Patrick Goldstein, the Los Angeles Times columnist and blogger, heard that George Lucas might do another Indiana Jones film and just the notion of that triggered a major rant by the veteran journalist. Patrick has been writing for the Calendar section of The Times since 1979 and it’s painfully clear that he has lost a lot of the admiration he once had for the young wizard of the 1970s film scene:
Every time I read a new interview with Lucas, my heart sinks. Once a bold, experimental filmmaker overflowing with great ideas, he’s been transformed into your wheezy great uncle, boring you with the same dreary old yarns about his youthful exploits.
He goes on later in the post:
These days Lucas sounds like a museum curator, fussing with dusty memorabilia. It’s time he challenged himself. In the interview, he called personal filmmaking an “expensive hobby.” I disagree. It’s a craft and a rare, wonderful skill. Lucas has always been as much of an inventor as a filmmaker. If he has any inspiration left, he shouldn’t waste it on exploiting something old when he could put it to use dreaming up something new.
And that’s the friendly part of the blog post, which you can read in its entirety here.
It’s easy to understand Goldstein’s irritation but I also know there is still a vast audience that adores the universes that Lucas has created. They simply can’t get enough. For me, “Star Wars” was a huge moment in my childhood but, like other people my age, I have mixed feelings about the filmmaker ever since, well, those furry Ewoks showed up in “Return of the Jedi.”
I’m going to see “The Clone Wars” next week and I’ll be blogging about my take on the first animated installment in the theatrical “Star Wars” saga. I myself would rather Lucas pick up the story after the death of Darth Vader, but he’s made it pretty clear that he won’t be doing that. You can find my interview with the filmmaker on that topic right here.
And what about another Indy film?
Well, I think “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was fine as popcorn fare. Other than that terrible Tarzan scene with Shia LaBeouf swinging on vines, I wasn’t nearly as offended as a lot of other longtime fans. I saw it with my 10-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son and they loved it, which probably softened my view of the movie. I also loved that Steven Spielberg opened the movie with the Paramount logo being replaced by a mound of dirt with a furry critter in it. The message was clear: The filmmaker was making a molehill out of a mountain, telling the audience to tone down the “historic” aspects of the franchise revival.
That said, I think making another Indy film would be a mistake. I don’t think there’s any gas left in that particular tank. When it comes to Indy, Harrison Ford doesn’t seem to have a deep well of affection for the old role, either. Check out the pre-release interview I did with him below:
Harrison Ford returns as Indiana Jones
“It’s not really a sentimental thing,” Ford said. “I feel close to a lot of the people involved, so it was nice to be able to revive those relationships and work on this character. The character is special because it’s really brought so much pleasure to so many people. That’s what’s special about it . . . [while filming] we knew we were making what we know will be a popular success — or what we anticipate will be a popular success — and there’s no feeling that we’re making something that deserves anything less than our best effort.”
Maybe it’s just the adrenaline roles he’s played through the years, but, in person, Ford seems especially laconic and unimpressed by the dream factory aspects of Hollywood. The Chicago native lives on an 800-acre ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyo. (he calls California “the silly state,” although he has a residence in Santa Monica) with his girlfriend, actress Calista Flockhart, and their 7-year-old son, Liam.
That will probably change this summer. The franchise that has grossed $620 million domestically has been on hiatus since “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” in summer 1989, and little Liam will see his dad staring out from billboards, television screens, magazine ads, toy aisles and Burger King cups. The actor no longer finds any of that surreal or interesting. “I’m at peace with it myself,” he said as some prop planes buzzed overhead.
Indiana Jones was created by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg (Lucas has been a producer and writer throughout the franchise, Spielberg has directed), and everyone involved wanted to see the hero back but, for reasons of creative agreement and scheduling, it took a little longer than expected.
Ford explains: “It worked like this: George and Steven have a rough discussion about the story. George goes off and creates the basic story line. It goes back to Steven for comments and approval. And then when those two have satisfied each other, then it comes to me and I get to have my say about it. That entire process? That takes about . . . 18 years.”
It would seem reasonable to assume then that this is the final farewell to the character that the American Film Institute ranked as the second greatest screen hero (just behind Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird”). But Lucas has hinted that there might yet be one more movie there, and Ford himself is vague, suggesting that in another decade we might have “Indiana Jones and the Hunt for Haight-Ashbury.”
That talk may just be part of the team’s smoke screens, though; the secrecy surrounding “Crystal Skull” has been a bit staggering. Here’s what is known: It’s 19 years after “Last Crusade,” and the grizzled Indy has aged appropriately, he’s still a college professor, and his sense of fashion has not changed a whit. He will meet up again with Marion Ravenwood ( Karen Allen, back for the first time since the franchise launched with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1981) as well as a young sidekick in a 1950s greaser named Mutt Williams ( Shia LaBeouf).
This time the quest involves a death-defying scamp through Peru, power-pulsing Crystal Skulls that may or may not be of extraterrestrial origin and a Cold War nemesis.
“I was happy to acknowledge the passage of time because I’m not sure how you could do it without that. I think there’s some good fun to be had with his age and doing the things he does at the age he might be, would be, could be. For me, it actually wasn’t so hard. I was in better shape probably than I have been in the others.” Even if Ford didn’t get goose bumps as he walked in front of the camera, others did: “Everyone who saw Harrison on the set kind of turned into a little kid again,” Lucas said. “He really defines Indiana Jones.”
Ford knows how his character echoes in pop culture, and (because he sees the moviegoing public as “my customers”) he goes out of his way to sign autographs and say hello to fans. Sometimes it gets a bit much, though: He’s a volunteer pilot back in Wyoming, and he’s picked up some stranded hikers through the years only to see the gesture reported on in the news.
“I’m part of a county search and rescue with a lot of people, but suddenly it’s all about me,” Ford said. “I really got tired of picking people up and having them show up on ‘Good Morning America.’ The next time maybe I will just push them back out. ‘Hi, I’m here. Never mind.’ “
That little fantasy brings a big grin to Ford’s face for the first time during the interview and he laughs out loud. Then it’s time to go. Asked what he thinks about a whole new generation of kids playing with fake bullwhips in their backyard this summer, the customer-service actor shrugged. “They’ll get over it. I did.”