From Logan and Sandman to Indiana Jones and Raylan Givens, Boyd Holbrook has a knack for being a thorn in the hero’s side.
Holbrook recently returned to the big screen in James Mangold’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which marked the conclusion of Harrison Ford’s 42-year tenure as the title character of Indiana Jones. The Kentucky native played Klaber, a neo-Nazi wannabe who served as Jürgen Voller’s (Mads Mikkelsen) top lieutenant, resembling Holbrook’s role as Donald Pierce in Mangold’s Oscar-nominated film, Logan (2017). Despite some early reservations over the similar parts, Holbrook couldn’t resist the opportunity to work with Ford and help say goodbye to his iconic and daring archaeologist.
“Jim [Mangold] called and said, ‘Listen, I don’t want to offend you, but have a look at it,’” Holbrook told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike. “So the character was a similar second-in-command bad guy who does all the bidding. That was the similarity, and that was my hesitation when I read it. But then there’s the pull of, ‘Wow, this is the last hurrah. This is the last run of Indiana Jones.’ So I didn’t want to repeat anything for Jim, and we were very adamant about that.”
Dial of Destinyrevolves around the decades-long pursuit of Archimedes’ time dial, the Antikythera, as Klaber (Holbrook) wants to help Voller travel back to 1939, so he can replace Hitler and lead Nazi Germany to victory during World War II. Voller ultimately commandeered the Dial from Indy but severely miscalculated along the way, resulting in a group trip to the Siege of Syracuse in 212 BC. Despite Holbrook’s first-hand involvement, Indy’s voyage to the past still moved him as an audience member.
“It’s so elegantly done that it’s not farcical whatsoever,” Holbrook said. “It bottlenecks to a really touching moment where you feel that Indiana has earned this moment and wants to stay. When I saw it, I was surprised that it grabbed me by the throat. I was a little emotional, even though I’m so close to it.”
Written by co-showrunners Michael Dinner and Dave Andron, the second episode of the two-episode premiere, “The Oklahoma Wildman,” ends with Raylan beating Mansell to a pulp for threatening Willa, and Holbrook wants to make it clear that this is only the beginning of the lawman’s showdown with his murderous conman.
“Clement can’t get enough of it. He loves it. He loves screwing around with this guy to a point, and then it gets a little too serious. But it is a totally different dynamic than Boyd Crowder [Walton Goggins]. Those guys knew each other, and there’s more longevity between the characters. Being that this is a limited series, the structure is built from the get-go that these guys are gonna collide.”
Below, during a spoiler-filled conversation with THR, Holbrook talks Indy and Justified, while also looking ahead to Jeff Nichols’ long-awaited sixth film, The Bikeriders, co-starring Tom Hardy, Austin Butler, Jodie Comer and Michael Shannon.
Well, it’s an exciting time for you right now.
Yeah, it is. I did a lot of things over the pandemic, and now they’re all bottlenecking.
When I last spoke to you for The Fugitive (2020), the key point you made was that you wouldn’t have said yes to the project if you were asked to play the fourth version of Dr. Richard Kimble. So when you were eventually cast in Indiana Jones and theDial of Destiny alongside the second Dr. Richard Kimble, Harrison Ford, I said to myself, “I bet Boyd is even more glad that he didn’t end up playing Richard Kimble.” Did that ever cross your mind once you knew you’d be working with Harrison?
Yeah, for sure. I wondered if he was aware of things and what he would say, because there’s always a predecessor to something. And I guess you always want a little bit of approval if you’re in it for the right reasons. But it never came up. We stuck to the business at hand. And watching Harrison work, there’s a reason why I had that initial reservation.
There’s even a stretch of the film where Indy is a fugitive and you’re the one chasing after him.
I didn’t even think about that. It’s funny how everything just gets thrown in a blender and all of our soups kind of come together.
Other actors have told me that you get over the Harrison Ford of it all rather quickly just because he’s pretty cool and whatnot. Was that your experience as well?
Absolutely. Harrison cuts the mustard, man! He gets it off the plate really quick. It’s like a construction site. That’s what I also love about Jim Mangold. He’s just very to the point; direct, blunt and has a good sense of humor while doing it, which makes for a great work environment. Harrison had this saying on set, “Alright, let’s shoot this piece of shit,” and it just cut the air out of everything. So we gave it 10 tries, two tries, 20 tries until we got it. And that’s what acting is all about.
When James Mangold came to you with this role, it was probably an easy sell on one level because it’s Harrison Ford’s final Indiana Jones movie. But the flip side is that you had just played another lead henchman of sorts for Jim in Logan. So did he carefully differentiate these guys to you, assuming you would probably notice the similarity?
You’re a hundred percent right. You hit the nail on the head, man. Jim called and said, “Listen, I don’t want to offend you, but have a look at it.” I don’t know if it was because of what the character did or who he’s associated with or the size of the part. We talked about doing another project before this, but I looked at it and it was IndianaJones. So the character was a similar second-in-command bad guy who does all the bidding. That was the similarity, and that was my hesitation when I read it. But then there’s the pull of, “Wow, this is the last hurrah. This is the last run of Indiana Jones.” So I didn’t want to repeat anything for Jim, and we were very adamant about that.
I think the character was even written as German in the beginning, but I couldn’t figure out why this guy was hanging out with these neo-Nazis. Why was he not in Haight-Ashbury, smoking a spliff or something? (Laughs.) But then I got into it and thought, “Well, he wants to be a part of this gang or club because nobody else wants the guy. He’s just a vagrant mess.” And then he’s trying to learn German to fit in; he’s eager. So I just had to figure out how to humanize it and make a character that I could actually believe, instead of just the surface or veneer of whatever. So we talked a lot about that.
The term “trigger-happy” feels like an understatement in regard to Klaber, so he really did drink Voller’s Kool-Aid if he was that quick to kill for him.
Yeah, I thought about it as Voller being this enterprise that was starting up, and Klaber was getting equity in the startup as the first on board. So the loyalty and the dedication comes from, “Well, I’m gonna be first in line and at the top of the totem pole when we get to the new island.” He was a mad lapdog.
I based it all upon being accepted by Voller. It’s a classic archetype of approval. You’ve gotta find something real in there. Birds of a feather flock together, but I don’t think Voller’s ideology came first. I think Klaber was just desiring a real primitive acceptance that he’s never had. So, somebody didn’t love him.
Were you pretty blown away when you found out the characters would be time traveling to the Siege of Syracuse in 212 BC?
I was. I thought it was a bold, earned choice. It’s so cleverly speckled in throughout the film. Those seeds are planted, and it’s preparing you for it, subliminally. You don’t really know it until it’s happening and it’s so elegantly done that it’s not farcical whatsoever. It bottlenecks to a really touching moment where you feel that Indiana has earned this moment and wants to stay. When I saw it, I was surprised that it grabbed me by the throat. I was a little emotional even though I’m so close to it.
Many decades from now, what day on Dial of Destiny are you going to tell your grandkids about first?
Good question, bud. And God, there are a lot. You remind yourself every day that this is the last one, and so there’s a really special feeling that it puts off. There was a fantastic scene, and just watching Harrison work was a true master class. It’s mainly a scene between Dr. Schmidt [Voller’s American alias] and Indiana where he’s shot, and Dr. Schmidt is about to transform back into Voller. And Harrison just used the rocking motion of the [plane] to come up into this line of dialogue. So there were just moments like that that I got to be around all the time and soak up, and so it was a great experience. A real experience.
Before we get into Justified: City Primeval, I would love to hear about your time on The Bikeriders because I’m a Jeff Nichols fanatic.
Oh, I couldn’t be more excited about something. I did a little run here with TheSandman, IndianaJones and then Justified, which was a dark period, I guess. That’s just the way it happened, but with TheBikeriders, it’s a totally different character and color to all of this other stuff that we’re talking about. And Jeff is a national treasure of a director. He is Americana filmmaking. He’s exceptional. We had a great cast, and it’s an excellent time in history. It’s the early ‘60s when biker clubs were getting put together and culture was really developing. It’s great. I’ve seen most of it, and it’s really good.
So, from one trigger-happy lunatic to the next one, we’ve now arrived at Justified’s Clement Mansell. He’s a sadistic killer and thief, but the oddest detail about him is that he’s apparently a musician who refuses to share demos of his own White Stripes covers with anyone but himself. Sandy said that he doesn’t play his stuff for her. Could you make sense of that?
Well, the reason why I got into the show was because a friend of mine who worked on season five asked me if all the same people were still involved, and I said yes. And he said, “Run, don’t walk, to the project.” So that [detail] wasn’t in the book. I don’t know which brilliant dude created it, whether it was [co-showrunner] Dave Andron, [co-showrunner] Michael Dinner or [EP] Graham Yost. But they gave Clement so much humanity. He just really thinks he’s gonna make it. He really thinks he’s this undiscovered talent. And when all of this stuff comes up about his past, he thinks it’ll just legitimize him as this outlaw, disillusioned singer. But he’s really just mentally ill.
Do you think he genuinely loves Sandy (Adelaide Clemens), or does he just need her for the game they run on wealthy marks?
He trusts Sandy. He can trust Sandy, and that’s a big thing. That’s got a lot of traction on it, but Sweety [Vondie Curtis-Hall] is the one that he admires. Sweety is somebody he really looks up to, because he’s done the things musically that he’s looking to do. So there’s a lot of great relationships in the show. It’s fantastic writing.
So was it a painful day when Quentin Tarantino had to drop out as director?
Yeah, that was tough. That was how I discovered the project. I was offered the part, and things happened. We had a great time, and I hope to still work with Quentin one day. That’d be great. I know [Justified] is one of his favorite shows, so hopefully he’ll be tuning in. But yeah, it was great, man. It was a great experience. I can’t really complain. Things happen.
In the first episode, Clement instigates a high-speed car chase involving guns, and it’s quite eerie considering a very similar real-life situation happened to cross paths with your set. Were you anywhere near this incident?
Yeah, I had wrapped up my scene, and it took place in between my scene and the next one up. So I was a couple football fields away, maybe. But these things happen in big cities, sometimes, and luckily, no one was hurt. Fiction does imitate life.
Well, in the second episode, Raylan confronts Clement in relation to the murders of a judge (Keith David) and his assistant. And then Clement declares war by seeking out and threatening Raylan’s daughter, Willa (Vivian Olyphant), without her realizing it. Raylan then proceeds to unload a few fists on him in retaliation. Was this encounter just the tip of the iceberg for what’s to come between them?
Yeah, Clement can’t get enough of it. He loves it. He loves screwing around with this guy to a point, and then it gets a little too serious. But it is a totally different dynamic than Boyd Crowder [Walton Goggins]. Those guys knew each other, and there’s more longevity between the characters. Being that this is a limited series, the structure is built from the get-go that these guys are gonna collide.
You’ve mentioned wanting to find humanity in both Klaber and Mansell, but could you really pull that off, especially with a guy like Mansell?
I dissect the script and figure out what I am getting out of it. If it has heart, then it has heart. If it’s not that, then what else is it? Because it can’t be one note. I don’t want to give one note. And the great thing about Justified is that it’s fucked up and funny. That balances the show out.
*** Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is currently in movie theaters. Justified: City Primeval airsTuesdays on FX. This interview, conducted prior to the July 13 SAG-AFTRA strike, was edited for length and clarity.