New Edition Excerpt

 

When Ray was offered a role in Indiana Jones 4, the working title for the fourth instalment that went into production in June 2007, he couldn’t quite believe his luck. Apart from anything else, it seemed so mainstream compared to the dark, art house films and menacing roles he is best known for. Besides, he had never expected to end up in an Indiana Jones movie, but if he was going to accept the role that was now up for grabs, then he wanted it to be a substantial role. ‘I wouldn’t have done this film for a bit part,’ Ray explained. ‘I said to Steven Spielberg, “I don’t want to just be along for the ride. I want to bring something to it.” I’m too old in the tooth to just show my face. I’m never going to be a big Hollywood star, but if I’m going to be in an Indiana Jones movie, I want to be a big part of the story.’

He also insisted on reading the script prior to committing to the film. And the only way that was going to be possible, due the veil of secrecy that surrounded the film, was if it was delivered by courier, and the courier waited while he read it, and then returned to Los Angeles with the script intact and unseen by anyone else other than Ray. It was equally bizarre, Ray later said, that he had to return his shooting copy of the script once filming was complete, so that nothing about the film could possibly fall into the wrong hands before it was released. He would even joke with journalists who asked him to tell them the plot, that it was for their own good that he didn’t. ‘I can’t. I’m contractually obliged to kill anyone I reveal anything about the movie to. It’s a brilliant way of selling a film. Swear everyone to silence.’

According to Spielberg’s biographer Ian Freer, the film became a complete guessing game for fans throughout the world, but in a way, conceeded Freer, in this information age, it was refreshing that even ten weeks before before its release, no one still knew anything about it. To put the investigative fans even more off the scent, five fake titles were registered with the Motion Picture Association of America, and at one time, several production stills were stolen during a break-in at Steven Speilberg’s office. And if that wasn’t enough, fans on the internet scrutinized numerous photos and the film’s Lego sets in hope of understanding plot details. And with various working title changes from Indiana Jones and the Saucermen from Mars to Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods, it quickly became the culutral guessing game ever since the making of the film was first announced in January 2007.

But then just ten days before the film’s release, Ray spoke out, enthusiastically explaining the movie’s attraction. ‘The script starts off at a gallop and gets quicker, the camera never stops. I’m in it all the way through. The first shot is where I get dragged out of the car and they throw Indy’s hat on the floor and all you see is his shadow putting the hat back on and Harrison’s voice saying “Russians!” From that moment, you know you are in an Indiana Jones movie. And Harrison is so fit. Forget the age thing. He’s in his 60s but he moves like he’s 30. He’s like a stunt man. Drives the jeep. And he can hit that spot on the door with his whip. “Ping!” He can pull a gun out of your hand with his whip, too. He’s a geezer. Pretty straight. Bit introverted. Loves to tell a joke, but doesn’t tell ’em well.’

Even so, there was still a need to unwind after a day’s filming, even though it was probably a lot different to trying to wind down after a day on the set of such flicks as Nil By Mouth and The War Zone. Yeah, agrees Ray, ‘You don’t realise when it’s crowding in on you. You have to ask yourself how you feel about what you’re doing. Nil by Mouth I played a wife-beater. And in War Zone I played a man who raped his own daughter.’ But with Indiana Jones, it was completely different. More often than not, the unwinding process involved nothing more than a Radox bath and a Vodka and Coke. But as Ray confirms,‘Indy was so much fun to make, I didn’t need much unwinding. You’re laughing all day.’

Not that it proved to be a ‘laugh’ all the time. At one point during filming, Ray had torn one of his hamstring muscles. And looking at the finished film, perhaps it wasn’t surpising. ‘I keep getting these action parts as I’m getting older,’ he told The Telegraph when they caught up with him for a May 2008 article ten days before the film was due to open. Recalling his first day of filming, he remembers, ‘You go there, and you see the first camera move, and then you realise you’re in an Indiana Jones film. It’s a film I never thought I’d ever be making. Then you get a little bit more excited, because it’s something your kids are going to be able to watch. And working with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, well, they’re geniuses; these are clever men, and they’re great filmmakers, and you feel like you’re in the company of these great people. And you think what happened? How did I get from there to here?’

Ray played George ‘Mac’ McHale, a British agent whom Jones worked alongside in World War II, but has now allied with the Russians due to his financial problems. As Ray affirmed, it was fascinating to play someone who isn’t quite as straightforward as he seems. In fact, it was his idea to have him pretending to be a double agent. As screenwriter David Koepp explains, ‘He’s one of those characters who you never quite know whether to believe him. He bends the truth to suit his purposes. But it’s utterly charming, and he’s really good at it, so just like Indy, we like him and, against our better instincts, we trust him.’ Even so, Ray sympathised with Mac. ‘He finds himself walking a jagged line between the competing powers of the Americans and the Soviets. There was a lot of confusion after World War II, with the rise of the Iron Curtain and the start of the Cold War. Figuring out who you were working for and who you were working against must have been crazy.’

The decision to cast Ray was equally instinctive as Ray’s sympathy for the character he was playing. But one of the primary reasons for casting him, says Speilberg, who had seen him previously in Sexy Beast was because, ‘I was desperate to work with him. He was my first and only choice to play Mac. I think he is one of the most brilliant actors around.’