Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s ‘Indiana Jones 5’ Character Was Inspired by Barbara Stanwyck, James Mangold Says

“That seemed to be a wonderful contrast with Indy, particularly Indy in his senior years,” the filmmaker tells TheWrap

Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Harrison Ford of "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" (Credit: Jesse Grant/Getty Images)

Director James Mangold drew from classic films, both contemporary and from the studio era, for the latest Indiana Jones film, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.” This latest — and last — turn for Harrison Ford’s famed archaeologist gave Mangold many features to pull inspiration from, starting with 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” as directed by Steven Spielberg.

“When we talk about the ‘Raiders’ film, and even Steven’s work in general, which has always been a big influence on me, you have to kind of understand that Steven himself is highly influenced and inspired by the classical, Golden Age, Hollywood style,” Mangold told TheWrap. “So you’re talking about a compendium of influences.”

But when it came to crafting the character of Helena, played by “Fleabag” star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mangold went back to the 1940s screwball world of director Preston Sturges. “I had very much in mind Barbara Stanwyck’s character in Preston Sturges’ ‘The Lady Eve,’” he said. “We see that Phoebe’s character is a bit of a card shark [and] this idea came to me of a kind of conwoman archaeologist who’s of the modern generation that’s more fixated on success, or fame, or money than necessarily finding things of great importance and placing them in a museum or in safety.”

“That seemed to be a wonderful contrast with Indy, particularly Indy in his senior years — his idealism about the job of an archaeologist,” Mangold added. “But it also produced a kind of patter and a way of trying to write and direct Phoebe, in terms of how quickly she moves and turns corners.”

Mangold and Waller-Bridge had extensive conversations about who Helena was and, according to Mangold, the actress was interested in how Helena initially sells herself as a girl next door coming to visit her godfather, Indiana Jones.

“But the next time we see her, she’s a completely different human being, kind of sophisticated, dressed to the nines, and kind of rude and cynical, and quite cutthroat with a very cynical agenda,” Mangold said. “I think Phoebe was enchanted by having to make those cuts.”

“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” hits theaters June 30.