Jimmy Buffett, Harrison Ford and the Margaritaville movie that almost was


Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way is out May 9 on Touchstone Books. 

So there was Jimmy Buffett, on Instagram doing Jimmy Buffett things — flying, surfing, singing and recreating in tropics. For example, there’s the hero of our story, hard at work on a catamaran in Fiji. What’s he working on? The upcoming Escape to Margaritaville musical, it would appear.


And, as luck would have it, he ran into an old friend and fellow pilot, Harrison Ford.

Once upon a time, Buffett was working to bring another version of Margaritaville to life, not on stage, but screen. There were a lot of scripts written form Margaritaville: The Movie. “So many scripts,” his archivest told me over sangria in Key West while I was working on Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way.

Most of those scripts are filed away somewhere. One of them, is filed away at the University of Florida’s Special and Areas Studies Collection, part of the Jimmy Buffett Papers.

The draft was written in 1987 with magazine editor Terry McDonnel, who, in 1978, had assigned Buffett to cover Antigua’s big sailing blowout. Subtitled “A love triangle adrift in the Bermuda Triangle,” it’s “about two guys from different worlds who become great buddies as they; 1) travel from island to island in the Caribbean having adventures and meeting various eccentrics; 2) resolve their comic love triangle with a beautiful girl and; 3) save the Island of Margaritaville and the way of life it symbolizes from the forces of greed and hypocrisy.”

Jimmy Buffett Papers, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

Those two guys are a cowboy and a smuggler-turned-island-hotelier. The cowboy, Jim Delaney, would grow up and become Tully Mars in Tales from Margaritaville and A Salty Piece of Land.


The cover page for the script shows it was sent to a number of actors — including Harrison Ford (c/o Jackson Hole, Wyoming), who’s played a smuggler or two, and Robert Redford, who knows of cowboys.

Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way will be released May 9 by Touchstone Books. Garden and Gun had really nice things to say about it. Pre-orders are available.




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