Harrison Ford Dropped Out of Scorsese’s 90s Thriller For a Very Weird Reason

Harrison Ford Dropped Out of Scorsese’s 90s Thriller For a Very Weird Reason
Image credit: Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures

The actor was about to change his well-known image — but instead changed his mind.


  • Harrison Ford has gained worldwide fame since the 1980s while portraying “good guys” on the screen.
  • The actor could’ve ended up playing yet another positive role in Martin Scorsese ’s 1991 thriller, but refused as he wanted to turn to more sinister characters.
  • The modern filmmakers concur that potential Cape Fear with Harrison Ford in the leading role could’ve turned out to be much worse than the film with Robert De Niro.

Harrison Ford is famous mostly thanks to his “good guy” iconic roles — remembering Indiana Jones and Han Solo will already be enough to confirm it. And he wouldn’t even have had a thought of taking up some radically different role if at some point it hadn’t come to his potential work with legendary Martin Scorsese who’d wanted to see Ford in his 1991’s thriller Cape Fear.

Scorsese, in his turn, became prominent to the world public and got everyone’s accolades (and still does) for his dark-themed, often criminal thrillers that never miss their chance to show some quite explicit violence — the opposite to what Harrison Ford was usually up to.

Cape Fear already existed before Martin Scorsese — the initial film was released in 1962 and is still considered to be one of the best psychological thrillers in cinema history. The plot follows Max Cady, a man that has just got out of jail where he was put for rape.

Having finally retrieved his freedom, Cady’s first thing to do is to come up with a revenge plan for Sam Bowden, a lawyer that played a significant role in his imprisonment — and then Cady starts pursuing Bowden and his daughter.

While deciding who would star in the 1962 thriller reboot, Martin Scorsese knew for sure one of the roles would be definitely given to Robert De Niro. The latter collaborated with the director in many of his films and mostly portrayed characters with dark criminal past or even present — just what Scorsese always needed in his works.

And so it was decided — the “bad guy” role would be De Niro’s who eventually got to play Max Cady in the reboot. The “good guy” role still remained unclaimed — and Scorsese thought of Harrison Ford who seemed to be a perfect match.

Harrison Ford Dropped Out of Scorsese’s 90s Thriller For a Very Weird Reason - image 1

But then the unexpected happened — it turned out that Harrison Ford by that time was sick and tired of playing “good roles” and would’ve been happy to join Martin Scorsese’s film if he had been given the leading, “bad” role instead. As this, for obvious reasons, never happened, Ford just dropped out of the project.

Eventually Cape Fear did pretty well in the box office and received good reviews from critics, even though Scorsese and De Niro had had better times with their previous collaborations.

But would the film have been more successful if Ford’s wish had been in favor? Most of the filmmakers don’t think so.