“The Chance to Collaborate with My Heroes”: Director James Mangold on Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
The filmmaker tells Lucasfilm.com how Raiders of the Lost Ark helped inspire his love for cinema and led him to direct the final film in the franchise more than 40 years later.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is more than Indy’s last adventure — it’s a love letter from a kid who became enthralled with filmmaking while watching Raiders of the Lost Ark on opening day in 1981.
Director James Mangold was a teenager when he saw the first Indiana Jones adventure in theaters. “It inspired me,” Mangold tells Lucasfilm.com. “I mean, I was already making Super 8 films at that point; I was already a crazy filmmaking geek. My room was a double-system editing room and cameras galore, and I was devising how to make special effects, building models, animating, and shooting movies in my high school.” But to the aspiring young filmmaker, the cast and crew of Raiders was already firmly ensconced among his personal heroes. “You’re talking about George Lucas and Steven Spielberg [who executive produced this film]. You’re talking about Harrison Ford and John Williams. These were my North Star.”
Now more than 40 years later, Mangold has helmed Indy’s final ride, an epic send-off for one of cinema’s legendary action-adventure heroes, once again played by the incomparable Harrison Ford. The story finds Indy at the end of his teaching career, confronted by his past, at a crossroads in a life filled with some significant disappointments. To put it bluntly: “He’s lost.”
In Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Indy is up against time itself, both in hunting the titular Archimedes’ dial, which is said to have mystical properties, his own mortality, and the consequences of his decisions thus far. In fact, the fifth film in the franchise finds Indy as we’ve never seen him before: older, but perhaps not yet wiser, and at loose ends with his professional and personal life — including a meeting with his estranged goddaughter, Helena Shaw, played by Indy newcomer Phoebe Waller-Bridge — amid the backdrop of an ever-changing world.
“There are several different storylines stranding through the movie,” Mangold says. “One is obviously the adventure story involving the relic, but also one is about…time and its regrets. About choices we’ve made in the past, choices we wish we might have made differently. People we’ve hurt — maybe inadvertently, maybe intentionally. Times our eyes were closed to something that we wish we had seen. We understand from the moment we meet Indy in 1969 that he is haunted by something, but we don’t know what it is.”
“He’s not afraid”
From the start of his work on the project, Mangold was adamant that the newest entry in the Indiana Jones franchise needed to be a story worthy of the adventurer’s oeuvre. “It’s made with such love for the character. And part of love means trying to do something new. Not just making a movie for its own sake, to be a commodity, but to try and push the character and understand the character at this stage of his life,” Mangold says.
He’s still Indy, the whip-snapping, smart-talking explorer who will boldly leap onto the back of a police horse and take a shortcut through the New York subway system to outsmart a villain. The film leans into Indy’s age, or perhaps more appropriately the mileage wrought from a daring life that includes getting shot nine times, in balance with the thrilling action sequences, moments of levity, and globe-trotting escapades that fans have come to love.
Mangold and Ford first met on the set of 2020’s The Call of the Wild, which Mangold produced. However, collaborating on an Indiana Jones film wasn’t even a point of discussion at the time, Mangold says. “We didn’t talk much about Indy, but what we did find is that we really got along. We became friends. I loved the idea of working on something else with him, but at that time, I had no anticipation that this door was going to [open.]”
There’s a distinct hint of wonder as Mangold speaks about Ford and his craft. “I think we had a similar viewpoint about movie making,” Mangold says. “Harrison has been a gigantic movie star for the last 40 or so years, but I think he is, at heart, an actor,” Mangold says. From Han Solo in Star Wars to Henry Jones Jr. in Indiana Jones, and countless other roles that have earned him lifetime achievement awards and recently a standing ovation at the Cannes world premiere, Ford is always working to turn the idea of a leading man on its head.
And according to Mangold, he isn’t precious about his own vanity. “Harrison works every day to try and undermine the kind of tropes and cliches of the leading man in any of his films. You can see the actor at work pushing the audience to adore his character even though he can be vain or arrogant. That’s part of what we love about Harrison — he’s not afraid. He’s not vain about how he plays his heroes. He has the confidence to know we’re going to love them even more if they look like us.”
Although he kept one of Indy’s brown fedoras as a personal memento of the production, for Mangold, tangible keepsakes can’t compare to the experience of taking one of his favorite characters on one final adventure.
“I spent my whole life admiring many of the people who I worked together with on this movie. I’ve met some of them in the past, but there’s no way to connect with someone better than working with them,” Mangold says. “It tests you. You know each other. What you look like when you’re exhausted. What you look like when you’re frustrated; when you’re up and you’re down. And whether I’m talking about Steven or Phoebe or Harrison or [composer] John Williams, these are people who’ve seen me at my best, at my worst, at my most exhausted, at my most jubilant. We’ve shared hard work together. And, for me, the real thing I’ve taken home from this — and probably the biggest reason I made the picture — was the chance to collaborate with my heroes and have real relationships with them.”
Indy’s past adventures — the original four films and The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones TV series — are now streaming on Disney+. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny arrives in theaters on June 30.
Lucasfilm | Timeless stories. Innovative storytelling.