If, like me, you were born in 1980 and if, like me, you were male, chances are that by 1985 you either wanted to be Han Solo or Indiana Jones. Which, despite not knowing it at the time, basically meant you wanted to grow up to marry Ally McBeal and be really grumpy. Come to think of it, there was one boy I knew who wanted to be Kylie, but it was just a phase.
Me? I’m allergic to dogs, I’d probably be allergic to Wookies too. I always preferred Indy.
Henry Walton ‘Indiana’ Jones, Jr. is the greatest action hero of all time. Don’t believe me? Ask that Nazi over there quaking in his jackboots. You say James Bond, I say Roger Moore. You say John McClane? I say yippie ki-nay, mutherfucker. You say Rambo, I say Shmambo, despite not really knowing what that means.
In fact, last year none other than Time magazine named Indy (I say, as if he was the best man at my wedding or something) as the 2nd greatest fictional character ever, just one place behind Holmesy – Sherlock Holmes. Given the most action Sherlock stories see is Holmes stirring a cup of tea, I think it’s fair to say that Time magazine agree with me too.
Still not convinced? “Indiana Jones is not a perfect hero,” director Steven Spielberg told Vanity Fair in 2007. “He gets hurt, he takes pratfalls, sometimes he’s the butt of his own jokes. His imperfections make the audience feel that, with a little more exercise and a little more courage, they could be just like him.”
If the old man who lived next door to me as a child is reading this I’d just like to say, “I’m really surprised you are still alive, you were really very old.” But also, “sorry for climbing the tree in your garden, I thought there was a Nazi up there and, y’know, what he said…”
This year Indiana Jones turns thirty – well, the franchise does at least. Much like Margret Thatcher, Indiana himself actually celebrates an impressive one hundred and ten years of bullwhip cracking on July 1st. This isn’t information garnered from Raiders Of The Lost Ark and the three films that followed – instead I refer you to spin off TV show The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles which ran between 1992 and 1996.
Strap yourself in, I’m about to get nerdy…
In the show, a 93-year-old, one-eyed Indy (played by George Hall) narrates a story from his life each week. If you’ve never seen it, don’t fret, it’s not very good. But the show is considered canon by many fans, and by creator George Lucas – Indy actually makes reference to the episode in which he met Pancho Villa in the most recent film, 2008’s Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.
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There’s some other backstory the show reveals: Indiana has a daughter, he had a sister called Suzie who died of fever, he comes into contact with Tolstoy, Hemingway, Lenin and Roosevelt. In one episode, he even appears as a snivelling ten-year-old (played by Corey Carrier). Man, and you thought the bit with the aliens was emasculating…
Yet given we know Indy lives to incontinence and beyond, it was strange to hear Harrison Ford ‘tell’ Showbiz Spy last month that he wanted to kill off the character. Strange, but not disappointing. “Harrison thinks it would be good for Indy to die and pass on his hat to his son in the next one,” said an ‘insider’ (read: someone bored on the newsdesk). Ford was quick to deny the story, telling The Huffington Post this month that “it’s not necessary to pass on the fedora”.
I disagree Harrison. Let me explain why.
Before we begin, let me make it abundantly clear (and I’ll use capital letters to do so) that I’M NOT SUGGESTING THAT THE FRANCHISE SHOULD CONTINUE WITH ANOTHER ACTOR. There’s no question that Indiana passing on the franchise to his son – introduced in Crystal Skull and played by Shia LeBeouf – is a terrible idea. Principally because Shia LeBeouf is a massive dickhead who’s never made a film I haven’t considered utterly dogshit. But I digress.
That said, anyone who saw the cultural war crime that was 2008’s Crystal Skull would struggle to argue that after the aliens, the gophers and Ray Winstone’s nonsensical double cross at the end, the doe eyed and hapless LeBeouf was the most distressing thing about watching it – LeBeouf has even admitted as much, saying “he dropped the ball” in the film (NB: this is a phrase Americans use, and has nothing to do with testicles). “I didn’t have enough meat to chew on” he whined in justification, a bit like Oliver Twist gnawing on a bit of poo in the snow.
See, Indiana Jones may be the world’s greatest action hero, but much of this is due to Ford playing him. It’s astonishing to learn that Lucas originally approached Tom Selleck, he of men’s grooming fame, to play the role. Legend has it that after casting Ford in 1973’s American Graffiti and two Star Wars films, Lucas didn’t want the actor to become known as his “Bobby De Niro” – a reference to Scorsese’s penchant for casting Robert De Niro. Thankfully Selleck’s commitment to Magnum P.I. meant that Ford got the fedora.
It’s unthinkable anyone but he would put it on in the films. Ford, it’s worth remembering, is a charismatic actor. It is for this reason I paid almost ten pounds to see rubbish bathtub horror What Lies Beneath in 2000, and why I’m excited to see Cowboys & Aliens later this year. Ford’s portrayal of Indiana mimicked his real life persona – wry, dour, a little bit irritated by everyone else in the world. The idea of LeBeouf, a man that looks like a Ken doll left out overnight by the fire, jockishly bullwhipping the bad guys… well, there’s an argument for letting the Nazis win in all honesty.
But I’ll reiterate my original point: Indiana Jones 5 must see its hero die – even if it breaks the continuity of the TV show. Ford is now 68. My dad is 69 and can’t brush his teeth without being out of breath. Unless Lucas is planning some sort of Jeff Bridges style Tron Legacy digital enhancement (and if you’ve seen the Star Wars remasters I wouldn’t put it past him) it’s unlikely someone of similar age is going to be able to outrun any boulders.
Not only that, but whether they want to or not (I think even Conan The Barbarian would settle for a nice doze aged 80 by the fire), film heroes deserve to die heroic deaths. It enhances enigma. It protects them from turning up in Indiana Jones 27: Return To The Temple Of Doom via hologram (I refer you again to the Star Wars remasters). This is something Ford knows all too well, having begged Lucas to kill off Han Solo in Return Of The Jedi. That time Lucas said no. This time Ford has more clout, he can make it happen.
The new film is reportedly set in the Bermuda Triangle. Indy doesn’t even have to die – he could just get lost, end up getting chased by ethereal polar bears for all time, that sort of thing.
But also, there’s something about Indiana Jones that jars in the modern world. I’d imagine that five-year-old boys now aren’t asking their mum to make bullwhips out of old tights – and why would they? Indiana’s adventures belonged to a simpler time (read: the eighties). A time when the idea of exploring ancient temples besieged by Kali Thuggee religious cults wasn’t something you could just watch a documentary about on BBC4. Kids deserve their own heroes, not their dad’s. Otherwise I’d now be idolising 1950’s crooner Matt Monro.
It’s not just me who thinks Indy should die. Yesterday I asked my Twitter ‘followers’ what they thought. Thirty-two replied, only one said no (and I don’t think she really understood the question). This reply was my favourite: “Indy should find a copy of Mein Kampf in the university library, join the BNP and become a Nazi, then kill himself out of shame”. A bit harsh perhaps but, well, still better than those damn aliens…
(NB: Twitter also cleared up the debate whether Indiana is immortal or not. Yes he drank from the cup in Holy Grail but apparently you have to stay in the cave for its effects to work. SO DON’T EVEN BOTHER).
But what do you think? Do you think Indiana Jones should die? Or haven’t you read a single word I’ve said? Let the world know below…