‘The Mosquito Coast‘ is an adventure drama series developed by Neil Cross and Tom Bissell. The story centers around Allie Fox, an idealistic inventor who decides to leave behind his life in America and move to Latin America with his family. Driven by disillusionment with modern capitalism and consumerism, the inventor and his family embark on a wild adventure through the Southern borderlands and cheat death multiple times on their way to an as yet unknown off-grid haven. Is this a truly inspirational real-life travel saga or a figment of a particularly active imagination? We decided to figure out whether ‘The Mosquito Coast’ is based on a true story or not.
Is The Mosquito Coast Based on a True Story?
No, ‘The Mosquito Coast‘ is not based on a true story. The show is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by travel writer Paul Theroux. The novel, in fact, earned Theroux the prestigious James Tait Black Prize for Fiction in 1981 and was subsequently made into a movie with Harrison Ford in the lead. Despite being a fictional story, the central character, Allie, remains just grounded enough to make him feel like an outrageously idealistic real person rather than a quirky fictional character.
Furthermore, his pains and disillusionment are not unfounded, and there are multiple real-life instances of people living life off the grid. This brings us to the question of whether the lead character of this fictional story is based on a real person or not. Theroux, who was a prolific traveler, mentioned in an interview that he based Allie’s character on multiple people, including fictional characters like Huckle Berry Finn’s father, Pap Finn.
However, considering that Pap Finn, a character from ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,’ is a drunkard and a vagrant, the only similarities to be seen between him and Allie are their overbearing natures towards their offsprings. Moreover, in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Paul Theroux’s nephew, Justin Theroux, who essays Allie on the show, threw more light on the subject. He mentioned that the character was partly based on Paul’s father, Albert Eugene Theroux, who was a salesman.
In another interview with Variety, Justin described his conversations with his uncle Paul about the inspiration behind Allie. Reportedly, Paul was influenced by Jim Jones and the events of the Jonestown Massacre and wondered what kind of cultish loyalty would lead a seemingly benevolent following to commit mass suicide. What Paul portrays in his novel ‘The Mosquito Coast,’ though at a much smaller scale, still explores the phenomenon of individuals unquestioningly following someone into danger, like we see Allie’s family do.
In what is most likely a nod to Paul’s inspiration, Allie’s daughter Dina, in a moment of frustration, calls her father out on his “Jim Jones bullshit” on the show. In describing the adaptation of the novel for the screen, both Justin Theroux as well as showrunner Neil Cross emphasized their goal of keeping Allie’s character unchanged. They wanted to keep his sense of wanderlust and the need to find a new haven for his family intact in the series as well.
The rest of the show, however, veers off from the novel and presents a modern-day adventure. Cross admitted that he didn’t consider basing the story in its original period, saying that it had already been covered comprehensively by the 1986 film adaptation. Instead, he decided to base the story in the “here and now,” making ‘The Mosquito Coast’ a more believable saga about a disillusioned and charismatic head-of-the-family taking his loyal followers down a dark and dangerous path.