At the Cannes world premiere for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” Disney CEO Bob Iger watched the film for the fifth time. Before the Lumière theater screening, 80-year-old Harrison Ford received an honorary Palme d’Or from the festival and received the loudest applause of the night. However, in his introduction to the tribute before the movie, Cannes artistic director Fremaux singled out Iger for applause of his own. “The CEO, or whatever,” Fremaux said, stopping himself. “The legendary Bob Iger!”
Fremaux’s awkward wording may reflect Iger’s unusual path to this moment. One year ago, when the big American studio chief at Cannes was newly minted WarnerMedia Discovery head David Zaslav in attendance for “Elvis,” Iger was a retired Disney executive whose next move was unclear.
In November, he made a surprise return to the role with the sudden outing of successor Bob Chapek, whose disinterest in talent relations rubbed Hollywood the wrong way. By contrast, Iger spent years building the opposite reputation, and his Cannes presence seemed to reflect as much. At the “Indiana Jones” afterparty Thursday night, he told IndieWire that the studio could consider further extensions of the “Indiana Jones” franchise, even if the fifth edition allows Ford’s portrayal a graceful exit.
“The last movie was here 15 years ago,” he said, referring to Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which premiered at Cannes in 2008. “So we’ll see.”
Disney’s presence at Cannes goes beyond “Indiana Jones,” which opens theatrically June 28. The festival also selected Pixar’s “Elemental” for its closing-night slot, marking the first time that a Pixar movie has premiered at Cannes since “Inside Out” in 2015. Specialty division Searchlight is also on the ground with several executives scouting for acquisitions in the lineup and the market.
Disney will see 7,000 layoffs in 2023 and when we asked Iger about the future of Searchlight, he declined comment. (Specifically, he said, “You’re asking a lot of questions” and then walked away.)
On Disney’s second-quarter earnings call, Iger said Hulu would receive a tile on Disney+, which suggests that Searchlight’s adult-audience dramas will have a sturdy home within the studio’s streaming future.
As for “Indiana Jones,” the movie was a hot ticket, with many journalists fighting for spots until the last minute and industry execs sneaking away from other festival responsibilities for a blockbuster indulgence. Among the figures spotted milling about the party were TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey, Academy president Janet Yang, Netflix film executive Adam Del Deo, and director Steve McQueen.
Beyond Cannes, the movie’s commercial prospects are unclear. It’s unlikely to enjoy the same history-making success that found last year’s Cannes premiere “Top Gun: Maverick” grossing over $1 billion, but the launch follows a similar template. In 2022, Tom Cruise was honored with a tribute ahead of his high-profile premiere; this time, it was Ford’s turn, and the star appeared visibly moved after his work was surveyed in an extended montage of clips before the movie.
In a special Cannes twist, the highlight reel opened with the actor’s unique connection to French cinema, with Ford appearing in Agnes Varda’s 1995 documentary “The World of Jacques Demy,” recalling how he went to a Los Angeles sex shop with Demy in hopes of landing a role in the director’s “Model Shop.” That was in the mid-‘60s, and Ford instead went on to become one of America’s most iconic leading men, careening through the ‘70s in standouts like “American Graffiti” before cementing his stature as Han Solo in 1977’s “Star Wars.” By the time he picked up a fedora for Spielberg with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1981, he was one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars.
Spielberg and George Lucas maintained tight control of the franchise for decades, but for this would-be final entry the director and producer handed the reins to James Mangold. A blockbuster director in his own right thanks to “Wolverine,” Mangold’s even-handed approach may not please critics but it works overtime to deliver a nostalgic tribute to the character. It’s likely to resonate with fans in much the same way that Disney resurrected “Star Wars” fandom with “The Force Awakens” in 2015. The final entry tracks Indy post-retirement as he trails his goddaughter (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) on a dangerous path to track down an ancient artifact from the Archimedes era. The movie marks Waller-Bridge’s first major role since her hit show “Fleabag” ended its two-season run in 2019, but it’s mostly focused on payoff for “Indiana Jones” fans who found the whole “nuking the fridge” swings of the last entry too off-putting.
That sequel grossed $790.7 million on a $185 million budget; “Dial of Destiny” cost a reported $300 million, which means the pressure is greater this time around. Nevertheless, Mangold — who first came to Cannes for the Directors Fortnight premiere of his debut “Heavy” in 1995 — told IndieWire that he was gratified with the results.
“This was the least stressful movie I’ve done,” he said, adding that he pushed for the studio to take the Cannes route. “We wanted this.”
He was still livid about rumors of reshoots that cropped up last December. “That’s the thing about all this Twitterverse bullshit,” he said. “This movie was done six months ago.” (However, he added, he was color-timing it until earlier this week.) Asked about his current Twitter habits, Mangold said, “I’m trying to do it less.”
While the filmmaker has a writing credit on the movie, he said he didn’t foresee any issue promoting it at the festival or beyond due to the WGA strike. “I’m finished with the writing aspect of it,” he said.
Whatever happens next, Mangold and Ford certainly looked content with their first taste of public response. At the end of the screening, Mangold teared up as Fremaux handed him the mic.
“This film was made by friends,” he said, flanked by Iger, Ford, and other cast members. “It’s probably hard for you to believe that a movie this big can be made by friends, but it was. It was made out of love, it was made out of devotion to what came before it, and it was made with tremendous trust from both people on both sides of me that let us play and let us make something strange and hopefully you felt was wonderful that you could enjoy, and let us carry on the legacy of these great movies that preceded us.” He stopped himself and looked at Ford. “Not in your case, certainly,” Mangold said.
Ford has been feted at festivals many times over the years (he received a lifetime achievement award from the Locarno Film Festival in 2011), but the scale of the Cannes tribute seemed to elicit genuine emotion from the actor when he took the stage.
“They say when you’re about to die, you see your life flash before your eyes, and I just saw a great part of my life flash before my eyes,” he said, referring to the montage. He told the audience. After singling out wife Calista Flockhart in the audience and telling her that he loved her, he turned back to the room. “I love you, too,” he said. “Thank you for giving my life purpose.”