Karen Allen on saying goodbye to Indy and Marion in Dial of Destiny: ‘It feels complete to me’

Plus, how her working relationship with Harrison Ford has changed over the years.

June 30, 2023

By Lauren Huff, Entertainment Weekly

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

“It’s not the years, honey. It’s the mileage.”

That may have been true when Harrison Ford‘s Indiana Jones first uttered those words to Karen Allen‘s Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the sentiment resonates that much more in light of the fifth and final film in the franchise, Dial of Destiny (in theaters now). What mileage it’s been.

They started out as exes who rekindle their love in the course of searching for the Ark of the Covenant in 1981’s Raiders. In 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it’s revealed that Marion had years ago secretly given birth to Indy’s son (played by Shia LaBeouf), and the trio travel to the titular kingdom together. Once their adventure ends, Indy and Marion finally tie the knot.

Dial of Destiny begins with the revelation that Indy and Marion have separated and are in the process of getting a divorce. Their son, we learn, died in the Vietnam War after enlisting against their wishes, and the resulting grief consumed their marriage. As such, we don’t actually see Marion until the film’s final moments, when she returns to help the daredevil archaeologist heal from his life-threatening injuries.

In one of the franchise’s most touching moments, the two tenderly recreate the “where does it hurt” scene from Raiders — this time, however, it’s our hero asking his longtime love where he’s hurt her.

Though Allen “can’t say that there wasn’t initial disappointment in the sense that I wasn’t more a part of the adventure of this story,” she tells EW there “simultaneously was a sense of gratitude that Marion was going to come back into the story.” 

She adds, “She’s such a vibrant, wonderful character, and it would’ve broken my heart to see her just vanish into the ether.”

Here, the star opens up about a number of topics, from shooting the film’s “emotional” goodbyes to the evolution of her working relationship to Ford to the question of where Indy and Marion go from here. 

For more on Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and Ford’s last hurrah as the whip-cracking archaeologist, read EW’s cover story.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What has the Indiana Jones franchise as a whole, and this role of Marion, meant to you and your career?

KAREN ALLEN: It’s been a major, wonderful series of films to be a part of. I think it was my fourth film when I was just starting out in films. I was cast in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I went into it not really… I knew it was Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, and wonderful people involved in the film, but you don’t really quite know what you’re getting yourself into. And it was certainly a different film than I had ever made up until that point, just in terms of its scope and traveling to places like Tunisia and being out in the Sahara Desert. It’s just a whole adventure in and of itself, an adventure making the film, and certainly a wonderful adventure film.

And then I think the character, Marion Ravenwood, what actor wouldn’t want to play that character? She’s delightful. From the moment we meet her, she’s drinking 400-pound men under the table and socking an ex-boyfriend in the chin. Right there she wins the heart of everyone who’s ever been jilted, certainly.

Karen Allen attends the Los Angeles premiere of LucasFilms' 'Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny'

Karen Allen attends the Los Angeles premiere of LucasFilms’ ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’


With Dial of Destiny, Marion will have appeared in three of the five Indy films. How has working with Harrison evolved over the years?

It’s evolved in a wonderful, wonderful way. When we did Raiders of the Lost Ark, we didn’t know each other at all. We were just in the process of learning. I think our approaches as actors were very different, because I was coming out of a theater tradition and I was used to rehearsing and rehearsing and rehearsing and talking over scenes with actors. He came from a very different approach, and he liked to work more on his own and show up on the set ready to work, and sometimes really had no interest in running lines or doing things like that. I had to really get on top of my skis, so to speak, in the sense that this was new to me. We worked together wonderfully, I just had to make an adjustment so I felt like I knew what I was doing on my own.

I learned a lot from him, too, because I had never done a film like this film — it was a new level of needing skills as an actor working with a camera that had never come up before. So I got to watch him work with the camera. The films I had done up until that point, mostly I was trying to forget the camera was there, but in a film like this you’re really partnering with the camera a lot of the time. You need to know where it is, you need to be able to work with it. I was learning those skills by the seat of my pants.

I learned a lot just watching Harrison. There’s a much more practical, methodical way that you work sometimes, that was new to me. And then in the second film [Kingdom of the Crystal Skull], it was like coming together with an old friend and reconnecting these characters. That was just a wonderful, easy, breezy experience. This time [in Dial of Destiny], it was short but sweet. It’s very brief. But it was lovely to come in at the end and to see these characters come together and be back together.

When did you know the nature of Marion’s return and how was it all pitched to you?

Well, there was such a shifting and changing of things, because I believe — although I never read a script — when Steven Spielberg was going to direct it, it was quite a different story and quite a different script. Most of the time I was just waiting to a point in which I was going to be reading a script, and knowing how Marion would be a part of the story. When it shifted over to James Mangold directing and suddenly he brought in new writers, the Butterworth brothers [Jez and John-Henry], then I really had no idea whether I would be in the film or not. It was a fresh start. I think it was when they felt their script was finally finished that it came to me, and they had written this role at the end of the film for Marion to come back. 

I can’t say that there wasn’t initial disappointment in the sense that I wasn’t more a part of the adventure of this story. But simultaneously, there was a sense of gratitude that Marion was going to come back into the story, and that if this is indeed the last film of this series, that it ended on a very upbeat note for her character. Because she’s such a vibrant, wonderful character, and it would’ve broken my heart to see her just vanish into the ether.

So it’s safe to say that if they had asked you to come back to be a part of the action like Marion was in Crystal Skull and Raiders, you would have done that?

Oh, absolutely. I was down for whatever, in whatever way they wanted to bring her back into the story. I was 100% there.

In that final scene between Marion and Indy, it’s been a while since they’ve seen each other, and it’s a bit of a surprise to both of them. When you shot it, did you and Harrison try to likewise stay away from each other to keep that element of surprise?

No, even though we only shot one or two days, I arrived two weeks beforehand. They wanted me to come, because we had talked about maybe having a wig where I would have gray hair, and they wanted time to figure out the costume and stuff. I went over and visited the set a whole bunch of times while they were shooting, which was nice because I got to get a feel for what was going on and see some old friends, which is great. And I got to meet James Mangold for the first time. We’d had conversations on the phone, but we’d actually never met, so that was great.

Steven Spielberg directed every other film in the franchise, besides this one. Was it weird being there without him?

Yeah, I think it was, and I was actually hoping he might be there when I was there so we could just say hi. But he wasn’t. Although, James seemed very much at home in that world. When Steven stepped down and James was going to be the director, and it was being announced, I had a conversation with Steven and he said, “Oh my God, you’re going to love working with him. Just wait. He’s wonderful.” And he was. I had just a beautiful time working with him.

And actually shooting those final moments between Indy and Marion — was it emotional for you to shoot what is essentially a goodbye to these two characters? 

It was certainly emotional doing it. I saw it once in a screening in New York, and the first time I see a film, I honestly have to say I don’t really see what’s on the screen. I’m more in the actual memory of doing it. So I don’t even trust my reactions or my responses or anything until I’ve seen something more than once, at the very least. But it’s so sweet. And the way that they wrote it where we bring back in a little theme from Raiders of Lost Ark was lovely. It was just nice. I have always said, and I don’t know if Harrison feels the same way, but I suspect he does, that these two are really the love of each other’s life. I came to really appreciate that the story they wanted to tell was that this wedge had been driven between them, and in spite of that they have found their way back to each other. The crew at the end of it when we finally finished shooting was all very emotional. I certainly felt emotional, and I think Harrison did too, in the sense that we felt like we were putting this period or exclamation point at the end of their story, which was lovely.

Harrison Ford and Karen Allen on the set of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'

Harrison Ford and Karen Allen on the set of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’


Do you feel like you’ve said your goodbyes to Marion?

No, I don’t. Maybe in terms of the cinema I’ve said goodbye to Marion. Marion, she’s just one of those characters for me who I think will always be a part of my life. I think most actors have one or two films that they become very identified with, and Marion is certainly one of those for me. I think that it is just such a strong character that when I’m out in the world, just in my day-to-day life, that character resonates for people to such an extent that I’m constantly being identified with that character in a lovely way, in a way that is certainly not problematic.

Where do you see Indy and Marion going from here? Were there any conversations about what their future is beyond what we see in the film?

Well, I think that was the conversation certainly that I had with [producer] Kathleen Kennedy and with James Mangold and Harrison to some extent, was that, yes, there’s this feeling that they’ve come back together and that they’re going to be together for the rest of their lives. If they can work their way through the pain of the death of their son and come back together. He’s retired. The film has beautifully brought their lives — we don’t know much about Marion’s life in the interim — but it’s brought them back together. And it feels to me complete at the end.

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