The Mosquito Coast writer Neil Cross hints at season 2 plans and reveals why adapting the book for TV was so difficult
Cross explains why his adaptation makes big changes to Paul Theroux's novel and how the Apple TV+ thriller is the opposite of The Handmaid's Tale.
Thriller series The Mosquito Coast launched on Apple TV+ in April and now, with six of seven episodes streaming on the platform, a second season has been announced – shortly before the release of the first season finale on 4th June.
Luther creator Neil Cross has adapted Paul Theroux's 1981 novel for the screen, telling a story that serves as something of a prequel to the events of the book – an approach that will continue into the second season, Cross told RadioTimes.com.
"The idea is that we do the opposite of what The Handmaid's Tale did, which is they started with the novel and then they expand – we're moving towards the novel, we're moving towards The Mosquito Coast," he explained.
The original novel follows Allie Fox, a brilliant inventor who despises United States consumer culture, and his family as they relocate to La Mosquitia on the Mosquito Coast of Honduras. This story was adapted as a movie – starring Harrison Ford as Allie – in 1986, with the series following Allie (Justin Theroux, nephew of author Paul), his wife Margot (Melissa George) and their children Dina (Logan Polish) and Charlie (Gabriel Bateman) as they embark on a dangerous quest through Mexico to flee the US government.
Cross explained that he took the prequel approach "for a number of reasons", one being that he considers Peter Weir's film – also starring Helen Mirren and River Phoenix – to be "the definitive adaptation of the plot of the novel."
"Moreover, the Allie Fox of the novel is a kind of bifurcated character in as much as one aspect of it is the archetypal American contrarian – he's Randle McMurphy [from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest] – but on a more cosmetic level, he's a creature of a very specific set of political, economic, and cultural circumstances that agglomerated around the end of the '70s," Cross said.
"So when I was approached about possibly adapting the book, my first thought was that you can't just cut and paste that Allie. So my first creative challenge was to think, who would that guy be today?"
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The character of Allie as written in the book was not the only aspect of the book that Cross felt would need tweaking to work for a contemporary audience. "Theroux is an incredibly complex literary novelist and there are elements of the novel which work on the page, as an act of sustained irony, but would not translate to the screen, which is a much more barbaric medium.
"Not least, Allie's wife in the novel has no name, no agency, and no desires of her own. That's a very deliberate choice on Theroux's part, but that kind of ironic comment in no way translates to screen. Even the definitive adaptation in the '80s, it does waste Helen Mirren. So there were just elements that needed to be looked at. It was like taking an engine apart – disassembling it and polishing up some bits and cleaning up others."
As a longtime fan of the novel, Cross admits he found the adaptation process tricky. "It was awful. Adapting and transforming a novel for the screen is an act of consensual violence, not least because it's a 40-ish-year-old novel and times have moved on. You know, everything from Game of Thrones to The Haunting of Hill House contains degrees of difference to the source material. They're different mediums. So [adapting the book] was kind of like being a surgeon operating on your spouse... while your father-in-law looks on!"
Episode seven will bring the first season of The Mosquito Coast to a close – but that wasn't always the plan, with a planned nine-episode run having to be curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a second season now confirmed, Cross can continue exploring his take on Allie Fox's story.
"We were shooting episode five in Mexico City last March and we had to leave. We remounted the show in October, and so half of episode five was shot in Mexico City in March and the other half was shot in Guadalajara in October, with two different directors. My biggest fear was Gabriel who plays Charlie... was he going to come back in October looking like Grizzly Adams? So yeah, we had to tack into the wind with the COVID of it all."