For many fans, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the best of the Indy series. I personally prefer Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple Of Doom, but I understand why so many champion the third adventure. Last Crusade develops the Indiana Jones character in ways that the other films didn’t attempt to. We learned about his youth with the help of River Phoenix’s performance as the young hero, and also from Sean Connery’s role as his father. Last Crusade did a great job of showing us why the archeologist is so obsessed with discovery and adventure.
Richard Young’s role as Fedora is also a pivotal part of Last Crusade’s character study. Fedora helps to shape Indy’s style and mindset. Young is so convincing in his role that you buy Indiana Jones being inspired by him, not only Indiana Jones, but also Harrison Ford. Both Ford and the Jones character were icons by the time Last Crusade hit theaters in 1989. Young was incredibly convincing as an early mentor for Indiana, and that was no easy feat.
I spoke to the actor about his legendary work in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
How did you land the role of Fedora in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?
Every actor in Hollywood was after this role, most were A or B listers. They just wanted to be in an Indiana Jones movie. I had done an episode of Amazing Stories. It was season one of that show and Spielberg spotted something in what I had done with the Davy Crocket character in the episode Alamo Jobe that he always kept in the back of his mind.
After Steven had seen everyone, nobody really clicked with him. I got a call from Amblin and they asked if I could come to Steven’s office and have a chat. We just hit it off instantly. I told him about an adventure I had in Guatemala trying to smuggle out a Mayan bowl for an art collector and how I almost didn’t make it. He gave me a big grin and cancelled the rest of his appointments for that afternoon and hired me on the spot.
What kind of notes were given to you about the character, Fedora?
No notes were given to me. I was told to just grow my hair longer and not shave.
Did you view the character as the inspiration for Indiana Jones? What was sort of your personal mindset during the performance?
When I was offered the role of Fedora…the script I was given didn’t really indicate that Fedora would become the prototype look for Indiana Jones. I viewed my character as a mercenary. I had ‘Wire Paladin’ in mind. Remember the series Have Gun – Will Travel? Wire Paladin would avoid violence when he could but could be very formidable in a showdown.
Did you study Harrison Ford’s performance in the previous Indiana Jones films at all?
No. I did not want to do anything that resembled Ford’s behavior.
Did you ever talk to Ford about the Fedora character or anything relating to Indiana Jones?
We never discussed anything about my character. He did like how I looked in the Fedora!
What was it like working with Steven Spielberg?
Working with Steven was a dream. Loved the man! He always knew exactly what he wanted, but at the same time he was open to improvisational opportunities.
You shared screen time with the late River Phoenix. How did you view him as a performer?
River Phoenix was one of the most instinctual actors I have ever worked with. Great sense of humor and most importantly for any actor, he listened. He is a great loss to all of us.
What is your fondest memory of working on the film?
The whole experience was pretty great. The attention to detail by the crew, all craftsmen in their own right, was amazing. I was appreciative of the fact that Spielberg let me create my own character without any constrictions.
What kind of things are you currently working on?
After the experience of Indy 3 and the subsequent positive audience response to the Fedora character, I felt a responsibility to be a good steward of my part of this franchise. It seems over time the interest in the Fedora character has grown exponentially for which I am surprised and grateful. I have turned down most of my job offers because I did not want to destroy the iconic status of Fedora. I hope this doesn’t sound pretentious, but I answer a huge amount of mail from fans who have taken inspiration from my character. I have spent my time behind the camera as a fine art photographer and photojournalist. There is a rumor that Disney may be developing a Fedora origin story that fills in the gap on how he influenced young Indy. This is only a rumor with nothing confirmed. The fact is the roles I have been offered do not meet my standards as a film actor.
Is there anything else you want to mention or talk about?
If anything materializes from Lucasfilm/Disney Plus I’m sure you will hear about it!
You can follow Richard Young here: https://bit.ly/3ooInKr