Indiana’s next crusade

Two decades since Indiana Jones hung up his Fedora, the iconic hero rides again in a new action adventure.

It’s been been almost two decades since Harrison Ford hung up his Fedora for the last time at the conclusion of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Now after years of speculation from fans and internet junkies alike, Ford returns to the franchise that made him a household name to reprise his role as Indiana Jones.

This May, the much hyped movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull finally makes its appearance on the big screen – 19 years since the last instalment of the crowd pleasing action flick hit cinemas. Understandably the fans (and no doubt studio execs at Paramount Pictures) are anxious to see whether the magic remains.

The project is a homecoming for most of the old team. Lucas and Spielberg are on hand once more, Ford is back as the Casanova of the archeology scene and joining him for the ride is hot young Hollywood A- lister Shia LeBeouf and Aussie actress, Cate Blanchett as a deliciously droll Soviet spy.

According to all reports, Spielberg is having a ball. “In 1989, I thought the curtain was lowering on the series, which is why I had all the characters literally ride off into the sunset at the end. But ever since then the most common question I get asked all over the world is, ‘When are you going to make another Indiana Jones?’ ”

So just why is Indy so near and dear to all our hearts? Spielberg was once famously quoted as saying he liked to make the kind of movies that he used to watch when he was a kid. And the Indiana Jones films epitomise the high action pulpy adventure films that made his mouth drop open in awe as a child growing up in small town Arizona – complete with a gun toting, fists flying hero and beautiful damsel in distress. Not to mention those cliffhanger moments and gobsmacking action sequences.

Speaking with the New York Times, Spielberg offered the following explanation of his love of ham fisted theatrics and Saturday afternoon matinees:
“They made a great impression on me, both because of how exciting they were and because of how cheesy they were,” he said. “I’d kind of be involved in the stories and be ridiculing them at the same time. One week they’d give us a cliffhanger with the good guy going off the cliff, the car crashing on the rocks below and blowing up, and then the next week he’s fine. They forgot to show us the cut of the guy jumping out of the car.”

And that is exactly what the Indy films delivered. Action sequence upon action sequence, stunt upon stunt, all played out in full glorious technicolour. Who can forget the opening sequence of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – where the action evolved to Cole Porter’s Anything Goes? Or the opening scene of Raiders as Indy narrowly escaped being pulverised by an enormous rock only to be surrounded by a tribe of blowdart firing natives.

We created Indiana Jones, but he belongs to the world — Steven Spielberg

Speaking at the film’s Cannes premiere Ford described Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as “such a celebration of the movies”. He continued: “I know that we made this movie to reacquaint people with the pure joy that can happen in a dark room with a bunch of other people seeing something that they haven’t seen before that will just kick your butt.”

Indeed Spielberg believes that more than any of his other characters, Indy belongs to the people. A sentiment he wanted to carry through with the new film.
“We created Indiana Jones, but he belongs to the world. And now we’re the custodians. Our job really is to serve up a huge helping not only of what Indiana Jones means to audiences who grew up with it, but to introduce the character to those who haven’t. This film is for the fans.”

So just what will the fans think of this new mature age version of Indy? Spielberg hopes the old magic will resonate.
“To see Harrison walk on the set, pick up the whip and snap it and wrap it around one of the bad guys was pretty incredible, ” says Spielberg. “It was amazing to see how fast Harrison was with it. And then to be on the set and see Indy’s rucksack and his other props – well it wasn’t just nostalgia. That’s when I realised that we were bringing this character and everything he’s about back to the audience that grew up with him as well as to new audiences.”

Ford who was the driving force behind bringing Indy back to the screen comments of Indy: “He’s certainly older, if not wiser”.

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For young teen heartthrob, Shia LeBeouf, becoming a part of the Indy legacy was a huge deal. Cast as Indy’s sidekick, Mutt, LeBeof’s character is part Brando, part Dean, part dufus.
“Steven wrote a little note on my script that said ‘OK, now it’s time to transform yourself into Mutt, signed Steven'” recalls LeBeouf. “And then he gave me three movies to watch – The Blackboard Jungle, Rebel Without a Cause and The Wild One. As though I was supposed to go home and watch The Wild One and go ‘Oh Yeah, I see how Marlon Brando did it.'”

Big shoes to fill indeed, yet for LeBeouf, the biggest hurdle to overcome was his awe of working with Ford.
“You get breathless,” he says. “Your breath literally leaves you. For me part of that reaction has to do with the way I saw him in full costume the first time. We were on an airforce base and we were doing vehicle training. Harrison flew in on a helicopter. He got out of the helicopter took a few steps then reached back for something. It was his whip! It was weird because in that moment he wasn’t Harrison Ford, he was Indiana Jones. I was watching him pulling out his whip, untangling it, putting grease on it, and then he held it and I thought ‘Oh my god, this is real'”

Throughout the history of the Indy franchise the villains have played almost as big a role as our hero the good Dr Jones. In the early films, the Nazis dominated the landscape – for this incarnation Spielberg has found a new enemy – the Ruskies – and a perfect vixen of evil-doing in Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Soviet agent Irina Spalko. The role marks the first occasion Blanchett has played a full on villain, on screen.

“Spalko has an almost impenetrable steel-like quality to her,” offers Blanchett. “You know, not a hair out of place, no matter what she’s doing, never anything on her boots no matter what mud she’s walking through. There’s a remarkable precision about her. She’s penetrating and, therefore, potentially lethal.”

Blanchett is no stranger to the blockbuster genre, (witness her role in LOTR) and harbours found memories of the Indy flicks.
“Everyone at my primary school wanted to kiss Harrison Ford, but I actually wanted to be Harrison Ford. I wanted to be Indiana Jones!”

Didn’t we all, Cate…didn’t we all…

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls opens at cinemas on May 22.

Check out our review of the film HERE

Watch the trailer for the Lego Indiana Jones game