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Harrison Ford really seems to care about Indiana Jones, and it’s infectious

The actor’s emotional show at D23 inspires hope for his last run at the character

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Harrison Ford, in a dark suit, smiles warmly as he comes onstage at D23, accompanied by Phoebe Waller-Bridge in a white suit Photo: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

The first time I went to the cinema without a supervising adult was to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, in 1984. I was 10 years old. The scene in which someone had their still-beating heart ripped from their chest was a bit more than I had bargained for! I would also later realize that the film trades in appalling racist stereotypes. Nevertheless, I still felt a strong, emotional pang of nostalgia when I saw a certain photo circulating on social media this past weekend.

The photo, taken backstage at Disney’s D23 Expo, shows Ke Huy Quan, who played plucky kid Short Round in Temple of Doom, embracing Harrison Ford. Quan was there because he’s been cast in season 2 of Loki. Ford was there to show attendees the first footage from Indiana Jones 5. Quan sports his usual cheeky grin, while Ford, clasping Quan round the shoulders, is beaming with undisguised joy. Quan posted the photo to his Instagram with the caption, “Indiana Jones and Short Round reunited after 38 years.” Obviously, the internet fell in love with it.

This well of feeling is partly attributable Quan’s feelgood story: He gave up acting in the 1990s, but was catapulted back into the public imagination last year, at the age of 50, in Everything Everywhere All At Once. But mostly it’s stirred by the shock of the legendarily grumpy and publicity-averse 80-year-old screen icon Ford — whose on-screen range runs from “annoyed” to “amused, but slightly annoyed” to “very worried and also annoyed” — actually looking happy. In public. While doing press!

This was just the start. On stage, a shaky but twinkling Ford stunned the audience by being moved almost to tears as he thanked them for their support, predicted that this “fantastic” movie would “kick your ass,” and appeared lost for words as he praised his costar Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “heart.” He only regained his famous insouciance at the very end as he confirmed this would be the last time he played the iconic adventurer. “I’m delighted to be here again, maybe for the... no, not maybe. This is it! I will not fall down for you again!”

It was a sharp contrast with the man who, asked by Jimmy Fallon if he’d got emotional when slipping back into his other iconic role, Han Solo, for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, replied: “No, I got paid.” Even though they’re both pulp adventure heroes, and both created by George Lucas, for some reason Solo has always brought out Ford’s irascible side (he says he argued for the character to be killed off “for 30 years”), while he speaks about Doctor Jones with much more warmth. “To me, what was interesting about the character was that he prevailed, that he had courage, that he had wit, that he had intelligence, that he was frightened and that he still managed to survive,” he told The Telegraph in 2013. “That I can do.”

Getting excited about yet another attempt to revive a storied franchise from the intellectual property vault can be a challenge. Disney, in particular, has almost made this its sole business model in recent years. But it feels like there’s one good reason to care about Indiana Jones 5: Harrison Ford cares. He clearly cares a lot. In his eyes, this character — and definitely not Han Solo — is his legacy. Perhaps, in James Mangold, who so memorably capped off Hugh Jackman’s time as Wolverine in Logan, he’s found the director with the sensibility to do it. Perhaps, in Waller-Bridge, he’s found the younger echo the character needs. Perhaps he just wants Indy to have a better epitaph than Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. Even without seeing the footage that was shown at D23, it finally feels possible to hope that he’ll get it.

Indiana Jones 5, which doesn’t have a final title yet, will be released on June 30, 2023.

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