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If There’s Going to Be a Female Indiana Jones, Who Should Play Her?

The Ringer staff is casting the part so that Steven Spielberg doesn’t have to

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

In an interview with The Sun on Tuesday, director Steven Spielberg said that he was “pretty sure” that the upcoming fifth Indiana Jones movie would be Harrison Ford’s last. Then he suggested something even more interesting, that if the franchise were to continue, he’d want a woman to take on the lead role. Because Spielberg has a lot on his plate, we took it upon ourselves to cast the role of “Indiana Joan” for him.


Saoirse Ronan

Andrew Gruttadaro: My requirements for this are four-fold: 1. The actress can’t already be under contract for either Marvel or DC; 2. The actress has to be so effortlessly charming that everyone else seems lame in comparison; 3. The actress has to be a convincing fighter; and 4. The actress can’t have just starred in what is basically the female version of Indiana Jones. The first requirement knocks out a lot of worthy candidates: Gal Gadot, ScarJo, Karen Gillan, Zoe Saldana, and Danai Gurira. The second requirement knocks out good-but-not-exactly-charming actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone. The third requirement knocks out my runner-up choice, Tiffany Haddish, who would be so goddamn funny in this environment, but not exactly right. And the fourth requirement knocks out Alicia Vikander, who just played Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.

And so that leaves one ideal candidate: Lady Bird herself, Saoirse Ronan. Think about it: She’s ridiculously charming and disarmingly cool (especially if you let her keep her accent), and if you’re wondering whether she can fight, uh, may I direct you to 2011’s Hanna?

Also, she has not recently played Tomb Raider, so it’s perfect.

Gina Rodriguez

Kate Knibbs: Spielberg should cast Gina Rodriguez, who proved she could play a gritty adventurer in Annihilation. She’s got the comedic timing to nail Indy’s one-liners, the physical-comedy chops to do the “Indiana’s afraid of snakes” scenes justice, and also, I just want Gina Rodriguez to be in everything. I’m not quite sure who to cast as Young Indy, but here’s another suggestion: Rita Moreno as permanently disgruntled Henrietta Jones Sr.

Tessa Thompson

Michael Baumann: Knibbs checked her email before I did and took Gina Rodriguez, who is probably the right answer. My next impulse was to stay on the Annihilation menu and pick Tessa Thompson, but I worry that she’s too cool. We forget this, because we associate this role with Harrison Ford, but for all his whip-cracking, Nazi-punching swagger, Indiana Jones is not primarily a cool ass-kicker. On the spectrum of Harrison Ford roles, he’s much more Jack Ryan (the put-upon academic) than Han Solo—and even then, more of an Alec Baldwin Jack Ryan than a Harrison Ford Jack Ryan. And even though Tessa Thompson played such a put-upon academic in Annihilation, she did not wear a leather jacket and a trilby and tote a whip, and I worry that if she did, lives would be lost in the swooning. Plus, this would turn into yet another franchise that borrowed its star from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we need to stop the creeping MCUification of film at all costs.So I thought back to Jena Malone, whom I last saw stealing Jennifer Lawrence’s lunch money in the Hunger Games series. She can pull off the kind of constant simmering, inconvenienced-by-fear Indiana Jones look, and pair that whip and leather jacket with a Hall of Fame eye roll … Actually, you know what? I looked up and my entire argument for Jena Malone is actually about Tessa Thompson. So while Jena Malone is great and should be in more stuff, I realize now that Tessa Thompson has been the true Indiana Jones all along.

Carrie Coon

Lindsay Zoladz: OK, first of all—to address the main thing filmmakers usually get wrong when they start dreaming up female-driven reboots—this pick is age-appropriate. Harrison Ford was 39 when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out; Carrie Coon is currently 37. I’m sure some producer attached to this project is currently fantasizing about casting a lithe 18-year-old as a tenured archaeology professor, but sir (and you’re definitely a sir), if you’re reading this, please don’t do that.

Steven Spielberg already knows that Carrie Coon rules, because she held her own beside Meryl Streep’s caftans in The Post. But Coon was so underappreciated and under-Emmy-nominated for her fearless portrayal of Nora Durst on The Leftovers that I’ve spent the months since the show’s final departure wishing that she’d finally get the mainstream recognition (and paychecks!) she deserves. A turn as Ms. Indiana Jones might not be the most artistically rewarding thing for her, but it would certainly be a way to level up in the public eye. Also, most crucially, she would look cool in the hat.

Rebecca Hall

Kate Halliwell: The elegant British star of various period dramas and indies like Christine and Permission may not seem like an obvious choice for an action star, but hear me out. We already know she’d nail the whole Professor Jones bit of the character—just watch the recent Professor Marston and the Wonder Women to see her paralyze students with a mere glance. She’s also—and I mean this in the best way—kind of a geek. I think that’s what has to separate a potential female Indy from Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft. We’ve already got Alicia Vikander running around deadlifting ancient artifacts; give me a nerdy, bookish professor with a book in one hand, a whip in the other, and a healthy fear of snakes. (Lastly, we already know Hall’s good with a length of rope—mastering Indy’s whip should be no problem.)

Zhang Ziyi

Miles Surrey: This might actually need a disclaimer, because after seeing Zhang Ziyi in The Cloverfield Paradox this year, it looks like she hasn’t aged a day since 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Zhang might’ve already found the Holy Grail.

Zhang is a dynamic actress and a bona fide action star; the blame is on Hollywood for not putting her in anything worthy of her talents (let us never speak of The Cloverfield Paradox or Rush Hour 2 again) while she continued to thrive in China (The Grandmaster, House of Flying Daggers). Letting Zhang helm the Indiana Jones franchise wouldn’t just inspire a long-overdue stateside breakout, but it’d put the movie in very capable hands—hands that can do this:

It’s not Harrison Ford nonchalantly and iconically shooting a swordsman because he had on-set diarrhea, but shouldn’t an Indiana Jones reboot be trying something new anyway?