Steven Spielberg Chooses New ‘Indiana Jones 5’ Director: Who Is James Mangold And Why Is He Perfect For the Job?

Variety reports that Steven Spielberg will not direct Indiana Jones 5. He will still produce after he finishes West Side Story, but the trade reports James Mangold is in talks to direct the sequel. Mangold might not be a household name, but his films are. His latest, Ford v Ferrari, won Oscars for editing and sound editing. He also directed Walk the Line and Girl, Interrupted, but those aren’t the only reasons he’s perfect for Indy 5.

Steven Spielberg won't direct Indiana Jones 5
Steven Spielberg | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Mangold, like Spielberg, doesn’t do just one kind of movie. As great as Mangold is at serious drama or real life stories, he’s also made some exciting action movies. Here are some of the films in Mangold’s filmography that surely gave Spielberg confidence he could direct Indiana Jones 5. Harrison Ford returns as Indiana Jones in the film scheduled for release July 9, 2021.

‘3:10 to Yuma’ is historical action like Spielberg has done

Westerns were Hollywood’s first action movies with stagecoaches, gunslingers and fist fights. By the time Mangold directed 3:10 to Yuma in 2007, westerns had become gritty and more realistic. Spielberg has also made many historical movies from The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun to Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Mangold’s film is full of historic detail so you feel the dirt and sweat. It’s not a Frontier Town theme park.

James Mangold could direct Indiana Jones 5
James Mangold | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for 20th Century Studios

Dan Evans (Christian Bale) has to get outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) on the 3:10 train to Yuma. Until 3:10, Evans has to fend off other outlaws who want to intercept Wade. There’s plenty of western action throughout the film but the climax is a massive shootout through the town. 

3:10 to Yuma: Christian Bale and Russell Crowe
L-R: Christian Bale and Russell Crowe | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The Indiana Jones film began in the ‘30s and moved up to the ‘50s for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Even if Indiana Jones 5 moves up another decade, that will still be 50-60 years in the past. That’s not quite as far back as the old west, but Mangold has shown he’s equipped to create modern day thrills in historical settings. 

‘Knight and Day’ has big action like ‘Indiana Jones 5’

Right after 3:10 to Yuma, Mangold directed Knight and Day. That was more Mission: Impossible style action than Spielberg style. Star Tom Cruise played a spy who involves an innocent woman (Cameron Diaz) in his mission. The action-comedy was part homage to his other major franchise. 

Knight and Day: Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz
Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz | Jun Sato/WireImage

Still, big spy action can translate to Indiana Jones 5. Major set pieces of Knight and Day involved airplanes and motorcycles. There have been both in Indiana Jones movies. More importantly, the construction of an action scene is important to Indiana Jones 5. Nobody is better at it than Spielberg. Look at the airport sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He just builds story through fights and chases. 

Indiana Jones 5 won't have Steven Spielberg
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Of the modern day filmmakers who do play in Spielberg’s sandbox, Mangold is one who seems to have learned the right lessons from his predecessor. From Knight and Day to Ford v Ferrari, Mangold makes sure the audience knows where they are in the action. He doesn’t shake the camera to fake it. 

‘Logan’ shows James Mangold gets franchises

Logan was Mangold’s second Wolverine movie. He got the job on The Wolverine and did a perfectly fine job, certainly improved upon X-Men: Origins. With that clout, he got to make a real Wolverine movie. 

Logan: Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman | Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group via Getty Images

Logan showed Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) as an older man, set years further into the future than Jackman’s present age. His super powers are slowing down but he’s still a hero. Ford’s last Indiana Jones already advanced the character to Ford’s then age. Indiana Jones 5 could give Indy the Logan treatment. 

Even if Mangold isn’t that explicit, Logan shows he can come into a franchise and deliver an original entry. He probably won’t make Indiana Jones 5 R-rated like Logan was, but he doesn’t have to. That wouldn’t add anything to Indy, but crafting an adventure that’s not trying to be the same as it was in the ‘80s could make Indiana Jones 5 the sequel we’ve been waiting for.