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The Case For Nathan Fillion to Play Indiana Jones

Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer

Everyone thinks that Harrison Ford is the only man who can play Indiana Jones. We respectfully disagree.

ImageIn response to some talk that Harrison Ford wants Indy killed off in the next installment, I thought I’d repeat my argument: Either pass on the torch to Shia LeBeouf and have him play the new Indiana Jones, or cast someone else in the role, James Bond-style. My pick? Nathan Fillion.

I’ll keep this short: I’m all in favor of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg continuing the Indiana Jones series, and I submit that Nathan Fillion should take over for Harrison Ford. I’ll extol Fillion’s virtues in a moment, but let me first briefly explain why I’m arguing that such a sacrosanct role should be recast in the first place.

According to most legendary accounts, Spielberg and Lucas hatched the plot for the Indiana Jones movies after one of them (Spielberg, I think) said that he’d love to direct a James Bond movie. Lucas had the idea for the Indiana Jones character, and they launched into Raiders of the Lost Ark from there.

Clearly, Harrison Ford has only so many years left where he could play Indy as a hero credibly (or at all). Lucas told Fox News that he has an idea for a fifth Indy movie that focuses on Shia LeBeouf’s character. I haven’t seen Kingdom of the Crystal Skull yet, so I can’t speculate on whether LeBeouf (or his character) could take over the franchise, but let me say this: If LeBeouf were to assume Indy’s mantle, I’d rather he simply be cast as the new Indiana Jones.

In fact, I seem to remember rumors that Paramount once upon a time wanted to turn the series over to River Phoenix, and may I say that such an idea breaks my heart. Phoenix made an excellent Indy, and I love the idea that each lead actor in the series would have appeared in three movies, and that in every third movie, the opening sequence would feature a young Indy story that would introduce a new actor to the role.

I’m sure I never actually heard that rumor, but what a nice thought. In any event, that brings us to my main point: That Nathan Fillion should be the new Indiana Jones. My argument has nothing to do with LeBeouf. I enjoyed his performances in Transformers and Holes, and I actually think he’d make a fine Indy. But Fillion has already established his whip-cracking credentials as Capt. Mal Reynolds on Firefly. Granted, Reynolds has a lot more in common with Han Solo than Indiana Jones, but Solo and Jones have always been blood-cousins, and not just because Harrison Ford turned them into icons. Indy is what Han Solo might have been if he had been given more of a chance growing up — educated, brilliant — but he’s just as much of a scoundrel sometimes, except when the chips are down. Then he saves the day.

That said, I submit that Fillion is a much stronger actor than Harrison Ford (or LeBeouf), and that he would fit comfortably into the Indiana Jones role. He could honor Ford’s legacy while making the role his own. I suspect that Fillion would bring even more humor to an already funny character.

To wit, I think that Indy’s most “Mal Reynolds” moment comes at the beginning of Temple of Doom, when he gloats “Nice try, Lao Che!” only to find himself in a doomed prop-plane owned by the very same Chinese gangster. Indiana Jones and Mal Reynolds are both adventurous bumblers — and I love ’em both.

So if you’re listening out there, Paramount, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg — think about moving forward with the Indiana Jones franchise, and consider one of the best actors working today as your new leading man: Nathan Fillion.


Wow. This article got a lot more positive response than I anticipated. Full disclosure: I knocked out this piece to fill a slot in our Indy Week lineup, and I had no idea how many people would like the idea.

A good discussion about this recasting idea broke out over on the aggregating website Newsvine, and it brought to my attention one major problem — not with Fillion, but with recasting the Indiana Jones role at all.

One reader pointed out that the James Bond character had existed in Ian Fleming’s novels for quite some time before the movies came along, which made it far easier for audiences to accept different actors in the role over the years.

That reader has a great point. The James Bond movie series has never been beholden to one definitive actor or one definitive director, whereas the Indiana Jones series exist as these wonderful, hermetically sealed packages that are directed by Steven Spielberg and that star Harrison Ford.

But all the same, I see no reason why the moviegoing audience couldn’t come to see the Indy series in a new way.

Although Indiana Jones himself didn’t exist in a series of novels, his archetype certainly has, most notably in H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain novels. Furthermore, just as James Bond has his signature traits — shaken martinis, Aston-Martins, a blue-collar background — so, too, does Dr. Jones have his own — the bullwhip, the fedora, the fear of snakes.

Besides seeing different actors in the lead role, a long-running Indy series, by necessity, would have to allow for new directors. Steven Spielberg can’t direct all of them, and he won’t always be around to direct them anyway. Any number of great directors spring to mind, including Frank Farabont, M. Night Shyamalan and Quentin Tarantino — Tarantino, who has long wanted to direct a Bond movie, would jump at the chance to direct such an iconic character, I imagine. 

And as for losing Spielberg’s influence on the movies, I hope that Spielberg would look to an inward generosity to help him relinquish the director’s chair. Legend has it that Spielberg abjectly begged to direct one of George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels, only to be denied.

Maybe Spielberg could help to turn Indiana Jones into the next James Bond franchise so all of us could enjoy these movies for years to come.

Oh, yeah — and cast Nathan Fillion as the new Indy.