Karen Allen kept her ‘Indiana Jones’ cameo a secret for years, ‘which was torture’

A woman in a white blouse stands looking over her shoulder
Karen Allen in “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”
(Jonathan Olley / Lucasfilm Ltd.)
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Warning: The following contains spoilers for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

When “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, no one was happier than Karen Allen.

She could finally answer the question she had been asked repeatedly by journalists, fans and friends for years: Yes, she and Marion Ravenwood were returning to the franchise they helped make famous.


Not that she was at Cannes; Disney was so determined to keep people guessing that it created a pre-Cannes poster that did not include Allen.

“I was sworn to secrecy, which was torture,” Allen said of the project, in theaters now , in a recent Zoom interview. “For almost two years, whenever anyone asked me if I was in the film or not, I had to come up with something to say, like, ‘I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.’”

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When the film’s IMDb page was initially launched, Allen was not on it. “People kept consoling me,” she said. “They’d be upset on my behalf, say things like, ‘How could they not bring Marion back?” and I’d have to stand there like, ‘Errrr....’ They’re very serious about this.

“I had to do it for the last one [“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”],” she added, “but not for as long as this.”

Allen, like Marion, is more than used to waiting for Indiana Jones. When she was cast in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” she said, she was told there would be three films and Marion would only be in the first. When the fourth, “Crystal Skull,” took a leap forward in the narrative timeline, director Steven Spielberg brought Marion back into Indy’s life. “I was thrilled and taken by surprise, especially when I found out they were going to marry,” Allen said. “I always felt he was the love of her life.”

A woman holds cash while looking at a gold archaeological find.
Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood in 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
(Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM)

Over the ensuing years, as the fifth film was developed, Allen had no idea if Marion would be part of the story. “George Lucas said it would be a more personal film and I didn’t know what that would be.”

The script Spielberg worked on for years had Marion more side-by-side with Indy, Allen said, but when he stepped aside and James Mangold came on board, “It was a whole new day. For a year and a half, I didn’t know. I was just waiting.

“Then I saw the story that they decided to tell, and I was just very happy that at least in the very end, she came back and there was a reuniting of those characters.”

Allen’s scene, the film’s last, took only a day and a half to shoot, but she went to London’s Pinewood Studios a couple of weeks before to figure out hair and wardrobe. “I got to watch and meet James Mangold for the first time, hung out with Harrison a bit though he was working. It was very easy and he seemed so happy that I was there. It meant a lot to both of us to bring these two characters together. Bringing the first film back in the last moment of the film, it felt good, it felt right.”

“I just saw my life flash before my eyes,” Ford said at Cannes on Thursday, thanking wife Calista Flockhart and his “Dial of Destiny” collaborators.

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It certainly felt right to audience members in both Cannes and at the L.A. premiere of the film in June. Marion’s appearance (“Better late than never,” Allen said) elicited emotional gasps, cheers and applause.

“I think [Lucas and Spielberg] created these indelible characters,” Allen said of the couple’s enduring popularity. “This archaeologist who’s off the beaten path — he knocks out a Nazi and when he tries to put on the uniform it’s too small. It won the hearts of people. The stories are modern and kind of a throwback and Marion is his partner from the beginning.”


Now Marion appears to have something of a new partner in Indy’s goddaughter Helena, a.k.a. Wombat, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge; she instigates Marion’s return to Indy. Ford has said this is Indy’s last hurrah, but many have speculated that “Dial of Destiny” sets up a Wombat spinoff. And who better to serve as her mentor than Marion?

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Allen said, laughing. “That’s a great idea. I’m in.”