Recasting Indiana Jones? I’ve Got a Bad Feeling about This
WARNING: This is going to get geeky, and the following may be my most self-indulgent writing since the Twin Peaks analysis.
This is a bad idea, in its current form. But it doesn’t have to be.
Our ever reliable sources are informing us that while Harrison Ford might still play Indiana Jones in the next film of the franchise, the window of making that happen is getting smaller and smaller.
There is a date and if Indiana Jones 5 is not moving forward by then, the studios are 100% prepared to recast a younger Dr. Jones and ready up a new trilogy.
Let’s be realistic, Harrison is not the box office draw he once was and he is only getting older.
Don’t think of it as a reboot but just recasting the same way the James Bond (Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig) movies have been doing for the better part of five decades.
And who just might be one of the actors that the studio is looking at ? The word is that they are looking at several but Bradley Cooper is at the top of the list.
Like I said, as is, this is a terrible idea. We’ve actually had four actors play Indiana Jones besides Harrison Ford – River Phoenix as Young Indy in the beginning of Last Crusade and then Corey Carrier, Sean Patrick Flannery, and George Hall in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. But when you say, “Indiana Jones,” everyone thinks of Harrison Ford. He owns the role. It’s his. Leave it to him.
There’s no need to rehash the criticisms of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull; needless to say, most of the fan base left deeply disappointed, and has likely concluded that it doesn’t want, or need, any more Indiana Jones movies. But we sure as heck would love to see more movies in the tone and style of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
So allow me to offer Disney two possibilities.
Option One: Tell a 1930s-1940s-1950s pulp adventure story featuring another adventurer, perhaps someone who’s heard of Indiana Jones or mentions him as a rival. (In Raiders, Indy himself mentions he has rivals going after the same treasures he does: “This is where Forrestal cashed in. . . . He was good. Very good.”) A lot of real-life archeologists are mentioned as “the real life Indiana Jones” or claimed to be the inspiration for Indiana Jones – Roy Chapman Andrews, Hiram Bingham, Percy Fawcett, Howard Carter, Frederick Mitchell-Hedges, among others. Alternatively, let Cooper play one of Professor Jones’s first students, determined to emulate Indy. Maybe even bring in Ford for a cameo; maybe this student is looking for the one treasure Indy never found. Make clear this is a story that’s taking place in the world of Indiana Jones, but that Indy is enjoying retirement with Marion.
Option Two: The other possibility — one I prefer — is to tell a story that takes place in the modern day. Cooper could be a descendant of Indy’s, or just some young archeologist who’s uncovered Indy’s personal papers (his own “grail diary?”). Maybe today’s archeologists dismiss Jones as a bit of a lunatic and reckless daredevil. (See Professor Jones Gets Rejected for Tenure.) But our protagonist — a bit of a stand-in for the audience — thinks Indy is the coolest guy that ever lived and is determined to follow in his footsteps.
Like in the other scenario, he finds a reference to some long-lost treasure that Indy sought but could never locate . . . and of course, a key missing clue has only now been found at some recent archeological discovery — the gold at the Temple Mount, the Egyptian city buried under the Mediterranean Sea, even the ship found underground at the site of the World Trade Center.
Like Indy, our Bradley Cooper character begins with a bit of a mercenary side to him, chasing fortune and glory — maybe even talking aloud to his unseen late mentor, “I hope you’re watching from up there, Indy, ‘cause I’m gonna do what you never could!” — but gradually learns to be a more well-rounded person, caring for others, and learning there’s more to life than just treasure and punching people.
You can still tell a pulp-style Indiana Jones story in today’s world; our globe still has enough far-off dangerous and exotic corners — the mountains of central Asia, the pirate-laden waters of Southeast Asia and the horn of Africa, the jungles of the Amazon, just about anywhere in the Middle East . . . Just remember to include femmes fatales and feisty companions, comical sidekicks, villains that you love to hate, constant fistfights, gunfights, chases, and at least once, a menace of a lot of dangerous animals in a confined space — perhaps the saltwater crocodiles of Ramree Island, Burma.
As you can tell, I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time thinking about this. My friend Flint Dille — a writer on the old Transformers and G.I. Joe cartoons, and all kinds of video games, including the Indiana Jones-esque Uncharted series — invited me to participate in a joint writing project called TikiWikiFiki, a series of interconnected pulp stories set in World War Two era (or immediately post-war) South Pacific. Who knows, maybe if enough copies of this book sell, I’ll get to tell those stories.
Most importantly — and perhaps the element that makes Bradley Cooper the right guy to carry the torch — any new films need to remember to include the two key moments of every Indiana Jones sequence:
[A DANGEROUS SITUATION DEVELOPS]
Our hero suddenly realizes he’s bitten off more than he can chew, eyes bulge, and we share with him a split-second of panic or “oh, crap”
This is what I look like when I’m on cable news and realize the show changed topics without telling me.
[THROUGH HIS QUICK WITS AND PHYSICAL SKILL, OUR HERO ESCAPES]
Our hero smiles.
This is what I look like when I’ve steered the topic back to the one-liner I wanted to use.
You’re welcome, Disney.