The Harrison Ford Classic That Was Actually Written For Kevin Costner

The lead role of U.S. President in Air Force One was written for Kevin Costner, who passed it to Harrison Ford.

By Kevin C. Neece | Updated

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Air Force One

The role of President James Marshall, played by Harrison Ford in the 1997 thriller Air Force One, was originally written for Kevin Costner. Though the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves star was a co-developer of the film along with writer Andrew W. Marlowe, his schedule on The Postman would not allow him to play the role, so he personally handed it to Ford.

Harrison Ford has always thanked Kevin Costner for the gesture and shared with the LA Times that Costner “told [the producers] he would let it go only if I could do it.” It was more of a gift to Ford than either actor could have realized at the time. Though, according to Ford, Costner “knew this was a big commercial movie,” no one knew then just how big it would be.

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, Air Force One tells the story of an attempted takeover of the titular presidential airplane by a terrorist, played by Gary Oldman. It opened at number one at the box office to more than $37 million in its first weekend, toppling the previous weekend’s top film, Men in Black. It ended up becoming one of the highest-grossing films of the year, bringing in over $315 million in total.

Harrison Ford Tom Cruise

With Air Force One, Harrison Ford continued to establish himself as one of the most bankable stars of all time, while The Postman, the film that took Kevin Costner away from playing James Marshall, added to the slump Costner had begun in 1995 with the infamous boondoggle, Waterworld. While the loss of a role in such a huge success might have stung a little at the time for Costner, there is nothing but goodwill between the two, with Ford telling the LA Times, “I’ve met [Costner] on a number of occasions and I like him very much. And I like him a lot more now because he really threw a winner my way.”

Harrison Ford has had his own missteps since Air Force One, but both he and Kevin Costner have seen their careers come roaring back in recent years, with the Ford reprising his roles as Han Solo in the Star Wars films and as Indiana Jones in the forthcoming fifth film in that series. Currently, Ford also stars in the new Apple+ TV series Shrinking, a comedy series that sees Jason Segel playing a therapist whose grief drives him to an unprofessional and life-altering directness with his clients.

Such a major star doing a series might have been unthinkable a few years ago. In fact, Harrison Ford was originally offered the role as a joke, but the increased stature and respectability of streaming TV is attracting more and more big names. Just ask Kevin Costner; his starring role as John Dutton in the acclaimed and wildly popular Western series Yellowstone has led him to host a Western documentary series on the History Channel.

The Yellowstone franchise has sparked something of a Western revival, not to mention several spinoff series, which is causing the paths of Harrison Ford and Kevin Costner to cross yet again as Ford stars alongside Helen Mirren in the smash hit Yellowstone prequel series 1923. Though Costner does not appear in the series, it follows the story of John Dutton’s ancestors through western expansion, Prohibition, and the Great Depression. The series has already been a huge success on Paramount+, proving that both Costner and Ford still have huge clout and continue to connect with audiences decades after their cinematic presidential bids.