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Frank Marshall: Harrison Ford Is One and Only ‘Indiana Jones,’ ‘Not Going to Do the Bond Thing’

Producer Frank Marshall expressed excitement about getting under way in the making of the fifth installment in the “Indiana Jones” franchise, and said he can’t imagine ever having another actor replace Harrison Ford in the title role.

In a Q&A on Monday after being named CinemaCon’s producer of the decade, Marshall called it “pretty sweet” to be returning to the film series that introduced him 35 years ago to director Steven Spielberg and to his future wife, Kathleen Kennedy, now president of “Star Wars” maker Lucasfilm.

Asked by Variety senior film and media writer Brent Lang about continuing “Indiana Jones” for even more sequels, Marshall said it could happen. “It’s all about the story. I think both in the ‘Jason Bourne’ series and on ‘Indiana Jones,’ we are not going to do the Bond thing,” Marshall said, referring to rotating different actors through the title roles in the two franchises that he oversees. “We think those characters are iconic, and those are the only actors who can play that.”

Marshall said the next “Jones” installment will not be a prequel but a continuation of the story from where it left off with “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” in 2008. Disney announced the new film last month, setting its release for July 19, 2019.

In a wide-ranging 35-minute talk with moderator Lang in front of hundreds of film exhibitors, Marshall also chatted about getting his start in the film business with director Peter Bogdanovich, about the inter-familial battle in his home for last year’s top box office film and about his thoughts on Screening Room, Sean Parker’s upstart proposal to bring movies into customers’ homes on the same day they hit theaters.

On the latter question, Marshall said he prefers the full theatrical treatment for his films, but was willing to learn more about Parker’s proposal, which has stirred a wave of debate in Hollywood.

“I think we have to take a look at it,” Marshall told Lang. “We haven’t heard the full story, so let’s hear the full story and then we can all make our own judgments. … But I certainly don’t want to do something that hurts the movies.” The acclaimed producer said there is a chance the home screening offering, at a projected $50 a crack, will bring back customers who no longer go to the movies.

“I think Sean Parker is a very smart guy, and I am open to see what he is thinking,” Marshall said.

Marshall described how a connection of his father’s got him into a party when he was 20 years old that turned into his first break into the industry. He met Bogdanovich at a birthday party for legendary director John Ford’s daughter. Marshall had taken a film history class at UCLA and thought he was pretty schooled in the business. Bogdanovich was just 27 and told the student he would soon start making his first film and might have some jobs open. The follow-up call didn’t come for three months, but it landed Marshall a jack-of-all-trades job on Bogdanovich’s film “Targets.” “I acted in it, found locations, built some of the sets,” Marshall said. “And I fell in love with making movies.”

Three years later, Bogdanovich called him again, to work as location manager on “The Last Picture Show.” More than four decades later, Marshall said he is close to securing the rights to an unfinished Orson Welles film, “The Other Side of the Wind,” which he hopes to edit and distribute with Bogdanovich. The film features another Hollywood legend, John Huston, playing a film director on the last night of his life.

Marshall’s  blockbuster career fittingly began with a blockbuster, 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” He then founded Amblin Entertainment with Spielberg and his future wife, Kennedy. Amblin produced “E.T.,” “The Goonies” and the “Back to the Future” trilogy. In 1991, Marshall and Kennedy founded their own company, with Marshall directing “Congo” and the duo going on to produce “Seabiscuit,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Sixth Sense.”

Marshall’s success has continued up to the present day, with last year’s “Jurassic World” ranking as the third-highest grossing film of all time. Despite that heady mark, Marshall noted that there is a “healthy competition” in his own home, with his wife’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” overtaking “Jurassic World” as the top box office performer with the turn of the New Year. “It was kind of an interesting Christmas,” he quipped.

This year promises several highly anticipated new releases: “Sully,” with Tom Hanks playing the heroic commercial airline pilot Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger in a Clint Eastwood-directed offering; “The BFG,” Spielberg’s take on Roald Dahl’s classic children’s story; and Matt Damon returning for a new installment in the “Bourne” series.

Marshall described the remarkable speed of Eastwood  as they worked together on “Sully.” The director had slated two days to shoot a total of eight pages of the script of the film — in which Sullenberger is questioned about his actions in landing his crippled jet. That already put the cast and crew on a breakneck pace, compared to many productions — which film about a page a day. But the shoot moved so quickly that Eastwood got the entire scene done in one day. :It was great,” Marshall said, with a laugh. “We just ripped through this hearing.”

Though he has directed several films and plans more in the future, Marshall said he prefers producing, which allows him to touch several films at once and to be “that support system to help others get their stories on the screen.” He said he worries about the future of medium-budget films, like his “Seabiscuit” and “Sully.” Marshall said he hopes “dramas about people don’t go away,” concluding: “We can’t just have big blockbuster movies. That is not going to sustain us. We have to have a balance of the two.”

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