Nineteen years after chasing down the Holy Grail in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," Harrison Ford will return to the big screen in the character of the globe-trotting archeologist in May 2008.
Producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg confirmed details of the project Monday after Lucas tipped off the media to Indiana Jones' imminent return as he prepared to serve as grand marshal of the Rose Parade in Pasadena.
After years spent in script development, a fourth installment of the famously successful franchise is set to begin production in June in locations around the world and in the U.S.
Although he has been developing other projects, including a biopic about Abraham Lincoln with Liam Neeson attached to star, Spielberg has decided the "Indiana Jones" sequel will be his next directorial outing. Helping Spielberg choose his next directing commitment had been a primary goal of new DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider (HR 6/23).
"George, Harrison and I are all very excited," Spielberg said. "We feel that the script was well worth the wait. We hope it delivers everything you'd expect from our history with Indiana Jones."
The film will be produced by Lucasfilm Ltd. and released worldwide by Paramount Pictures, the parent company of DreamWorks. Although reps from the companies involved did not address the question of financing Monday, Paramount execs have said that the studio expected to co-finance the project with Lucasfilm.
Frank Marshall will serve as producer, with Lucas and Kathy Kennedy joining him as executive producers. Longtime Spielberg associates, Marshall was credited in a producing capacity on the three earlier films, and Kennedy served as associate producer on the past two.
"Working with Steven, Frank, Kathy and the 'Indy' crew is like working with family," Lucas said. "These films are such great fun to make. I'm looking forward to reuniting with the team and starting this new journey."
David Koepp, who has penned such previous Spielberg projects as "Jurassic Park" and "War of the Worlds," wrote the screenplay that finally got the stamp of approval from Lucas and Spielberg. An earlier screenplay by Frank Darabont had been shelved when Lucas turned thumbs down on it.
For the moment, the title of the new film as well as its story line are being kept under wraps. In August, however, Lucas told Empireonline.com, "I discovered a McGuffin. I told the guys about it and they were a little dubious about it, but it's the best one we've ever found. ... Unfortunately, it was a little too 'connected' for the others. They were afraid of what the critics would think. They said, 'Can't we do it with a different McGuffin? Can't we do this?' and I said 'No.' So we pottered around with that for a couple of years. And then Harrison really wanted to do it and Steve said, 'Okay.' I said, 'We'll have to go back to that original McGuffin and take out the offending parts of it and we'll still use that area of the supernatural to deal with it.' "
In an interview with MTV.com, Lucas also said that the project will acknowledge Harrison's age; the actor is currently 64. In a statement, Ford said he is ready for another action-packed turn as the death-defying archeologist. "I'm delighted to be back in business with my old friends," he said. "I don't know if the pants still fit, but I know the hat will."
Although a spokesman for Spielberg said Monday that no casting has begun, Lucas and Ford have said that they would like to include Sean Connery, who played Indiana Jones' father, Professor Henry Jones, in "The Last Crusade." "We are writing him in whether he wants to do it or not," Lucas told "Access Hollywood" when Connery was honored in June with the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award.
It also is not known whether the project will be shot digitally, like Lucas' recent "Star Wars" movies, or on film, the medium Spielberg prefers.
"Raiders of the Lost Ark," the first film in the series, was released in 1981, followed by "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" in 1984 and "Last Crusade" in 1989. The three movies have earned 14 Academy Award nominations, seven Oscars and grossed more than $1.182 billion worldwide.
A release date was not announced, but the past two films in the series opened shortly before the Memorial Day weekend. Currently, the May 2008 lineup includes Paramount's "Iron Man," from Marvel Enterprises; Buena Vista's "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" from Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media; and Warner Bros. Pictures' "Speed Racer," from Warners, Silver Pictures and Village Roadshow.