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Chasing Destiny: The Villains and Antagonists of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

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Actors Mads Mikkelsen, Shaunette Renée Wilson, and Boyd Holbrook tell about playing a trio of characters hot on the heels of Indiana Jones. 

Before Mads Mikkelsen considered taking up acting as a profession, he wanted to be Indiana Jones: teacher, archaeologist, adventurer.

“I think we all felt that to a degree watching the first film,” he tells “It’s a quality stamp for any film that you, as a kid, just want to join the people up there on the screen. You don’t want to be the actor. You just want to be that person.”

But there’s only one Indy. So, when it came time to sign on for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Mikkelsen got to join his childhood hero for one last adventure, playing the villain — the Nazi Dr. Jürgen Voller, a mathematician for the United States government credited with helping to put astronauts on the moon. “I mean, since I can’t be Indy, I can be the baddie,” he says. “And it’s been a wonderful journey to see this home.”

On Mikkelsen’s first day on set, he arrived for a costume fitting and a script read, but ended up meeting the man with the hat. “I went outside my trailer and Harrison [Ford] was outside. That was the first time I met him.” Ford was in full costume, and Mikkelsen says he felt like a kid again, recognizing not the esteemed actor and co-star but the hero he loved. “It wasn’t Harrison, it was Indiana Jones. He had the hat, the whip, the jacket. [It was] surreal. Watching him work, it’s just been, you know, an experience of my life….Because, all of a sudden, I’m part of it.”

Mikkelsen wasn’t alone. In Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, he’s joined by Agent Mason, a by-the-book special agent played by Shaunette Renée Wilson, and Klaber, Voller’s enforcer played by Boyd Holbrook, an unlikely team-up that led to plenty of inter-personal conflict on screen. But behind the scenes and on a recent press day, the three actors were constantly making each other laugh as they recounted their path to join the franchise.

Paying homage to the past

Holbrook has worked with director James Mangold in the past, a go-to bad guy for his film heroes. And while the longtime Indy fan jumped at the chance to join the cast of Dial of Destiny, it was still hard for Holbrook to come to terms with the idea of being one of Indy’s rivals.

“I was really excited and also a little bummed out that I was going to be in a film like this, but [playing] a bad guy,” Holbrook says. “Trying to figure out how to portray a character like that was hard for me to wrap my head around.” In the summer of 1969, Holbrook was hard-pressed to imagine what chain of events would have led Klaber to be Voller’s right-hand. “Why is this guy not in, you know, San Francisco, Haight Ashbury, doing other things?”

To embody the role, Holbrook looked to an earlier Mikkelsen role in the dark comedy The Green Butchers then worked closely with the crew to craft a similar look with a specific haircut. “I just wanted him to have something that put him out,” Holbrooks says, and the costume department delivered, fabricating a set of false teeth to complete the look and help Holbrook get into character each day. “We made these teeth that actually aren’t that present in the film, but for me it was kind of a good crutch to lean on.”


Wilson took her own inspiration from Pam Grier’s portrayal of the titular vigilante Foxy Brown in the 1974 film, a choice reflected in her costume pieces and hair as well as her demeanor. “Thinking about black women as these action figures and heroes, it is such a delight to try to give homage to that and to recreate a little bit of that energy and vibe and ownership of your badassery,” she says. “It was fun.”

Getting to travel to the set of New York City in 1969 also helped her transform for the role, Wilson says. “I’m from New York and so to kind of like, literally, time travel…the set design was incredible on this. The details! So many aspects of that set [were] just incredible to witness, just the scope of it.”

Power struggle

On film, Voller’s goals and Klaber’s blind loyalty quickly create a conflict with Mason’s objectives as an officer of the law. “It’s interesting, because there are moments when I feel like these characters are trying to get her on their side,” Wilson says, noting one scene where the antagonists are shockingly polite. “I think Agent Mason is very much about the business, but they’re just taking things way out of hand. You know, they’re killing people. We’re blowing up this parade. We’re running around. It’s just like, ‘What are we doing? This is not what I signed up for!’ And to be assigned to this is just so frustrating.”

“If you have certain ideals, like Mason does, and your bosses are making a pact with the devil — and you have to defend that — that’s not a nice job,” Mikkelsen adds.

The cast had plenty of challenges with the physical nature of those and other action sequences. As they survey the Lucasfilm Online set, an homage to the tombs and temples that Indy is so fond of exploring, they note a ramp similar to one from the set of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny that was slippery during their shoot.

“Every time there’s something that looks cool and doable, they come out and they wet it down,” Mikkelsen says. “And then all of a sudden, it’s just tricky. It looks good with rain, but it’s very difficult to work with.”

Wilson did a lot of running in boots that were too tight for long-distance sprints, she says. But Holbrook mostly sat out the big stunts, choosing instead to watch the action at a safe distance. “My stunt guy gets all the credit,” he says as everyone chuckles. “I couldn’t jump off a moving motorcycle while I crashed, even though I wish I could. But, you know, these are world class sets in every country that we went to…so hanging out on set, you got front-row seats to the greatest show.”

“I love what you’re doing”

With Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny now out in the world, Mikkelsen, Wilson, and Holbrook have officially made the leap from Indiana Jones enthusiasts to part of the series’ legacy. Despite the good fortune and whatever glory comes from that experience, if anything, it’s only made them bigger fans of Indy and his adventures.

“Nothing has shifted for me,” Mikkelsen says. “It was a film [that as a child] I was just watching it and loving it and wanting to be up there doing the things they were doing. And, well, now I got to do it.”

More than 40 years after Raiders of the Lost Ark, the impact of the series can be felt across generations. “A lot of people in my generation, especially a lot of my friends who are directors, that’s what started everything,” Mikkelsen says. “They watched [Raiders] and they went, ‘I want to make films!’”

“It’s cool to actually collide generationally,” Wilson adds. “This is such a timeless franchise and a timeless piece. It was wonderful to be representative of that.”

And while Mikkelsen grew up wanting to be Indiana Jones himself, for Holbrook it was another Indy hero that made him a fan.

“I think about Ke Huy Quan,” Holbrook says of the Academy Award winner whose first screen role was as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. “I just wanted to be that kid…and just really getting the sense of adventure, that you can have these adventures, too. That, as cliche as it sounds, is the magic of cinema.”

The spell hasn’t been broken now that he’s appeared not as Indy’s sidekick, but as the right-hand man to his nemesis. On his first day on set, Holbrook was just finishing up shooting a scene in a hallway when Ford sidled up. “I see somebody come up in my peripheral [vision] and it’s Harrison. And he’s like, ‘I love what you’re doing,’” Holbrook recalls. “And that kind of made it real and took away a lot of the pressure. You know, ‘When am I going to meet Harrison? How’s that going to go?’ [It] really normalized everything and made you feel like you are a part of the gang.”

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