Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny sees Indiana Jones in the Autumn of his life, retiring from teaching, and living alone in New York. However, this isn’t the future for Indy that we’d hoped for at the end of 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
That film saw Dr. Jones making an honest woman out of Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) by walking her down the aisle with their son Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) watching on happily.
After tying the knot in this bucolic scene, the door of the church blows open, and Indy’s fedora lands at the feet of Mutt. John Williams’ unforgettable theme swells as Mutt begins to place the hat on his head, before Indy snatches it from his head, putting it on his own head as he exits the church arm-in-arm with Marion into a seemingly sunny future.
It’s a happy scene that promises a bright future for the nascent family, one that suggests Mutt might follow in his father’s footsteps, however, the character does not appear in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.
We explore the story of what happened to Mutt Williams below, but first, we look back at 2008 to see how LaBeouf landed the role.
Mutt Williams in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Shia LeBeouf first rose to fame playing Louis Stevens in the popular Disney Channel series Even Stevens, which ran for three seasons and a TV film from 2000-2003, and won the young actor a Daytime Emmy Award.
He soon graduated to movies appearing in Disney’s Holes in 2003, then Constantine in 2005 alongside Keanu Reeves, and in 2006’s A Guide To Recognising Your Saints, before he broke through into the mainstream leading the 2007 teen thriller Disturbia.
By then he had caught the attention of Steven Spielberg who, as executive producer, cast him in 2007’s Transformers, which then led to a starring role in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Mutt, the rebellious teenage son of Indy.
Talking about the role at the time LaBeouf said: “This quest is really about forging and re-creating a family. First with Indiana, then with the others they meet, their unit becomes stronger as all this insanity happens – you know, each punch is bringing them closer together!”
Ahead of the film’s release, producer George Lucas saw Mutt taking the lead in a fifth Indiana Jones film telling Fox News: “I have an idea to make Shia [LeBeouf] the lead character next time and have Harrison [Ford] come back like Sean Connery did in the last movie. I can see it working out.”
Contemporary reviews of the film were generally warm (it has a 77% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but — through no fault of the actor's own — LaBeouf's character was not universally beloved. It wasn't his fault that he was written as the series' equivalent of Scrappy Doo.
The Independent simply labelled Mutt "a bratty James Dean type."
"Indy is joined, too, by Shia LaBeouf as rebellious teenager Mutt," adds the review in The Spectator, "who rides into the movie on a motorbike and is meant, I think, to evoke Brando but doesn’t."
Time Out said: "LaBeouf is quickly stranded in an interzone between his natural doofusy charm (visible even in Disturbia) and Mutt’s gearhead surliness, which never clicks or is even employed plotwise."
The Daily Telegraph was even more blunt in its assessment, saying: "Mutt... towards the end is almost proffered to the audience as the next Indiana Jones. That won't work. Ford, in his late thirties when this franchise began, brought a droll maturity to the role that the callow LaBeouf lacks."
Shia LaBeouf after Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Despite the publicity of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it quickly became clear that LaBeouf wasn't proud of the film.
In 2010, while promoting Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps at Cannes, LaBeouf dunked on his own legacy as Mutt Williams telling reporters: “I feel like I dropped the ball on the legacy that people loved and cherished," LaBeouf said in context of joining another beloved film for a belated sequel: “If I was going to do it twice, my career was over. So this was fight-or-flight for me.”
In a press conference at the festival, he went further saying: “You get to monkey-swinging and things like that and you can blame it on the writer and you can blame it on Steven [Spielberg, who directed]. But the actor’s job is to make it come alive and make it work, and I couldn’t do it. So that’s my fault. Simple.”
“I think the audience is pretty intelligent. I think they know when you’ve made... And I think if you don’t acknowledge it, then why do they trust you the next time you’re promoting a movie.”
“We [Harrison Ford and LaBeouf] had major discussions. He wasn’t happy with it either. Look, the movie could have been updated. There was a reason it wasn’t universally accepted.”
When questioned whether his comments might sour his relationship with Spielberg, LaBeouf said: “I’ll probably get a call. But he needs to hear this. I love him. I love Steven. I have a relationship with Steven that supersedes our business work.
"And believe me, I talk to him often enough to know that I’m not out of line. And I would never disrespect the man. I think he’s a genius, and he’s given me my whole life. He’s done so much great work that there’s no need for him to feel vulnerable about one film. But when you drop the ball you drop the ball.”
He continued to work with Spielberg, returning as Sam Witwicky in 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, before exiting the sci-fi series ahead of the fourth film which starred Mark Walhberg in the lead.
Read more: Method actors who took it too far
The next few years saw LaBeouf courting controversy by pulling out of his Broadway debut in 2013 at the eleventh hour (Alec Baldwin says LaBeouf was fired), promoting Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac by walking the red carpet with a paper bag on his head (“I am not famous any more” it said on the front), and scarring his own face for Fury, but he continued to work appearing in a number of acclaimed film roles including American Honey, and Borg vs McEnroe as John McEnroe.
In 2016, LaBeouf expressed regrets about working with Spielberg, telling Variety it didn't live up to his expectations: “You get there, and you realize you’re not meeting the Spielberg you dream of. You’re meeting a different Spielberg, who is in a different stage in his career. He’s less a director than he is a f***ing company.”
“I don’t like the movies that I made with Spielberg,” he adds. “The only movie that I liked that we made together was Transformers 1.”
Mutt Williams in Dial of Destiny
After George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, a fifth Indiana Jones film became a very real possibility, and it was confirmed to be happening in 2015 with David Koepp (Jurassic Park) writing, and a release date set for 2019.
Whether it was LaBeouf’s comments, or his increasingly erratic and toxic behaviour, it quickly became clear that there was no room for Mutt in Indy 5.
In 2017 Koepp told Entertainment Weekly: “Harrison plays Indiana Jones, that I can certainly say. And the Shia LaBeouf character is not in the film.”
This proved to be a prophetic move, as in September 2021 musician-turned-actor FKA Twigs took out a lawsuit alleging that LaBeouf abused her both physically and mentally.
In an email to the New York Times when the lawsuit was filed, LaBeouf said: “I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalisations. I have been abusive to myself and everyone around me for years.
“I have a history of hurting the people closest to me. I’m ashamed of that history and am sorry to those I hurt.”
He added that many of the allegations “are not true”. LaBeouf said he was in recovery and therapy over alcoholism and PTSD, adding he “will forever be sorry to the people that I may have harmed along the way.”
Read our review: Dial of Destiny is a blast from the past
As The Flash has proved, LaBeouf’s presence in Dial of Destiny would have caused a PR nightmare for Disney, so instead Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Helena fulfils a similar role to Mutt as the child Indy never had.
And Mutt’s absence plays a vital role in Indy’s final story giving the character a surprisingly moving coda that strikes right to the very heart of the film’s themes.
Talking about LaBeouf's absence from the film after the release of Dial of Destiny, director James Mangold said: “It’s separate from all past studio, political intrigue on movies I didn’t make. You were either going to make a movie all about the two of them [Indy and Mutt] or you’re going to have to find a way to not have [Mutt] around, because he was too significant a player in the previous film to just pretend he didn’t exist.”
Mangold adds, “I didn’t think his whole thing worked that well in the previous film. I just went towards something else because it was what was more interesting to me.”
LaBeouf meanwhile is set to face his trial for abuse against FKA Twigs later in 2023, and will appear in Francis Ford Coppola's long-awaited sci-fi film Megalopolis which is currently in post-production.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is in UK cinemas and IMAX now.