Skip to Content
Indiana Jones and diggers at sunset.

Telling a Human Story: Director Laurent Bouzereau and Editor Jeff Pickett Discuss Timeless Heroes: Indiana Jones & Harrison Ford

  • Link Copied

The new feature documentary tells the story behind the story of Indiana Jones.

Indiana Jones Timeless Heroes Key Art Poster

Harrison Ford’s last performance as our favorite adventurer-archaeologist in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) presented a special opportunity to explore the actor’s true-life story from the beginning. To make the new feature-length documentary, Timeless Heroes: Indiana Jones & Harrison Ford, Lucasfilm partnered with filmmaker Laurent Bouzereau, who himself has been a part of the Indy legacy for years, having made a number of behind-the-scenes documentaries going back to the first Indy DVD box set in 2003.

An accomplished documentary filmmaker and author, Bouzereau has a long track record collaborating with Steven Spielberg (his newest book is Spielberg: The First Ten Years), among others. His passion for Indiana Jones stretches back to his childhood in France. “I was always on the lookout for any of the work done by Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, or John Williams,” he recalls. “We didn’t have the same kind of access in Europe back then. It could be as complicated as looking for the lost ark! There was roughly a six-month gap in the release of films from America, but you could purchase the books and soundtracks ahead of the release.”

Bouzereau’s first impressions of Indiana Jones thus came from the novelization and score of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). “I kept going back, reading it out loud, and thinking this was crazy and incredible! I was reading it while I was listening to John’s music. I thought it was going to be a masterpiece.” When he finally had the chance to see it on the Champs Elysée in Paris, his hopes of a great film came true “a zillion times over,” although Bouzereau admits lifting his feet off the floor out of fear that snakes were slithering about!

“I became obsessed with Raiders,” Bouzereau continues. “It was one of those films that was unique, but was also really made for people who loved movies.” A particular standout in his memory was Harrison Ford’s performance. “I had seen him in American Graffiti [1973], Star Wars [1977], and The Empire Strikes Back [1980],” Bouzereau explains, “and Raiders was like a new revelation. It’s why it was so interesting to make this film, Timeless Heroes, because I know now with the way Harrison’s career was going, that Raiders was a benchmark that changed his life a lot more than Star Wars did.”

In the years following his introduction to Indiana Jones, Bouzereau’s passion for movies only intensified as he moved to Los Angeles and embarked on his successful career as a documentarian and author. Interviewing Harrison Ford for the 2003 Indy documentaries, he recalls how “you could tell his love of the character and of the experiences making the films. It had been a really special experience for all the cast and crew, which is not always the case. Sometimes there are movies that become amazingly successful, but the experience making them wasn’t great. With Indy you could tell that this was about cinema and friendship, everything that the films seem to have in their themes was reflected in what those people were sharing.”

That understanding only increased when Bouzereau led the behind-the-scenes crew during production of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). “Crystal Skull was incredible, and the fun part for me was that all of the departments would come to me with another thing they wanted us to document,” he recalls. “That’s how much it meant to them. On other films, I try to be discreet and not get in the way, but on Crystal Skull, people were asking where we were! It was a dream.

“They started filming in Las Cruces, New Mexico for the scenes outside the hangar,” Bouzereau continues. “I’ll never forget hearing the crack of a whip, and turning around and there was Harrison training. I asked my cameraman, ‘Are you filming this?!’ You felt that if you ever stopped filming, you were missing another amazing moment. Everybody felt that way. When he showed up in his hat and costume, there was a shiver amongst everyone.”

After many years of anticipation on the part of both Indy fans and cast and crew, Dial of Destiny at last went into production in 2021. The following year, Bouzereau received a call from Anna Yeager, Lucasfilm’s vice president of marketing and franchise creative. “She asked if I was available for an Indiana Jones project. Say no more!” he recounts. “There was this opportunity to do something different. There was going to be the new behind-the-scenes for Dial of Destiny [produced by Lucasfilm Video Production, or LVP], but there was also this other material from the various DVDs and Blu-rays. I was a little skeptical, because I felt it had all been done. I know because I was there! I didn’t want to repeat myself.

“Then I had amazing and inspiring meetings with Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall,” Bouzereau continues. “Having had the privilege to work with them for so many years on lots of different projects, I can’t say enough about how nice and supportive they are. Having dialogues with them really helped it come together and we were able to find a way to tell a story that is fresh while also having the nostalgia. It’s also very respectful of Harrison, who is a private person.”

Bouzereau’s newest collaboration with Lucasfilm meant a reunion with an old friend and colleague. Lucasfilm Video Production senior editor Jeff Pickett is another lifelong Indy fan (he recalls building his own recreation of the Well of Souls in LEGO as a child!) who started working with Bouzereau many years ago after moving to Los Angeles from his native Massachusetts. “I really love the old school topics like Laurent does,” Pickett notes. “He would give me the projects that he knew I would treat carefully because I cared about them. “At the time I started, Laurent was doing retrospectives, among many other projects. I got to work on Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much [1956] and Shadow of a Doubt [1943], some of my favorite movies.”

Pickett’s long term collaboration with Bouzereau included work on the Crystal Skull documentaries, as well as new behind-the-scenes films from Raiders of the Lost Ark released in 2012. “For Raiders, we were going back into my childhood again, which is my favorite part,” Pickett says. “I got to take this movie and all of the behind-the-scenes footage, and just play with it. I remember talking to Laurent and saying, let’s not do any new interviews, it will take us out of it. Let’s keep it with the perspective from the shoot. We only used the stand-up interviews from that time. It was hard to decide what not to put in!”

In the years before Timeless Heroes, Pickett joined Lucasfilm as a freelancer during behind-the-scenes work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. The following year, he settled into a permanent role. “When this new Indy project came up, now it was the whole Indy series, which was really exciting and frightening at the same time,” Pickett explains. “It was a short schedule, five films, and it wasn’t just about Indy, but about Harrison as well. A real challenge.” Pickett notes that he, Bouzereau, Anna Yeager, director of LVP and creative content Trish Brunner, and lead video content creative Ian Bucknole agreed early on that Timeless Heroes wasn’t a making-of documentary. “This is about the character, which means it’s also about the man who plays him. It’s about how the two are intertwined,” Pickett says.

Bouzereau elaborates how “the story explores how Harrison fell into acting and draws parallels between him and Indiana Jones. ‘I’m making it up as I go’ is sort of how he approached his career, but he was super smart in that he always said that he would get a bigger role each time or he wouldn’t do it. That’s why he became a carpenter in between roles. It’s tough to be more successful each time, but he did, and that’s why he became Indiana Jones. He had that goal, and people can feel that, especially when you back it up with immense talent. It was really interesting to verbalize the idea that they are timeless heroes and they belong in the same sentence together.

“My process was a little different on this film, in part because there’s a big legacy component,” Bouzereau continues. “I wanted to do many new interviews in addition to going back to older ones. I wanted to shape the clay myself, not only with key people from the films, but also including a film critic and people who were influenced by the films. Indiana Jones is distinct in that it has created careers, not only in film, but in other fields, which was fascinating. You realize you’re not alone. I think it’s so fitting that George Lucas – who cares a lot about education and created The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones for that reason – was at the origin of this character, and in a sense, created careers for teachers and archaeologists. It was really powerful to document that. I think people will relate to it.”

Another distinct element of Timeless Heroes is its exploration of Harrison Ford’s career outside of Indiana Jones. “We wanted to show his journey,” says Bouzereau, “and how on the one hand it’s a tough journey to get to Indiana Jones. But was that also something that was difficult to shed when he had the ambition of doing other roles? That took immense courage and talent to want to play characters where he was really the opposite of Indiana Jones. I felt that out of the gate, Witness [1985] was another benchmark for him. He could be Indiana Jones, but he could be that character as well. If Indiana Jones defined him in one way, Witness defined him in another way. After that, he could do whatever he wanted.”

For Pickett, the expanded vision of the documentary meant hours of research and piles of new discoveries. “For me, I had seen the majority of films he was in, but it was the TV shows that I knew nothing about,” he explains. “That was a fun challenge. I did a lot of hunting for those. I didn’t know he’d done so much TV. Thank goodness for our team, including [producer] Daniel Cavey, [production coordinator] John Kissane, [vice president of franchise production] Jacqui Lopez, and our legal team. They fought to secure the rights to all of those things. We even have Shrinking and examples of his other current work. It’s important to have that because we wanted to show Harrison’s personality outside of the Indy character. It really shows him in the bigger world outside of Lucasfilm.”

Discussing his editorial workflow, Bouzereau explains how he’s “primarily worked with three editors, and each one has a different personality. Jeff is super emotional. All of his cuts, if it makes me tear up, we’re good. We didn’t have a lot of time, and he worked Star Wars Celebration right in the middle of it. He went off and worked for two weeks, barely sleeping, and then came back and jumped right back on this project, I have never heard Jeff complain ever. I tend to be super hyper, more a nervous type, his is totally even, so deep and connected to the emotions of a cut. He is truly an artist.”

It’s any fan’s dream to pour through hours of behind-the-scenes footage like Pickett and interview onscreen and offscreen icons like Bouzereau. As fans themselves, it’s something they take seriously. “Every time I found something that looked new to me, I’d try to use it,” Pickett says. “I hope it will be really exciting for people at home, watching with their families, friends, or on their own. These clips give you that warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s the Indy we’ve known and loved all these years. Hopefully, it makes them feel like they were there. I love that fly-on-the-wall connection to it.”

Bouzereau notes that “I really try to find the human stories and showcase those people. Without these kinds of documentaries – and I don’t mean only mine – some of these stories would never be explored. The sound designers, set designers, property masters, all those people have a role and investment into the making of the film. It’s that human quality that inspires people who want to be in the film business. You don’t only have to want to be a director or a star. You can find your voice doing something else on a film.

“Films like Indiana Jones and Star Wars, because there is such reverence for them, everyone brings a humanity and passion to work, and they want to talk about it,” says Bouzereau in conclusion. “I hope it’s obvious while you’re watching Timeless Heroes.”

Timeless Heroes: Indiana Jones & Harrison Ford premieres on Disney+ December 1, 2023. Watch the trailer below:

Lucasfilm | Timeless stories. Innovative storytelling.

Related Topics