While much of the attention regarding Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny has been — understandably — on Harrison Ford, plus the franchise finale’s renowned and much-loved additions in Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Mads Mikkelson, the film also welcomes a (very) fresh-faced newcomer into the globe-trotting historical adventure mix.
In his feature debut and first English-speaking role, French actor Ethann Isidore, 16, appears about halfway into the Lucasfilm movie as Teddy Kumar, the sneaky sidekick of Waller-Bridge’s relic-stealing Helena Shaw. From there on in, the teenager — who was just 14 years old when he was cast and turned 15 during the shoot — is a regular presence on screen, heavily involved in the film’s biggest action sequences, including tuk-tuk races, airborne pursuits and the Dial of Destiny‘s rather spectacular time-twisting climax.
Born on the outskirts of Paris and of Mauritian descent, Isidore was already a “huge fan” of Indiana Jones years before the long-awaited final movie came his way (and despite being more than two decades younger than the original trilogy). But he doesn’t appear to have been starstruck by its iconic whip-cracking lead, with Ford pulling faces at him as they filmed scenes together (on one occasion he was laughing so hard that director James Mangold kept having to tell him to concentrate). He and Waller-Bridge, he says, developed their own special handshake.
Such was the friendship he developed with his co-stars that at the end of the 8-month-shoot, the two presented their young companion with an electric guitar and wrote Isidor a letter saying how much they’d enjoyed working with him (“one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received”).
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter from his grandmother’s apartment in Paris while on school holiday, Isidore discusses his special audition tactic (one that may well have landed him his life-changing role), the nicknames given to him and Waller-Bridge on set, his upcoming appearance in another epic franchise, and juggling time-traveling, Nazi-bashing adventures with schoolwork.
At the Cannes premiere, you just looked like you were having an absolute blast. How was the Cannes experience for you?
Cannes was amazing. It feels like you’re in a dream. And everything is so fancy. I’ve never seen anything like it before. And there are all these stars around you. You feel like you’re on top of the world. And it also feels like there are all these fireworks going off when photographers are taking pictures of you.
Did you manage to chat with any other stars?
I didn’t really speak to anyone. I was staying at the Carlton, which was the same hotel as Leonardo DiCaprio. But I left the day he arrived at the hotel.
Have you been part of the Dial of Destiny‘s big global tour since then?
Well, I went to LA, but I didn’t go to Berlin with the other members of the cast, and I didn’t go to Italy. But that’s fine because I went to the Paris premiere. And I was really happy about it because I was the only member of the cast there, so everyone was asking me questions. I had to go on stage to speak to around 2,600 people — it feels like you’re God!
I’m sure you’ve been asked this question thousands of times already, but how did you get to be part of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny?
I was coming back from school and my mom told me that my agent had received a call from a casting director asking me to do an audition for a “very famous adventure franchise.” This was in Paris. So I went there and I didn’t think I was going to be chosen. Because there were so many kids in the waiting room — about 20 other kids. I thought, “yup, not me.” Then I went to the audition. And they called me back, asking for me to meet with James Mangold in London two weeks later. I met him and he told me he liked what I did. And then, two days later, they called me and said I was going to play in Indiana Jones.
Wow, that was it? Can you remember what you did in the audition?
I did the same in Paris and in London. I had lines to learn, but there’s something I do for every casting audition, which is I learn my lines at the last minute, like the night before, so it’s more natural in the audition and to take away the pressure. And it kind of works!
It clearly does. Where were you when you got the call and what did you do?
I was actually on London Bridge in front of Big Ben. I was with my family as we were in London for a week. But we called my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, my grandma, my grandfather, my entire family from Mauritius, where we’re originally from. I think even the neighbors got a call.
The original Indiana Jones films were already getting quite old when I was your age, a very, very long time ago. Did you know them or did you have to quickly watch them before the audition?
Oh, I definitely knew them — I used to watch all these movies with my family when was I younger. I had the DVD collector pack. And I also had the Lego Indiana Jones game on Xbox. And I used to make Indiana Jones short films with my cousins when I was about four. I’d play a kid Indiana Jones who was looking for animals. I don’t know why. I was a big fan!
Most of your scenes are with Phoebe Waller-Bridge. How was it working with her?
She’s really nice and very funny. She kept making jokes with me and the entire cast. We even had a personal handshake! They would call us Bonnie and Clyde on set. I had a line in the original script, where I say we’re Bonnie and Clyde. It didn’t make it into the movie, but it stayed in people’s minds, and on set that’s what we were called.
Harrison Ford doesn’t seem like an easy guy to amuse. Did you manage to make him laugh? Was he good fun to be around?
When you make Harrison laugh, you do feel really proud of yourself, basically like you could make anyone laugh. But I had the time of my life making jokes with him and we’d make fun of each other. I remember James Mangold kept telling me to concentrate because I was laughing too much during one scene, but it was just because Harrison was making faces. So it was all Harrison’s fault.
There’s so much going on in the film — tuk-tuk races, adventures on boats and that spectacular climax. How much of it was real and not done in a studio in front of a green screen?
Actually, most of it was real — we traveled to Sicily and Morocco, and the New York scenes were shot in Glasgow. And even on the boat — we were actually out in the ocean.
Do you have a favorite moment from the entire production?
I think it was the last week because Harrison and Phoebe bought me an electric guitar. They also gave me a letter and they signed it, telling me that I was doing a great job and that it was awesome working with me. I was so happy — I cried when got it. It was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. I’ve got the letter on the wall in my room.
Why did they get you a guitar?
Because I used to talk about music with Harrison and Phoebe, and about rock and roll, which I love. And also they know I’m a musician. I play the piano. So they knew I was going to play it.
Did you manage to take home any other souvenirs from the set?
Yeah, I have a rope. There was a scene way where I have to tie a rope on a boat — it was really brief, like two seconds. But I kept it because I just wanted to have something from the film.
What were you doing with schoolwork during the shoot?
I had teachers on set on Zoom. I had at least three hours of school every day. And every Friday I’d have an exam — it’s one that all 14 and 15-year-olds in France have to do. And it was quite complicated because I’d be on set and like “Yeah, I’m gonna fight Nazis. And then: Math.”
Are you back at school now?
Well, it’s the holidays now, but yeah, I’ve been back to school.
How was returning to post-Indy normality?
It felt really weird like you were in a dream and someone smacked you and told you to wake up. And you see your math teacher again, and you’re like, well, so this is reality.
And what do your friends and classmates think about the fact you’re in Indiana Jones with Harrison Ford?
At first, they didn’t believe me. I was really proud of it, but first when I told them they were like ‘yeah, yeah, yeah.’ So I had to show them photos to prove I wasn’t lying. But my friends have been amazing and they haven’t changed since they found out. So I’m happy about that because I was scared people would going to change. So life is good!
Besides school, what’s next for you?
I have a role in the Walking Dead spin-off about Daryl Dixon. We filmed that last year — it was really fun to see zombies everywhere. I can’t say much about that though.
So do you now have agents in the U.S.?
Not yet, but my French agents are working on it. We’re going to have some meetings. We’re also waiting for the release to see what’s going to happen next.
And now you’ve starred in a major film series that you were already a fan of yourself, is there anything else that you’d love to do?
I’d love to be involved in a Spider-Man movie. I have a lot of Spider-Man comic books in my room. I’d love to play Miles Morales (the star of Sony’s animated Spider-Verse franchise) That would be a dream.