‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ Star Karen Allen on the Bittersweet Conclusion of Indy and Marion’s Love Story

‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ Star Karen Allen on the Bittersweet Conclusion of Indy and Marion’s Love Story

Logo text

(This story contains spoilers for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.)

For Karen Allen, the conclusion of Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood’s love story is bittersweet. 

In James Mangold’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Indy (Harrison Ford) and Marion begin their final chapter on their own, as Marion had recently filed a separation agreement. It’s eventually learned that their son, Mutt (played by Shia LaBeouf in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), died in Vietnam, and the profound grief that resulted ultimately drove Indy and Marion apart. In the end, after Indy goes on another globetrotting (and time-hopping) adventure, the estranged husband and wife reunite, allowing Indy to take a page out of a beloved scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark and console his soulmate in a way he hadn’t done previously.

Related Stories

While Allen only ends up appearing in one powerful scene, that wasn’t always the case.

“When Steven (Spielberg) was still gonna direct the film, I didn’t have the opportunity to read any of those scripts, although I know that Marion was much more involved in the story at that juncture,” Allen tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So I knew James (Mangold) had hired new writers and that there was going to be a whole new approach with a new director and new writers, but I was really going into the unknown.”

As much as Allen loves the poignant end to Indy and Marion’s romance, she can’t help but admit that she was a little frustrated as well.

“The next thing I knew, I was reading a script that told (Dial of Destiny’s) story, and of course, I was disappointed. I had thought that I would be majorly a part of the film, and that was just not the direction they decided to go,” Allen says. “I think they had some problems to solve with the story in terms of Shia LaBeouf not coming back, and they chose to create this story that Mutt had been killed in the war and that it put a wedge between Marion and Indy. I mean, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I read it. But I was really happy that they came back together in the end.”

Below, during a recent spoiler conversation with THR, Allen also discusses reuniting with Ford for their characters’ final moment together, before looking back on what her life was like, post-Raiders.

So when you walked off the set of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, did you assume that was your goodbye to this character? 

No, not at all. In fact, quite the opposite. They married us at the end of the film, and I think there was already talk about wanting to do another film. So, no, I assumed that I would be a part of the next film. (19) years passed between the third and fourth, so you never know how long these things are gonna take. The idea when we shot the fourth one was that we might do a fifth one within a couple of years, and then a couple of years turned into (15).

Well, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has been in development since 2016, so when did you get a real indication that you’d return?

Well, there were brief conversations that would go on when they were working on the fifth, and I would sort of touch base. I direct a lot in the theater and I have been directing film projects as well, so I was often trying to just stay in touch with them. I didn’t want to be so committed with other things that when they came to me to do it, I suddenly had to disengage myself from stuff that I had committed myself to. I never am happy doing that sort of thing, so I was just keeping in touch to see what the plans were and how the script was coming along. 

My previous experience leading up to Crystal Skull also had a lot of, “They have a script, they don’t have a script. They have a script, they don’t have a script.” So it didn’t surprise me on some level that (Dial of Destiny) was taking a lot longer. It’s a group of such extraordinary people, and so Steven has to be happy with it. Harrison has to be happy with it. George Lucas has to be happy with it. And so it’s a process.

Was it heartbreaking to read what happened to Indy and Marion’s family in the intervening years?

Well, it was. When Steven was still gonna direct the film, I didn’t have the opportunity to read any of those scripts, although I know that Marion was much more involved in the story at that juncture. Steven and I had spoken after he decided he was gonna step down as director, and he said to me, “You’re gonna love working with James Mangold.” And I said, “Oh, great.” So I knew James had hired new writers and that there was going to be a whole new approach with a new director and new writers, but I was really going into the unknown. 

And the next thing I knew, I was reading a script that told (Dial of Destiny’s) story, and of course, I was disappointed. I had thought that I would be majorly a part of the film, and that was just not the direction they decided to go. I think they had some problems to solve with the story in terms of Shia LaBeouf not coming back, and they chose to create this story that Mutt had been killed in the war and that it put a wedge between Marion and Indy. I mean, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I read it. (Laughs.) But I was really happy that they came back together in the end.

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, (aka INDIANA JONES 4), Shia LaBeouf, Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, 2008.

Shia LaBeouf, Harrison Ford, Karen Allen in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 2008.

Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

Was it strange to be on an Indiana Jones set without Steven Spielberg and George Lucas huddled around a monitor?

Yes, and I really missed them. I was in London for a couple of weeks, because they brought me out early for costumes, and we decided to have a wig made with gray hair for Marion. So there were things for us to do to get me ready, but I was hoping that they might be there. I was hoping that I was gonna see Steven, George, Kathleen Kennedy and a lot of the people who I had been so involved with for my two previous films, and none of them were there. But James is such a warm and open person. He made me feel so welcome, and I went to the set maybe five or six times before I started to shoot. So I had a chance to watch him at work, and I knew I would work really well with him because he’s my kind of director. He’s very straightforward and very full of energy, and I just knew I would have a good experience on the two days that we shot.

So when you reunited with Harrison, did the two of you reminisce at all? Did you say things like, “Hey, remember that time in Tunisia?” Do you have that dynamic?

(Laughs.) Well, we do have that kind of dynamic, but he was in the midst of shooting the film when I first came to set. They were down to maybe their last week in London before they were gonna leave for Sicily, I think. And he had only been back a few weeks since he’d recovered from his shoulder surgery, so we didn’t really have a lot of time to be together. I was on the set a few times, but he was in the middle of his shooting days. He had a lot of lines and needed to really focus on what he was doing, so I was mostly just a fly on the wall.

And when we actually had a moment to work together, reminiscing is probably not a part of what we do together. We just had a nice conversation to feel our way back into the characters and the circumstances of the characters. He told me a bit about what they had been shooting and a bit about some of the references to Marion that existed in the film. So we just kind of caught up with where the characters are at this moment.

Did you enjoy the poetic reversal of the Raiders of the Lost Ark scene where Marion kisses Indy’s wounds? 

I did, and yes, it’s reversed. It’s Indy now kissing Marion, and even though he does have a bullet in his shoulder, the pain that they’re talking about is really the grief that they’ve been through together. And sadly to say, I have a number of friends who have lost children, so I know how it can be. Some people can grieve together, but it also drives some people apart, so it’s not an unfamiliar story. I was just glad that they wanted to give these two characters a chance to come back together again.

For Marion to visit Indy’s apartment in the end, what do you think Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) said to her in order to get her to show up?

Probably all that Marion needed to know is that he was still very much mourning the loss of the relationship. There’s that moment in the film where Indy tells Helena about Mutt being killed, and so she probably just said, “Please come see him. He needs you. He’s not the same man.” We don’t know entirely what’s driven them apart. It appears that his way of dealing with the grief was to drink too much and go into a very internal place, but we don’t really know exactly how Marion grieved the loss. Whatever it was, it wasn’t something that drew them closer together, and it seemed that they needed time apart. In the beginning, we see the separation agreement papers just long enough to know that it’s moving in that direction, but we don’t see them long enough to fill in any details.

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, Karen Allen, 1981

Karen Allen in Raiders of the Lost Ark

Courtesy Everett Collection

I remember being disappointed that we didn’t see you in the second and third films, and perhaps you were as well. But if someone used Archimedes’ Dial to travel back to 1989 and tell you that you’d be in Indiana Jones’ final scene 34 years later, would any part of you have believed it having not been in the second and third films? 

Gosh, I have no idea how to answer that question, really. When I signed up to do Raiders of the Lost Ark, they said to me, “We’re making three of these films. Whoever plays Indiana Jones will be in all three, and the Marion Ravenwood character will only be in the first one because we’re gonna go backwards in time.” So, when I read the script, I understood that he hasn’t seen my character since she was 16 or 17 years old, and so the chances were that if they went that far back in time, Marion would be played by someone else. So I never expected to be in the second or third because that always seemed to be their plan. And so it’s interesting that people have always been very indignant on my behalf that I wasn’t in the second and third films, but that had never been the original plan. 

As far as I know, the second film takes place before the first film, as does the third, but I don’t know that I’ve ever really researched it in detail. So he wouldn’t have reconnected with Marion. When the fourth one came along and they went forward in time, I think that’s why it made sense to bring Marion back. The last time you had seen Indy and Marion, they were walking down those steps in Washington, D.C. and going to have a drink together.  (Writer’s Note: It pains me to have to correct Allen, but the third film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, takes place two years after Raiders of the Lost Ark.)

But I was totally surprised when I learned there was going to be a fourth film, and like I said earlier, I did know that there was gonna be a fifth. When we finished shooting the fourth, there was already talk about there being a fifth and perhaps final episode. So, yes, I was always imagining I would be in it — and I am — but it’s just in a slightly different way than I had imagined.

You’ve probably been asked this a million times, but when you went out to restaurants following the release of Raiders of the Lost Ark, would people constantly send rounds of shots to your table?

(Laughs.) Yes, a little bit. I lived in New York, so people are pretty blasé in New York. They’re like, “Yo, good film!” They’re not very fan oriented. But, yes, it has been a theme in my life of people just smacking a shot glass on the bar or table in front of me. The thing is, I don’t really even drink stuff like whiskey. I’ll have a glass or two of wine, but I’m not a knock-back-the-shots kind of girl, really. (Laughs.)

Following Raiders, did you also get a lot of offers for characters that resembled Marion? 

I did, and I resisted them all. Everybody thought I was crazy for doing it, but once Raiders had come out, I went off and did two plays. I did one that went to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and then to Broadway, and I did another that was an off-Broadway play. So I spent about two years involved in those plays, and I just needed to move in a different direction. I can’t speak for all actors, but certainly from my perspective, when you play a role that gets a lot of attention in a very successful film, the last thing you want to do is do the same kind of character again. So for me, it was really important to go in a completely different direction.

I took on a character who was deaf and blind, and I played her for about a year and a half in the theater. And then I played another character in another play that was also very, very different, although they shared similar characteristics with Marion, just in a very different setting. But I like to mix it up. I like to explore. That’s what actors do. We find the real joy and inspiration of what being an actor can be by stepping into very different shoes. It leads you into a whole world where you have to learn about such different things. I’ve been taken on such journeys, not just in the actual shooting of a film, but in actually entering the world of a particular character I’m playing, whether it’s somebody who actually existed or it’s somebody completely fictional. So it’s such a joy to try to inhabit their world.

Karen Allen, congratulations on concluding the saga of Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood, and thanks for everything.

Thank you so much. I really appreciate that.

***
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is now playing in movie theaters. This interview was edited for length and clarity.