One of the fortunes (and glories) of the Indiana Jones cycle of movie adventures are their old school swagger and yesteryear sense of production.
The CGI monkeys, jungle vistas and aliens of The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull suggested there is no substitute for live visual effects and practical set pieces, but as Indiana Jones 5 readies for release, one of the great re-discoveries of the fifth crack of the whip has been the physical shooting, fan fever, and old school speculation in the internet age.
Just as pandemics and production delays suggested we had already seen Dr. Jones’s last cinematic crusade, soundstages and crews were suddenly allocated at London’s Pinewood Studios and director James Mangold, producer Frank Marshall, exec producer Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford could no longer keep the lid on the Ark of rumours: Indy is back shooting in the UK.
But what can we learn from the many set photos to hit the web from the shoot?
When Indiana Jones 5 takes place
Photos from Glasgow show scenes taking place during the New York ticket tape parade for the Apollo 11 astronauts that was held in August, 1969.
In pitching an Indy movie set in 1969, director Mangold and Lucasfilm are not only honouring the real time that has passed since 2008's Crystal Skull’s 1957 space-nik caper, they are taking at least one small step for movie-kind by bringing the Apollo 11 mission and the space race into the action — while possibly keeping a B-movie eye on the pop-culture beats of the time. 1969 is a cracking crossroads of history for Indy purposes.
Student protests, Nixon angst and campus sit-ins are shaping the political conversation, the Vietnam War is raging (only The Post has really seen Spielberg go there with that narrative), music festivals are the new holy grail quest, and the spy movie phenomenon is at its peak.
The cast of characters in Indiana Jones 5
Since the astute casting of Mads Mikkelsen (Another Round, Rogue One) hit headlines, the speculation about where to put an ‘X’ on the story map has been rife. One easy assumption is that Mikkelsen is a former WW2 Nazi scientist now in the space race grip of the Americans. Which is pretty much how some of the big lunar advancements were made during that time.
But maybe Mikkelsen is not wholly just helping with the Saturn V rocket and has more goose-stepping menace in mind. Mikkelsen was spotted in the street during the Newcastle wing of the shoot – which has seen a not-very-1969 recreation of a WW2 Nazi stronghold creating some hearsay around the idea of time travel and nervous Feds.
Could Mikkelsen be trying to get back to help the Nazis win the war? A stunt motorcyclist with a young Ford mask suggests we might be seeing a bit more of that young Indy spy background always alluded to in earlier films and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.
Fresh from a recent starring role in the next Mission: Impossible title, the North Yorkshire Moors railway has been doubling as a French railroad – presumably for action linked to the Nazi-occupied Bamburgh Castle and the explosions and adventure mounted there.
Joining a fedora-wearing Harrison Ford was the actor Toby Jones sporting rather bookish attire. Might Jones be this film’s Marcus Brody and an Indy ally of academia? One trope of the Indiana Jones saga is the casting of great British talent.
From Denholm Elliot, John Rhys-Davies and Paul Freeman via Sean Connery, Julian Glover, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone and John Hurt, the films have not only turned to British crews and studios.
They have weaved the best local talent into the caper. That Elstree tradition now continues with Indy V and the casting of Toby Jones and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag).
Waller-Bridge has already sort of co-starred with Ford many times before. In 2018’s Solo – A Star Wars Story, she plays spiky droid L3-37 who became part of the Millennium Falcon’s systems. So, she already has history with Ford. Sort of.
Her beatnik, flared, 1969 costuming certainly ruled social media when she was seen on the streets of Glasgow.
Apollo 11 and its place in Indiana Jones 5
Recreating the historic ticker tape parade that welcomed the Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin to New York on the day of 13 August, 1969, Glasgow saw the Indy V production dress and fit an immense stretch of avenues, people, and streets.
For a 2021 movie — and a Disney / Lucasfilm one at that — the production is not only very physical, it has also been very public.
With Harrison Ford recuperating with a shoulder injury sustained on a Pinewood Studios train set, Indy’s double has been seeing careering about on horseback alongside — and through — both the moon landing celebrations and Boyd Holbrook’s square jawed government looking gent in a motorcycle pursuit.
With its grid road system of long roads banking into distant hills resembling American — and particularly Manhattan — streets, blocks and boulevards rather than less linear European streets, Glasgow makes a perfect location sense for Indiana Jones 5.
Read more: Harrison Ford pays tribute to Sean Connery
And if anyone can pull of the summer glow and retro-flecked of 1969 it is director James Mangold and his cinematographer Phedon Papamichael whose Le Mans '66 (2019) is not only a nostalgic look at motor racing, but also one of the most dynamically filmed and coyly designed dramas in years.
Curiously, Scotland and haunted castles formed part of the initial drafts and planning for what became 1989’s The Last Crusade.
A very British production
UK cities are no stranger to Steven Spielberg productions and film crews. Empire of the Sun (1987) used the colonial era architecture of Sunningdale and Knutsford, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade used Stowe and Tilbury Docks, and the industrial environs of Birmingham made a futuristic, urban substitute for Ready Player One’s Columbus, Ohio.
Further Indy V location work is happening in more rural stretches of Scotland, as well as ancient Sicily and back to Pinewood.
However, one of the tricks of this film and its very plain sight production is that we do not yet actually know the plot. What is the McGuffin – the Ark, the Sankara Stones, Holy Grail or Crystal Skull of this film? Could it be as simple as 1969’s greatest and oldest artefact that man finally got hold of was simply the Moon itself?
The production is rightly keeping its cards close to its whip belt. Antonio Banderas has now joined the cast. And having recently chatted to Karen Allen about the 40th anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark – and didn’t ask the Indy V question – one wonders whether that wedding ring Indy has been spotted wearing suggests Marion Ravenwood is in the story wings of this film too.
And Steven Spielberg may not be directing this chapter. He has started shooting his part autobiographical The Fabelmans. But maybe 1969 Indiana could wander past a bearded pair of Californian film students in plaid shirts discussing their hopes for an action series of films starring an archaeologist?!
Speculation and glory, kid. Speculation and glory.
Indiana Jones 5 is coming to cinemas on 30 June, 2023.
Watch Harrison Ford injured on Indiana Jones 5