From acclaimed writer-director, James Mangold comes Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny with Harrison Ford reprising his iconic role as the whip-smart archaeologist one last time for a thrilling, globe-trotting adventure
There’s no question that Indiana Jones remains one of the most beloved characters ever brought to the screen: the American Film Institute ranked the adventurer as the second greatest movie hero of all time – only Gregory Peck as Aticuscus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” could top him. Yet it’s simply hard to imagine Indy would have enjoyed the same staying power in the cultural consciousness without Harrison Ford in the battered brown fedora.
The moment Indy appeared on screen for the first time in Steven Spielberg’s 1981 landmark Raiders of the Lost Ark, it was obviously the perfect marriage of character and star. With his rugged, rough-around-the-edges masculinity, Ford was undeniably charismatic yet also deeply, endearingly charming. He deployed a knowing smirk at all the right moments and escaped seemingly impossible scrapes through some combination of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and just plain luck.
Of all the indelible characters Ford has portrayed, he’s always felt a special affinity for Indiana Jones, and the actor would periodically ask producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall about potentially reprising the role one last time. “Harrison loves this character as much as the audience, and he didn’t want to see it end,” Kennedy says. “He kept asking ‘Is there another story?’”
To find the answer, Kennedy, Ford, and Spielberg turned to James Mangold, the masterful storyteller behind such critically acclaimed, commercially successful films as Walk the Line, Logan, and Ford v Ferrari, who had extensive experience telling emotionally satisfying stories about historical figures from Johnny Cash to Carroll Shelby, and he was equally adept with dramatic tales about outsider figures. His movies, which often centered on captivating, conflicted protagonists, were always expertly crafted, uniquely thought-provoking, and keenly entertaining.
Mangold directs from a screenplay crafted by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth, David Koepp, and Mangold, based on characters created by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman.
It’s 1969, and Indiana Jones is ready to call it quits. Having spent more than a decade teaching at New York’s Hunter College, the esteemed professor of archaeology is preparing to retire to his modest apartment where, these days, he lives alone. Things change after a surprise visit from his estranged
goddaughter Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who is seeking a rare artifact that her father entrusted to Indy years earlier—the infamous Archimedes Dial, a device that purportedly holds the power to locate fissures in time. An accomplished con artist, Helena steals the Dial and swiftly departs the country to sell the artifact to the highest bidder. Left with no choice but to go after her, Indy dusts off his fedora and leather jacket for one final ride. Meanwhile, Indy’s old nemesis, Jürgen Voller, a former Nazi now working as a physicist in the U.S. space program, has his own plans for the Dial, a horrifying scheme that could change the course of world history.
For Mangold, the experience of watching Raiders as a 17-year-old at the Orange County Mall in upstate New York on opening day—June 12, 1981—is one he’s never forgotten. He was riveted by the rollicking spirit of the classic adventure, which borrowed styles and techniques from the early decades of the cinematic art form. It was an equal mix of chases, cliffhangers, fisticuffs s, romance, and wit, with a uniquely modern sensibility.
He only agreed to step behind the camera once he knew he would have the time to craft a compelling adventure worthy of the Indiana Jones series: Raiders, 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, all of which were directed by Spielberg.
Crafting the Screenplay
Setting to work on a script, he reunited with Ford v Ferrari screenwriters Jez and John-Henry Butterworth,
the acclaimed duo whose filmography also includes Fair Game, Get on Up, and Edge of Tomorrow. In
conceptualizing the story, they understood it was vitally important to preserve all the qualities that made Indy such a flashpoint for generations of moviegoers.
“Indiana Jones is a character that always surprises us,” Mangold says. “He can be selfish, he can be empathic, he can be brave, he can be a coward. And Harrison holds all these contradictory elements together. Indiana Jones is not a Greek hero on Mount Olympus, he’s a very human character. I think all his eccentricities and anxieties and neuroses and foibles are part of his appeal. But he does have a superpower, and it’s that he’s incredibly lucky.”
While they sought to honor the character, they also felt it was important to offer audiences something exciting and new. Additionally, they wanted to acknowledge the character’s age, given that Ford would be (an admittedly spry) 79 during the shoot. So, they set the movie at the end of the 1960s, an era when an adventurous Greatest Generation hero inspired by the classic movie serials of the 1930s and ’40s would feel like a bit of a relic himself.
“The obvious challenge is that you’re returning to a genre without re-casting,” says Jez Butterworth. “You’ve got the same actor who was playing this in his thirties playing it in his late seventies. I think that what had been perceived perhaps as a disadvantage was all the advantage. You had to absolutely run with the idea that what happens toward the end of people’s stories [can be just as fascinating] as what happens at the beginning of them. It started to feel authentic, and it gained a reality that was playable. If you embrace the opportunity, all sorts of storytelling doors open up.”
The approach strongly resonated with Ford, who felt it aligned with his innate understanding of the character. “We haven’t avoided the fact that Indy has aged 40 years over the period we’ve been telling his story—we’ve embraced it,” Ford says. “We faced the challenges he faced, and we’ve brought a real humanity and warmth to the story. It’s a remarkable job of imagination that’s been performed to conceive the context that the story takes place in. Very bold. Very exciting. Very courageous.”
When the film opens, it’s the end of the line for Indiana Jones. As he prepares to retire from teaching, he finds himself spending his nights alone in a modest New York apartment. “The Indiana Jones we meet in 1969 is the result of the experience that we’ve had with him throughout the other films,” Ford explains.
“This is what happens when you’re a broken-down archaeologist/professor and you’re frustrated in your career and it’s your last day on the job before retirement and you maybe occasionally have a drink in the middle of the day. He’s dispirited, he’s cynical, and he’s hurt, but the circumstances that are about to befall him, lead to a great adventure in which there is a degree of redemption but renewal as well.”
Explains Mangold, “I wanted to start Harrison’s character as far from being Indy as we could so that the audience would feel the elation when circumstances force him to pull that hat on again. 1969 is a time where no one really believes in heroes like Indiana Jones anymore. In many ways, the adventure we’ve concocted is a reckoning between an old-school hero and an ambivalent and ever more cynical modern world.”
The sought-after artifact that drives the narrative, the Archimedes Dial, was inspired by a real-world artifact, the Antikythera mechanism. A mechanical device thought to be used in ancient Greece to calculate and display information about astronomical phenomena, it’s been described as the oldest known example of an analog computer.
“The moment I knew the movie was about time, opportunities missed, opportunities lost, choices made,
irrevocable mistakes, then the question [became], ‘What would be the only thing that would allow me to fix time itself?’” explains Mangold. “The research that I found about the Antikythera, rumored to be an invention by Archimedes, has been speculated to be a kind of time compass.”
The writers did take the liberty of investing their version of the Antikythera mechanism with a little extra magic to make it the perfect MacGuffin for the story. “Archimedes’ Dial, big, bold concept,” Ford says. “I think it was a genius choice. Other items that we’ve used in the other films always had a religious aspect to them—Sankara Stones, the Holy Grail, and Ark of the Covenant. But this was fooling with the nature of science.” Resolving to retrieve the item, Indy leaves New York behind to recapture the Dial, but he’s not the only party pursuing Helena. Indy’s old nemesis, Jürgen Voller, is after her too, in the hopes of intercepting the Dial.
“The best villains in Indy movies are Nazis,” says John-Henry Butterworth. “If you write down a wish list of what you want to see in an Indy film, it’s Indy slugging it out with Nazis, and eventually prevailing. It was kind of like a crossword clue to try to work out how to fit that into the time frame that we wanted the main story to take place in.”
The son of renowned painters Robert Mangold and Sylvia Plimack Mangold, writer-director James Mangold was raised in New York’s Hudson Valley. He graduated in film and acting from The California Institute of the Arts, where he studied under Alexander Mackendrick (Sweet Smell of Success, The Ladykillers). He broke into the film business at the age of 21, the recipient of a prestigious writer-director deal with Disney Studios. After a few years in Hollywood, he decided to go to Columbia University’s film school, where he began writing a feature, Heavy (1995) while studying under Oscar-winning director Miloš Forman. That film went on to win Special Jury Recognition for Directing at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and was selected to represent the United States at Director’s Fortnight in Cannes. Following the critical success of Heavy, Mangold began production on Cop Land (1997), an urban Western which was set in modern-day New Jersey. Mangold followed his all-male police thriller with the period psychological drama Girl, Interrupted (1999), the fantasy/romantic comedy Kate & Leopold (2001), the mind-bending thriller Identity (2003), Walk the Line (2005), a remake of the classic western, 3:10 to Yuma (2007), based on the Elmore Leonard short story, Knight and Day (2010), The Wolverine (2011), Logan (2017), and Ford v Ferrari (2019). Mangold is currently working on A Complete Unknown, an adaptation of Dylan Goes Electric! by Elijah Wald. The film (co-written by Mangold and Jay Cocks) chronicles young Bob Dylan’s arrival in New York City in the early sixties and his relationships with Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, and the turbulent folk music scene, culminating with Dylan ‘going electric’ at the Newport Folk Festival of 1965. Timothée Chalamet will star.
Screenwriter John-Henry Butterworth was born in London in 1976, and went to school in St. Albans and university at Cambridge. His screen credits include Fair Game, Get on Up, Edge of Tomorrow, the French language cult movie Malgré la nuit, and Ford v Ferrari. For television, he wrote an adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s novel “Nine Perfect Strangers” together with David E. Kelley and Samantha Strauss for Hulu. He’s currently writing the climate change drama Endgame with Georgia Lee for AMC.
Screenwriter Jez Butterworth was born in London in 1969 and studied English at St. Johns College, Cambridge. His first play, Mojo (Royal Court Theatre, 1995), won seven major awards, including the Olivier Award for Best Comedy. Other plays include The Night Heron (2002), The Winterling, (2006), Parlour Song (2008), Jerusalem (2009), The River (2012), and The Ferryman (2017). Jez’s screenwriting credits include Fair Game(2010), “Get on Up” (2014), Edge Of Tomorrow (2014), Black Mass (2015), Spectre(2015), and Ford v Ferrari (2019). For TV, Jez has created and written the comedy series Mammals for Amazon Studios and the historical fantasy drama Britannia. In 2007, Jez won the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2019 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Screenwriter David Koepp has written or co-written the screenplays for more than 30 films, including Apartment Zero (1988), Bad Influence (1990), Death Becomes Her (1992), Carlito’s Way (1993), Jurassic Park (1993), The Paper (1994), Mission: Impossible (1996), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), Snake Eyes
(1998), Panic Room (2002), Spider-Man (2002), War of the Worlds (2005), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom
of the Crystal Skull (2008), Angels & Demons (2009), Inferno (2016) and Kimi (2022). Cold Storage, which Koepp adapted from his debut novel, is currently in production with StudioCanal. His second novel, Aurora,” was published by HarperCollins in 2022. His story Yard Work, narrated by Kevin Bacon, was released by Audible Originals in 2020.