Flying Lessons from Harrison Ford: Ethann Isidore on Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
The exuberant young actor tells Lucasfilm.com about following his Indiana Jones fandom to make his feature film debut.
While Phoebe Waller-Bridge was like a big sister to Ethann Isidore on the set of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Harrison Ford was more like a flight instructor.
When we first meet Isidore’s character, Teddy, in the film, he’s seated behind a faux control yoke and trying to learn how to fly. Behind the scenes, it was Ford who stepped in to help lend the moment more authenticity. “I’m trying to understand how a plane works. I’m trying to be a pilot and Teddy’s taking it very seriously,” Isidore tells Lucasfilm.com. “And Harrison helped me. He told me which yoke I had to pull at the right moment and which gauges I had to look at. It helped me a lot and I can say that I had piloting lessons from Harrison Ford,” he adds with a joyful laugh. “It’s a pretty good fun fact, I guess!”
Isidore’s journey from Indiana Jones fan to co-star in the fifth film in the series — Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, in theaters now — has been like something out of a dream for the young actor. The franchise has been a staple in his family’s viewing rotation for so long, he can’t even remember how he first discovered the man with the hat.
“I used to watch [the Indy films] almost every weekend with my mother and my dad, so I don’t really remember the first time I watched an Indiana Jones movie,” he says. “I just know I grew up watching these movies and they’re amazing. Like, who didn’t watch them and who didn’t love them? Who doesn’t love Indiana Jones?”
When Isidore got the chance to audition for the role of Teddy, a street-wise kid from Morocco who teams up with Waller-Bridge’s Helena Shaw, he was convinced he wouldn’t get the part; he didn’t mind. “I just wanted to have fun during the audition,” he says. “I had a piece of the script and I was like, ‘I know what’s going to happen in the next Indiana Jones!’ I didn’t think that I was going to be the one chosen, I was just so excited to be part of an Indiana Jones audition.”
To his surprise and awe, Isidore landed the part and the chance to work with Waller-Bridge, Ford, and director James Mangold.
“Life is actually good”
To get into character, Isidore walked the streets of Fes, Morocco, on location to take in the environment and step into Teddy’s shoes. It wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine other aspects of the character, however, like Teddy’s desire to be seen as an equal and a partner in Helena’s schemes despite his youthfulness. “Teddy’s a kid like me and he’s always trying to be an adult,” Isidore says. “He’s trying to find his place between Helena and Indiana Jones and I think that’s pretty much how I feel as a kid with adults.”
Beyond the faux flight instruction, Ford was a mentor to Isidore on set. The veteran actor gave Isidore some of the best advice he received during the production. “Harrison told me something that was pretty fun: that acting was actually like being a child, but you get paid for it,” he says, laughing. “I think that’s pretty true and that’s a good way to understand the work of being an actor.”
During the tuk-tuk chase sequence, Ford also provided some feedback on Isidore’s energy. “He helped me a lot to know how to use my energy because I was giving a lot of energy, but sometimes maybe too much,” Isidore says. Perhaps most surprising for the young actor was how similar Ford was to his on-screen counterpart. “He looks and acts like Indiana Jones all the time!” Isidore says. “He is Indiana Jones. I thought I was going to meet someone else, someone I didn’t know, but actually I knew him. It was quite a surprise that Indiana Jones and Harrison Ford are the same person.”
View this post on Instagram
As for Waller-Bridge, she and Isidore had an instant sibling-like bond that even included a secret handshake. Their on-screen chemistry developed organically over the course of production, starting with Isidore’s first day on set when Waller-Bridge gave him his first glimpse at the Archimedes’ dial prop. “When I first met her, she was very funny and she was very nice,” he says. “We had, like, kind of a big sister/little brother relationship. We didn’t really work [at the dynamic], we just had fun together and it worked.”
Among his cherished mementos from his time as Teddy, Isidore snagged one of the ropes from the diving sequence and a very special gift — a guitar from Waller-Bridge and Ford. “And they signed it. So, every time I feel a bit bad, I look at it and I’m like, ‘OK. Life is actually good,” he says, giggling.
And that feeling has continued long past the final day of filming, through the promotion of the film that debuted at Cannes Film Festival and is now in theaters worldwide. “It’s an amazing, amazing feeling,” Isidore says of finally getting to introduce Teddy, and the story of Indy’s last adventure, to the world. “I feel like I’m in a dream right now. I’m so excited!”