HEROES AND VILLAINS …
Familiar Faces and Talented Newcomers Sign Up for the Adventure of a Lifetime
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" would be nothing without its iconic title character. But while Indy may fancy himself a solitary scholar and a lone wolf, his travels always seem to couple him with an eclectic assortment of friends, enemies and every questionable alliance in between.
"There is a certain amount of comfortable melodrama that always takes place in the storytelling," says executive producer Kathleen Kennedy. "There's the villain - and this one definitely has a great villain. There's the banter with Indy and whoever his counterpart is - and we have a great sidekick. Indy always has a love interest, he's got buddies along the way, people who betray him, and people who are not what they appear to be, and that's what makes it fun."
For the latest Indiana Jones adventure, the filmmakers assembled an impressive international cast - led, of course, by the inimitable Harrison Ford.
Director Steven Spielberg calls Ford "the secret weapon. From the very beginning, Harrison was and is the center of Indiana Jones."
In Dr. Jones, Ford has created a screen hero whose enduring appeal is a unique combination of no-nonsense toughness and snake-fearing humility.
"Harrison's a man's man," says co-star Shia LaBeouf, who portrays Indy's unwitting sidekick as they go in search of the legendary Crystal Skull. "So when you put him into these situations where he's vulnerable, it's hysterical. Any vulnerabilities Indy has - and there are a lot of them - are funny. Indiana Jones is very rough around the edges, but he's actually a really good person, and that's also just the way Harrison is. He's an action man, and he makes an art form out of it. No one else is Indiana Jones."
Returning to the unforgettable role of the intrepid archaeologist, Ford knew that there would be tremendous stunt demands put on him, so he went into training to ensure he'd be up to the task and that a stunt double could be used as rarely as possible. "He wants to be Indiana Jones and doesn't want anyone else doing those stunts," says producer Marshall. "In this movie, there's a lot of running around, chasing, jumping, whipping, rolling around in the jungle, and Harrison did it all. It's a real testament to his passion for the character, and it comes through on the screen. You see that it's him, and you know that it's real."
Ford has been one of the silver screen's most iconic actors for more than three decades, and his biggest break (after a walk-on role as a bellhop in 1966's "Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round") came in George Lucas's "American Graffiti" in 1973. Lucas then cast Ford as Han Solo in "Star Wars," even though the actor originally only intended to help read lines with auditioning actors.
Likewise, Ford wasn't the original choice for Indiana Jones - but today, it would be nearly impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. That's doubly true, Lucas says, now that Indy has aged as a character. "In this movie, Harrison gets to portray a huge evolution of the character, as he moves from the 1930s to the 1950s," he says. "Pushing the plot forward has been a bit of an adventure in more ways than one, because we're breaking the mold while keeping the films consistent. The reason it works this time is the same reason it has always worked: Harrison Ford."
The actor's return to the role brought feelings of excitement and nostalgia to everyone on the set - especially to Spielberg. "To see Harrison walk on the set, pick up the whip, snap it and wrap it around one of the bad guys was pretty incredible," he says. "It was amazing to see how fast Harrison was with it - and then be on the set to see Indy's rucksack and his other props ... well, it wasn't just nostalgia. That was when I realized 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."
For his part, LaBeouf thinks that once they see Indiana Jones back in action, audiences of all ages in theaters will share the excitement the actor experienced on set. "Maybe people my age never saw them in the theater, but Indiana Jones is huge for us," he says. "It's huge for all generations."
LaBeouf's character, Mutt, is integral to Indy's newest escapade, and bringing the character to the screen proved to be an adventure in itself for the actor. The rising star of "TRANSFORMERS," "Disturbia" and this fall's "Eagle Eye," found himself thrust into the action from the moment he learned he got the part.
"Steven wrote a little note on my script that said, 'OK, now it's time to transform yourself into Mutt! Signed, Steven,' and then he gave me three movies to watch," LaBeouf says of his preparation for the role. The movies: "The Blackboard Jungle," "Rebel Without a Cause" and "The Wild One." The latter still makes LaBeouf chuckle. "As though I was supposed to go home and watch 'The Wild One' and go, 'Oh, yeah, I see how Marlon Brando did it!'"
Nonetheless, he soon found himself learning about his unique character. "Mutt's a kid who's never really had a normal upbringing. He quit school and became obsessed with motorcycles and machinery," he says. "There's so much about Mutt that he never really got to talk about, so now he prefers not to. He's like a man-boy, a person who on the outside is presenting himself to be something he's really not."
Mutt's isolated, solitary '50s rebel proves to be an interesting counterpoint to Dr. Jones himself, LaBeouf says. "In some ways, this quest is really about forging and re-creating a family. First with Indiana, then with the others they meet, their unit becomes stronger as all this insanity happens - you know, each punch is bringing them closer together!"
Preparing the character was only part of LaBeouf's Indiana Jones adventure. As soon as he signed on, he says he knew there would be more - much more. "You just know that you're going to get it coming onto an Indiana Jones movie - you know you're going to get it! That was one of my first thoughts: Something horrible is going to happen to me." Through it all - snakes, swords, knives and motorcycles - LaBeouf found his most exciting moment came when he first laid eyes on Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones.
"You get breathless," he says. "Your breath literally leaves you. For me, though, part of that reaction had to do with the way I saw him in full costume for the first time. We were on an Air Force base, and we were doing vehicle training. Harrison flew in on a helicopter. He got out of the helicopter, took five or six steps, then reached back for something. It was his whip! It's weird, because in that moment, he wasn't Harrison Ford - he was Indiana Jones. I was watching him pulling out that whip, untangling it, putting grease on it, and then he held it and I thought, 'Oh, my God. This is real.'"
But Indiana Jones isn't the only returning screen favorite in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." To Indy's surprise, he also reunites with the greatest love of his life, a woman he's never completely been able to forget: Marion Ravenwood, again played by Karen Allen. For the story, bringing back Marion made complete sense, says screenwriter David Koepp. "The thing about Marion and Indy is that they so clearly belong together."
Executive producer Kathleen Kennedy adds, "The minute Karen smiles, she's right back to when we were shooting the first movie. There's very little that's changed about her spirit."
Allen does smile when she reflects on Marion's fiery spirit, which illuminated "Raiders of the Lost Ark." "She's a very strong character," Allen says. "I think she's somebody who fell very hard for Indy when she was a teenager, and in that wonderful, old-fashioned, romantic way, Indiana Jones is the love of her life.
"But," Allen observes, "he wasn't the kind of person who could be around, and she understood that from the beginning. She was a modern girl. A lot of people said she was 'spunky.' It's not just spunk - she's resourceful. She knows how to take care of herself and take care of other people. She didn't want to stop Indy from being who he is."
Allen's return to the screen is something her fellow actors were eager to see. "Everyone just cheered at the end of her first take," says co-star Cate Blanchett. "She's just this extraordinarily liberated presence onscreen. I remember seeing her for the first time and thinking there was no other heroine I'd ever seen as free and feisty as that. Karen is just so buoyant. You fall in love with her both as a person and a screen presence."
For Lucas, there's a good reason audiences have found Marion to be the most memorable, and perhaps formidable, of Indy's on-screen loves. "Marion has got a great sense of humor, and that's really Karen," he says. "She's fun to be with, she's strong, she's up to Indy and you believe that only she could put him in his place. They're a real team together."
Marion isn't the only strong female character he encounters this time around - indeed, the story's ruthless villain is Soviet agent Irina Spalko. Oscar and BAFTA Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett plays Spalko, leader of the Soviet Army's quest for the Crystal Skull. It's the first time she's played what she terms an "out-and-out baddie," and she says it turned out to be gleeful fun.
"Spalko has an almost impenetrable steel-like quality to her - 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," Blanchett says. "There's a remarkable precision about her. She's penetrating and, therefore, potentially lethal."
While on set, Blanchett says, "You've got to be ready for anything, because Steven often changes things in the moment." Blanchett learned to fence for an intense sword fighting scene that took place in the jungle - on top of moving vehicles. And if that wasn't enough, the director decided to throw one more thing in the mix. "We were doing a chase sequence through the jungle in Hawaii and all of a sudden, he wanted to introduce a karate-chop sequence," Blanchett recalls, "so we had to get that together very quickly. It's a great way to work, actually, because it means that everything you do is really fueled and focused by adrenaline."
Executive producer George Lucas thinks audiences will have a fantastic feeling when watching Blanchett. "Movie stars don't get a chance to play villains very often, so it's a fun, juicy, exciting thing," he says. "Spalko is somebody who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, and that's what makes a good villain. As the audience, you have to believe it, you have to be afraid of it, and the way Cate plays this, you're definitely afraid of her."
As an Indiana Jones newcomer, Blanchett says she was amazed by the intense curiosity that surrounded the project. "I don't think I realized before we began just how many people were desperate for another installment. It's really a fantastic feeling."
As seriously as Blanchett took the task of playing a formidable villain, she says part of her was always giddy about being in an Indiana Jones movie. "Everyone at my primary school wanted to kiss Harrison Ford, but I actually wanted to be Harrison Ford. I wanted to be Indiana Jones! When Harrison and Karen Allen were on screen together it was utterly electric, utterly transporting. The 'Raiders' theme still gives me goose bumps."
... FRIENDS AND SIDEKICKS
A Talented Cast Brings to Life Old Acquaintances and New Companions
Behind every great adventurer are equally great friends, and in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," they are portrayed by some of the most renowned actors in the world, who populate the story with indelible characters.
"The beauty of having Steven direct an action/adventure movie like Indiana Jones is that he's capable of attracting a very high caliber of talent," explains executive producer Kathleen Kennedy. "That's never been truer than in 'Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.'"
The movie's distinguished cast includes Oscar-nominated actor John Hurt, who portrays an old colleague of Indy's who is reported missing as "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" begins. Hurt's character has spent much of his life pursuing the Crystal Skull of Akator, and the endless search has nearly driven him mad.
Director Steven Spielberg says he hoped from the start that Hurt would accept the role, which was inspired by the character Ben Gunn in the Robert Louis Stevenson classic Treasure Island. "I sent the script to John and said, 'Please, John, think of Ben Gunn when you read the script.' And he did. And he plays the part brilliantly."
Hurt elaborates: "He's the man who was left on the island for 20 years before they came back for him. But, as it turns out, my character isn't a man who was simply left on his own - he is a man who has become possessed, which comes out as a kind of madness. Of course, the Russians have also now become interested in the skull for completely different reasons, and that's where the story picks up."
Veteran actor Ray Winstone, who gained the attention of international audiences in the gritty gangster film "Sexy Beast," is also new to the Indiana Jones cast. Indy regards "Mac" George Michale as a friend, but screenwriter Koepp says Winstone's character isn't quite as simple as that. "The fun part about Mac is that you never quite know whether to believe him. He bends the truth to suit his purposes. But it's utterly charming, and he's really good at it, so just like Indy, we like him and, against our better instincts, we trust him."
Winstone was Spielberg's first and only choice to play Mac. "I knew Ray Winstone from seeing him in "Sexy Beast." When I saw that film, I said, 'I want to work with that actor!' I think he is one of the most brilliant actors around."
Winstone himself says he sympathizes with Mac, who finds himself walking a jagged line between the competing powers of the Americans and the Soviets. "There was a lot of confusion after World War II, with the rise of the Iron Curtain and the start of the Cold War. Figuring out who you were working for and who you were working against must have been crazy."
A favorite character from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" was Marcus Brody, the museum curator and longtime friend of Indy and his father. While Denholm Elliott, who portrayed Brody, died in 1992, the character receives a fitting tribute in "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"- and Indy has a new, trusted adviser at Marshall College.
Dean Charles Stanforth, played by Oscar winner Jim Broadbent, is also "a close friend and colleague of Indiana's, and they have known each other for many years at the university," Broadbent says. "Dean Stanforth is Indy's immediate supervisor, but they have a good, humorous and close-sharing relationship. Harrison is a lovely actor to work with, so that makes it easy."
Spielberg says Broadbent "brings a beautiful camaraderie in replacing the loss of Denholm Elliott. Jim brings the same kind of humanity that Denholm lent to the character of Marcus. The deep, deep friendship Dean Stanforth has with Indiana Jones is very important, and plays a major role in the story."
To accompany evil Agent Spalko, this adventure introduces a new character, Col. Dovchenko, the leader of Spalko's traveling henchmen. Igor Jijikine, who had been a high-wire trapeze artist for Cirque du Soleil, plays Dovchenko. His comrades-in-arms include Dmitri Diatchenko and, from the hit television series "Lost," Andrew Divoff.
"Pat Roach, who was our iconic muscleman villain, passed away, and we were very sad not to have him in this picture," explains Spielberg. "I was looking for someone to fit the kind of role he used to play. Debbie Zane, our casting director brought Igor in, and I thought he'd be a terrific villain."
Good guys and bad guys, sidekicks and rivals - they're familiar territory, and Spielberg says he wouldn't have it any other way. "I wasn't trying to make this movie bigger or better," he says. "I wanted this to be a blood relative to the other three 'Raiders' pictures - which is what I love to call them. The world knows them as 'Indiana Jones films.' I call them 'Raiders pictures.'"
READ MORE: FINALLY, CAMERAS ROLL ON THE FIRST INDIANA JONES ADVENTURE FOR A NEW GENERATION/ INTRICATELY DESIGNED PROPS AND COSTUMES BRING INDIANA JONES TO LIFE
READ MORE ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS: STEVEN SPIELBERG (Director), DAVID KOEPP (Screenplay by), GEORGE LUCAS's (Story by/Based on Characters by/Executive Producer) AND JEFF NATHANSON (Story by)