CANNES, FRANCE: In a hotel room inside the palatial Carlton along la Croisette, legendary Academy Award-winning actor Harrison Ford is, uncharacteristically, overwhelmed with emotion.
When asked how he felt about reprising his role as the fedora-slinging adventurer Indiana Jones for a fifth time—and at 80 years old—his piercing blue eyes drift off toward the light coming in from the balcony.
“I wanted to complete the human story of a life,” says Ford, deep in thought. “We spent years with this guy. I wanted to see him face the challenge of age.”
Enter Indiana Jones and The Dial Of Destiny, a 154-minute, edge-of-your-seat action epic which, after 42 years, completes the five-part story about one of cinema’s greatest heroes. The new film is set in 1969 New York, and the whip-smart professor of archaeology is about to retire to a modest, albeit lonely and sad life. That is until his rogue-ish god-daughter Helena (played by Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge) shows up wanting to locate an artefact that her father had entrusted with Indy.
At first it feels a little odd to listen to John Williams’ acclaimed Indiana Jones adventure score only to see Waller-Bridge on the screen—and without the hot priest. At times in the film, the actress’ comic delivery rattles you—Fleabag, is that you? On a plane with Indiana Jones? The mind boggles. But give it a second and you really will stop waiting for the English actress to break the fourth wall as she so regularly did in the British series that earned her an Emmy. It’s also really great to see a female lead on the screen who isn’t the lead’s love interest.
Ford, who as we speak is in a grey suit and a blue and with white polka-dot handkerchief in his pocket, has nothing but wonderful things to say about Waller-Bridge. The first 20 minutes of the film are dedicated to Indy’s rugged, rough-around-the-edges younger days, a move Ford and director James Mangold say is not to incite nostalgia, but to show the simplicities of a life back in the day.
“But the world is not black and white anymore, it’s shades of grey,” Ford tells ICON. “Maybe not 50 [laughs] but a least a half a dozen!”
“It’s complicated and there’s kids growing up in a world without a moral compass, to a degree,” he continues. “This character that Phoebe plays is the articulation of that reality. Her process is so critical to the strength of the film.
“The relationship between Phoebe’s character and my character is one of the deepest relationships the series has created and featured. She’s so accomplished and graceful as a performer.”
Mansgold, who cast Waller-Bridge, agrees with Ford.
“I think that [Phoebe’s] unlimited,” says the director. “You know there’s a pretty damn clever Swiss watch operating behind those eyes, and you better be careful. She’s sharp and fast. So, who better to have Harrison jockeying with than someone with all that skill? One of the hopes you have for every movie is that there’s a kind of chemistry, a kind of music between your actors, and Harrison and Phoebe had a great dynamism together.”
Accompanied by his goddaughter, Indy soon finds himself squaring off against Jürgen Voller (played by Mads Mikkelsen), a former Nazi who works for NASA. It’s this plotline that has Ford reflecting on the war in Ukraine.
“I’ve seen a lot of things in my life that I can’t explain,” muses Ford. “I can’t explain evil. I can’t explain why it’s tolerated. I can’t explain we’re fucking sitting here and that war is going on right over there. And we allow it. And we’re acting like it’s not fucking there.”
Waller-Bridge, 37, is a standout in Cannes this year, not just on screen but for her sartorial choices. There was the plunging crisp white pant suit by Dolce & Gabbana at the press call, and that Schiaparelli black gown at the film’s May 18 premiere.
“It’s very nerve-wracking coming into something that is so adored,” says Waller-Bridge, her British accent thick. “It’s only really now [in this room] that I remember again what a huge franchise this is. That’s all coming back up for me now!”
The actions sequences are some of the best in the franchise. There’s a scene where Ford is racing a horse through the New York Subway tunnels (which was ironically shot in Glasgow). Another where Waller-Bridge is involved in a frenzied tuk tuk chase through the streets of Tangier. The most climactic, it includes Ford, Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen (Another Round) and Boyd Holbrook (Logan).
“I loved the fighting more that I can possibly describe,” jokes Waller-Bridge. “I loved the stunts and the action element. I was surprised at how freeing it can be as an actor to just throw yourself at something, get out of your head and just jump out of a tuk tuk. It could be a very useful exercise for an actor.”
Of getting older, Ford says he was ambitious for a story that featured a reality in context of the character.”
“And that reality is most specifically the presence of age,” he says. “I wanted it to be about that, because that’s what I’m about right now. It moves me, and it generates my stimulus and imagination.”
“I don’t look back and say I wish I was that guy again, because I don’t,” he adds. “I’m real happy with age, I love being older. It was great to be young…I could be dead! But I’m still working. Go figure.”
Indiana Jones and The Dial Of Destiny is in Australian cinemas on June 29.