Twenty-seven years ago, Raiders of the Lost Ark introduced the world to an unconventional archaeologist named Indiana Jones. With the DVD release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, we pick up with the adventures of Indy (Harrison Ford), his former love Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), and a young man named Mutt (Shia La Beouf) as they search for mysterious artifacts around the globe.
Reprising her role as the hard-drinking, tough-talking daughter of Indiana’s mentor, Allen jumped back into the role that helped define her career. I recently met up for a lavish lunch with Karen Allen and we chatted about the comic stylings of Shia La Beouf, future Indiana Jones movies, and her own run-in with Johnny Law.
When Raiders of the Lost Arc came out, no one knew what to expect. What kind of differences have you seen in the reception to the new film and the first one?
It seems to me that the reception has been incredible for this film. Most people come up and tell me how much they love the film. The Cannes Film Festival was amazing for us. Cannes is a weird place to open a film because it can be disastrous. Films have been booed there. A film like Crystal Skull is not a “Cannes film” really, so you don’t know what’s going to happen. But they loved it, there was a four-minute standing ovation, and Steven [Spielberg] had tears in his eyes.
So many people who wrote about the film said that it was not only a welcome return of the character of Marion, but also for you as an actor. How did that make you feel?
It was fantastic, really. I have had so many people come up to me and say, “When you came on the screen everyone applauded.” It’s so sweet, really. It makes me feel touched that this character has stayed with people’s consciousness and they were so happy to have me and her come back into the story.
What was the strangest way you’ve been recognized as Marion?
I had a boyfriend who lived here in Los Angeles and I came here to surprise him on his birthday. So his friends took him to dinner and I came into the house to surprise him when he came home. I had a key and came in and hid. I called his friends and they ended the dinner and they started coming home. He came home and started opening the door, and I was ready to say, “Surprise!” But all of a sudden I don’t hear anything. I keep waiting and waiting, and there was nothing. I finally got up, went to the door, and it was open. So I went outside and started looking around. Then I hear police helicopters above the house, and there’s lights flashing over the top of the house. Then I realized, he thinks that someone is in his house! Then suddenly I hear noise outside, and in his yard I see two cops with their guns drawn. They yelled, “Freeze! Get over here.” I’m yelling, “I’m his girlfriend!” Then I go over to the door and slowly open it and the policeman says to me, “Weren’t you in Raiders of the Lost Ark?”
A lot of the people who were involved with the movie like Ford, Spielberg, and even Shia La Beouf, are very successful. They really didn’t have to make this movie. Why do you think they decided to make it?
Steven said that he made it because people kept asking him to. He said he was making the movie for the fans of the first films, and that felt really good to him. He basically said, “Okay, this one’s for you.”
Then suddenly I hear noise outside, and in his yard I see two cops with their guns drawn. They yelled, “Freeze! Get over here.”
Can you describe your first meeting with Harrison back on set? Was it like a reunion?
It was fantastic. He showed up and we…Wait. Do I know you from somewhere?
Do you really? I think I only know you from movies.
Are you sure we haven’t met before?
I don’t think so. But it’s great to meet you again anyway.
I keep thinking I know you from somewhere.
I keep thinking the same thing about you, Karen.
Anyway, he bounded up into my trailer and gave me a big hug. We did a lot of catching up. I hadn’t seen him for a couple years. We used to live in the same neighborhood in New York five or six years ago, so I’d run into him on the sidewalk every now and then. It was quite funny because he so doesn’t want to be recognized when he’s out on the street. I would see him and I would yell, “Harrison!” And he would go and hide under an awning or something. Then I’d have to yell again, “Harrison, it’s Karen!” Then he’d relax.
How was it working with Shia?
Shia was there in a sense of awe. He couldn’t believe his luck. He was like, “Oh my God, I’m going to be in an Indiana Jones film.” When met him he was stunned. He met me and Harrison simultaneously, and Shia was so excited about doing this film. He was just over the moon about it. I just adore him. He is just a great kid and he is unique. He’s very bright and very witty. It was a pleasure to sit next to him in the makeup trailer. I’d start every day laughing. He’s a raconteur. I’ve never met a 21-year-old who can tell a story like he tells a story. He’s had quite an unusual and interesting life. Even the things that got him in to acting. He wanted to be an actor because he met an actor who had really nice tennis shoes. His family couldn’t afford them, so he asked the guy, “How did you get those?” The guy said he was on a television show and made a lot of money, so Shia said, “Well, okay!” He’s lovely. As an actor, he can do anything he wants to do. He’s got a lot of depth and I’ve been very impressed. He commits himself completely to each moment when he’s working.
What affect do you think this movie will have on your career?
I’m at this place of curiosity. I just want to see what comes my way. Being realistic, I’m in my mid-50s, and I’m not convinced that there is a real career to be had. I want to play it by ear and see where it goes. I’m not buying an apartment in Los Angeles just yet, and I’m not sitting next to the phone waiting for it to ring. I’m just going to go on with my life up in Western Massachusetts.
Is there going to be another Indiana Jones movie?
I’ve had a lot of fans ask me about if there’s gonna be another movie, but I haven’t heard anything yet. Do you know something I don’t?