold War and decided to seek revenge. Unfortunately, it was too long to film and was scrapped.
It explained how he was angry at the US government over his treatment as an undercover CIA operative during the Cold War and decided to seek revenge. Unfortunately, it was too long to include in the film and was scrapped.
Bill Clinton was President at the time of the film’s release. He was a big fan of Air Force One and saw the film twice while in office. Despite giving the movie good reviews, he was quick to point out that the real Air Force One didn’t have a parachute ramp or escape pods.
Donald Trump is also a big fan of Air Force One, citing it as his favourite Harrison Ford movie ahead of both Star Wars and Indiana Jones. “Harrison Ford on the plane … He stood up for America,” he’s quoted as saying, claiming the film was a major source of inspiration during his election campaign.
When Ford heard the comment during an appearance on a chat show, he turned to a nearby camera and said: “Donald, it was just a movie. Things like this don’t happen in real-life.”