When it premiered on February 8, 1985 Witness in danger (Witness), by Peter Weir, with Harrison Ford, it was an instant hit… It is surprising.
Why? By then, the first two months of the film’s calendar were dominated by the previous year’s holiday season blockbusters and Academy Award nominees, many of which were branching out from the limited release.
In 1985, this modestly budgeted crime thriller about a cunning Philadelphia detective hiding out in a Pennsylvania Amish community defied the box office giant A detective on the loose in Hollywood (Beverly Hills Cop) and the critically acclaimed duo of The Screams of Silence (The Killing Fields) AND A passage to India (Step to India).
The timing of the release indicated a lack of trust from the studio, especially since Weir’s previous film, The Year of Living Dangerously.
Yes Witness… It didn’t look promising from the start, perhaps because it wasn’t particularly encouraging.
The screenplay by William Kelley and Earl W. Wallace was based on an episode of gun smoke which the duo had written in 1970. The project had been rejected by almost every Hollywood studio before Paramount gave the thumbs up. But there was still a lot of work to be done, as now revealed by none other than the star-studded protagonist.
reading the script
Second Harrison Ford: a biography, by Robert Sellers, Harrison Ford was intrigued by the point of view of culture shock. Having recently completed his run on the original trilogy of Star Wars by George Lucas and his second shift as an adventurous archaeologist Indiana JonesFord was eager to take on a more realistic persona.
But it had yet to prove itself as a box office draw outside of these two franchises very successful, which meant that his participation alone was not quite enough to get the green light.
And although Ford was interested in the concept of Witness…, he was not a fan of the script itself. According to Sellers’ book, he said: “It was a stupid script and too violent.”
But when Peter Weir suddenly became available after his first attempt at an adaptation of Paul Theroux’s novel The Mosquito Coast failed, Ford compromised. “I never would have done it if Peter Weir and I hadn’t had the chance to rework it.”
This pairing proved to be favourable. Weir’s gift for engaging audiences strange environments and cultures lifted the film far above its crime-movie trappingss, while Ford gave his best dramatic performance up to that point in his career.
The critics were pleasantly surprised, as were Academy voters who, almost a year later, the film was nominated for eight Academy Awards.
It won two: one for Best Editing and one for Best Original Screenplay., which went to William Kelley, Earl W. Wallace and Pamela Wallace, whose “stupid and too violent” script the star and his director had revised. Of course, neither Ford nor Weir got any credit in this regard.
And while we’re talking about witness in danger, the film has a pearl for Creole viewers; or better, For fans of Viggo Mortensen.
That’s long before he became world famous with his Striders/Aragorn in the trilogy of The Lord of the Rings -and to let the world know about his passion for Crow-, Viggo appeared Witness in danger And it was far from known, as it was his film debut, no less. I was 27 years old.
Charles Hurd is an entertainment journalist for News Rebeat. He brings a fresh and engaging voice to the world of pop culture, covering the latest developments in film, television, music, and more.