CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 18: Bob Iger attends the "Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny" red carpet during the 76th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 18, 2023 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

Bob Iger has seen “Dial of Destiny” five times and says further extensions of the Indy franchise are possible

At the Cannes world premiere for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Fate,” Disney CEO Bob Iger watched the film for the fifth time. Prior to the screening at the Lumière theatre, 80-year-old Harrison Ford was presented with an honorary Palme d’Or by the festival and received the loudest applause of the evening. However, in his introduction to the tribute before the film, Cannes artistic director Fremaux singled out Iger for the applause of him. “The CEO, or whatever he is,” said Fremaux, stopping. “The Legendary Bob Iger!”

Fremaux’s awkward words may reflect Iger’s uncharacteristic path thus far. A year ago, when the big US studio boss in Cannes was WarnerMedia Discovery’s new head, David Zaslav, in attendance for “Elvis,” Iger was a retired Disney executive whose next move wasn’t clear.

In November, he made a surprise return to the role with the abrupt exit of successor Bob Chapek, whose disinterest in talent relations has riled Hollywood all the wrong way. Conversely, Iger has spent years building the opposite reputation, and his presence at Cannes seemed to reflect just as much. At the “Indiana Jones” afterparty Thursday night, he told IndieWire that the studio may be considering further extensions of the “Indiana Jones” franchise, even if the fifth edition will allow Ford’s portrayal to gracefully come out.

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“The last movie was here 15 years ago,” he said, referring to Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which premiered at Cannes in 2008. “So we’ll see.”

Disney’s Cannes presence goes beyond “Indiana Jones,” which opens in theaters on June 28. The festival has also selected Pixar’s ‘Elemental’ as its closing night, marking the first time a Pixar film has premiered at Cannes since ‘Inside Out’ in 2015. Specialized Searchlight division is also in the field with several executives searching of acquisitions in training and in the market.

Disney will see 7,000 layoffs in 2023, and when we asked Iger about Searchlight’s future, he declined to comment. (Notably, he said, “You’re asking a lot of questions,” and then walked off.)

During Disney’s second-quarter earnings call, Iger said Hulu will receive a tile on Disney+, suggesting that Searchlight’s adult dramas will have a solid home in the studio’s streaming future.

As for “Indiana Jones,” the film was a hot ticket, with many journalists fighting for spots until the last minute and industry executives sneaking away from other festival responsibilities for a blockbuster indulgence. Among the figures spotted at the party were TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey, Academy president Janet Yang, Netflix film executive Adam Del Deo and director Steve McQueen.

Beyond Cannes, the film’s commercial prospects are unclear. It’s unlikely to enjoy the same historic success that saw last year’s Cannes premiere “Top Gun: Maverick” grossing over $1 billion, but the launch follows a similar pattern. In 2022, Tom Cruise was honored with a tribute ahead of his high-profile premiere; this time it was Ford’s turn, and the star looked visibly moved after her work was examined in an extended montage of clips before the film.

Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Fate
“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”Disney

In a special Cannes twist, the highlight reel opened with the actor’s unique connection to French cinema, with Ford appearing in Agnes Varda’s 1995 documentary “The World of Jacques Demy,” recalling how he went into a Los Angeles sex shop with Demy in hopes of landing a role in the director’s “Model Shop”. It was the mid-1960s, and Ford instead became one of America’s most iconic leading men, spanning the 1970s in standouts as “American Graffiti” before solidifying his stature as Han Solo in 1977’s “Star Wars.” When he picked up a fedora for Spielberg with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1981, he was one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood.

Spielberg and George Lucas have maintained tight control of the franchise for decades, but for this would-be definitive entry the director and producer have handed the reins to James Mangold. A blockbuster director in his own right thanks to “Wolverine,” Mangold’s even-handed approach may not appeal to critics, but he works overtime to deliver a nostalgic tribute to the character. It’s likely to resonate with fans in much the same way that Disney resurrected the ‘Star Wars’ fandom with 2015’s ‘The Force Awakens’. The film marks Waller-Bridge’s first major role since his hit show ‘Fleabag’ ended its two-season run in 2019, but it’s mostly all about repaying ‘Indiana Jones’ fans who found the whole “nuclear the refrigerator” swing of the last entry too daunting.

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 18: Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Harrison Ford depart
Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Harrison Ford on the red carpet of ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Fate’ in Cannes May 18. Getty Images

That sequel made $790.7 million on a $185 million budget; “Dial of Destiny” cost 300 million dollars, which means that the pressure is greater this time. Still, Mangold — who first came to Cannes for the Directors Fortnight premiere of his 1995 debut “Heavy” — told IndieWire he’s pleased with the results.

“This was the least stressful film I’ve made,” he said, adding that it prompted the studio to go the Cannes route. “We wanted this.”

He was still furious over reshoot rumors that surfaced last December. “That’s the thing about all this Twitterverse bullshit,” he said. “This movie was shot six months ago.” (However, he added, he was coloring it up until earlier this week.) When asked about his current Twitter habits, Mangold said, “I’m trying to do it less.”

While the director has a screenplay credit on the film, he said he doesn’t foresee any problems promoting it at the festival or beyond due to the WGA strike. “I’m done with the writing aspect,” he said.

Whatever happens next, Mangold and Ford certainly seemed pleased with their first taste of audience response. At the end of the screening, Mangold cried when Fremaux handed him the microphone.

“This movie was made by friends,” he said, joined by Iger, Ford and other cast members. “It’s probably hard for you to believe that a movie this big could be made by friends, but it was. It was done out of love, it was done out of devotion to what came before, and it was done with tremendous trust from both people on both sides of me that they let us play and make us do something weird and I hope you thought it was wonderful that you might enjoy it and let us carry on the legacy of these great movies that came before us. He stopped and looked at Ford. “Not in your case, certainly,” Mangold said.

Ford has been feted many times at festivals over the years (he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Locarno Film Festival in 2011), but the scale of the tribute at Cannes seemed to elicit genuine emotion from the actor when he took to the stage.

“They say when you’re about to die, you see your life flash before your eyes, and I just saw a lot of my life flash before my eyes,” she said, referring to the montage. She told the audience. After spotting his wife Calista Flockhart in the audience and telling her he loved her, he returned to her room. “I love you too,” he said. “Thank you for giving my life purpose.”