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Indiana Jones: "I'm her godfather."
Helena Shaw: "He's mildly related."
Indiana Jones and Helena Shaw[src]

Helena Shaw, affectionately nicknamed "Wombat" as a child, was the archaeologist daughter of Basil Shaw, a longtime friend of Indiana Jones who was the woman's godfather.

Despite their affection for each other, Jones fell out of Helena's life around 1951, when she was twelve, following an argument between Jones and Basil over a section of an ancient mechanism that they had recovered during World War II. After her father died, Helena's own pursuit of archaeology led to her taking up a disreputable lifestyle as a con artist, drawing the attention of the CIA, and convinced herself that money was all that mattered even after she formed an enduring partnership with a ten year old street thief in Marrakesh.

When Helena remembered the dial, she sought out her estranged godfather in 1969 and they were pulled into an adventure across the globe together to reunite the device with its other half.

Biography[]

Early life[]

Teddy: "And it's not all bail money. Some of it's gambling debt and some--"
Helena: "Thank you, Teddy!"
Teddy Kumar and Helena Shaw, after Indiana Jones accuses the latter of selling her soul.[src]

Helena Shaw was born on March 12, 1939 in Oxford, England,[2] the daughter of Dr. Basil Shaw, an Oxford University archaeologist and professor who specialized in the study of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. His friend Indiana Jones, named Helena's godparent, knew Helena by the affectionate nickname "Wombat". After assisting Jones overseas in a mission against the Nazis in 1944, Basil returned home with a section of the Antikythera, the dial of Archimedes, and became obsessed with its theorized ability to predict fissures in time.[1]

Young Helena

Helena as a child.

At age nine, Helena was taught Polybius Square by her father through notes he left around the house, one of which directed the girl to stay away from Basil's brandy.[1] Around 1951, Indiana Jones visited the Shaw family at their home for the final time, exasperated by Basil's fixation over the Antikythera. Having grown concerned with the danger the device possessed should anyone reunite the artifact with its other half, Basil gave it to Jones to destroy. Jones, thinking that keeping Shaw and the Antikythera apart would benefit the man, agreed to take the mechanism and the two became estranged, all of which was observed by a young Helena.[1]

Eventually, Helena's father passed away and her godparent never came back. At some point, she took up archaeology herself and studied at Oxford. However, somewhere along the way she drifted into criminal activity, fostering black market contacts around the globe, dealing in contraband and amassing gambling debts. One day, outside a Marrakesh casino,[1] Teddy Kumar,[3] a ten-year-old street thief from Morocco, tried to lift Helena's purse. She hit him with her car door, repeatedly, but when neither of them let go, they teamed up to make their money instead.[1]

By October 1965, Helena Shaw had become a person of interest to the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1968, she was arrested by local authorities for black market dealings around Tangier where Hotel L'Atlantique, an establishment owned by renowned Moroccan crime lord Big Rahim, held an annual high-stakes auction for stolen antiquities. The mobster's son, Aziz Rahim, having fallen for Helena, arranged bail in anticipation of a wedding but the woman soon skipped town and sold off her engagement ring.[1]

The Dial of Destiny[]

At some point, Helena Shaw was contacted by Professor Schmidt of Alabama University who was interested buying the Antikythera. Unknown to her, Schmidt was actually Dr. Jürgen Voller, an ostensibly former Nazi rocket scientist brought across to the US that worked for NASA and the man who Basil Shaw and Indiana Jones had outmaneuvered to claim the device during World War II. To gain access to Voller's expertise to put men on the Moon, the US government appeased the man's pursuit of the artifact and Voller had connections in the CIA.[1]

In August 1969, confident that her godfather would never have been able to destroy the Antikythera as promised, Helena sought out Indiana Jones under the observation of Agent Mason. She journeyed to Manhattan and met with Jones, on the cusp of academic retirement, to inquire after the object. Having recently graduated from Oxford, or she claimed, Helena manipulated Jones into revealing the location of the mechanism. Although Jones couldn't understand her pursuit of a device which had driven Basil crazy, when Helena questioned if Jones wouldn't do the same for his own father, the archaeologist led her to the Hunter College archive where he had stored the dial. By the time Jones realized something was off about his goddaughter, Mason arrived with CIA backup along with Klaber and Hauke, a pair of lethal enforcers for Voller who was in New York City for the Apollo 11 ticker tape parade. Helena perceived the threat, grabbed the artifact and initially tried to escape with Jones until it quickly proved more useful to abandon the elderly archaeologist to deal with the agents and fled the city.[1]

After Indiana Jones made his own getaway, both he and Voller independently concluded that Helena was headed back to Morocco to sell off the Antikythera. En route to Tangier, she learned that her godfather had been framed for murder and, despite her complicated history with Aziz Rahim, she returned to Hotel L'Atlantique and reunited with Teddy Kumar for its annual auction only for the event to be interrupted by the arrival of the fugitive Jones who needed the mechanism or his goddaughter to clear his name. Voller turned up soon after and he and his men fled with the artifact when the auction erupted into a brawl. Godparent and daughter followed them outside where they ran into the heartbroken Rahim wielding a scimitar and an assist from Teddy led to a Tuk-tuk chase through the city with Helena, Teddy and Jones going after Voller and all while being pursued by the conflicted Rahim who couldn't decide whether he was trying to kill Helena or bring her back.[1]

In the end, however, Voller and his men escaped with the dial and Helena and Jones reluctantly paired up to prevent the Nazis from reuniting the Antikythera with its other half. As Teddy was no longer safe in Tangier with Rahim on the prowl, Helena brought him along and the three adventurers moved on to Athens where Jones knew a diver that had a boat which could take them into the Aegean Sea to locate the Grafikos tablet, a marker to the Tomb of Archimedes and the rest of the dial.[1]

Behind the scenes[]

"She's an adventuress and she's also a femme fatale. She's many, many things."
John Williams[src]
PhoebeWaller-Bridge

Phoebe Waller-Bridge plays Helena in the film.

Helena Shaw was portrayed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.[4] Holly Lawton played the young Helena for the 1951 flashback.[1] The character's forename and theme music were revealed by composer John Williams during his September 2, 2022 performance at the Hollywood Bowl.[5] Her surname was released alongside the unveiling of her first action figure on the Hasbro Pulse Indiana Jones Fanstream on January 11, 2023.[6] Director James Mangold and co-writers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth aimed to make Helena a different female lead than the archetype Karen Allen's Marion Ravenwood established in Raiders of the Lost Ark.[7]

Written with Waller-Bridge in mind,[8] Helena's casting happened when Waller-Bridge was invited by Lucasfilm Ltd. president Kathleen Kennedy for dinner while the two were in London, United Kingdom. During their meeting, Kennedy casually raised the fifth Indiana Jones picture as an option for the actor, which led Waller-Bridge to order ten wine bottles with which to devour the script and accepted the part during a later Zoom call having been so amused and moved by the film's story. A key reference point Mangold had for Helena came from Barbara Stanwyck's Jean Harrington character from Preston Sturges' 1941 screwball comedy film The Lady Eve.[9] John-Henry Butterworth compared her with characters typical of 1930s comedies, specifically akin to those from Ben Hecht plays with "machine-gun dialogue".[10] Waller-Bridge feels that Helena fits into the Indiana Jones canon in an extraordinary way, certainly counting with an energy of previous characters, especially the female ones, but with a uniqueness, fresh voice and mystery "from the off", flipping roles with Indiana Jones as the one trying to decipher the mystery of his female counterparts.[11]

Dial of Destiny Character Posters 06

Helena Shaw character poster for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

Helena's character was commented on by several of those involved in the fifth Indy film: Williams described her as an adventuress who also is a femme fatale,[5] Waller-Bridge saw her as a "mystery and a wonder", Mangold said she is "slippery, charming, the girl next door and a grifter" and Indiana Jones actor Harrison Ford called her a "pioneer in ethical accounting".[9] The Empire magazine noted that the role placed Helena in a "conning and comedic" environment which allowed for an action set-piece that has been a staple of the series.[9]

Kennedy commented nine days prior to the release of Dial of Destiny that an Helena Shaw movie could be "entirely possible" in the future, though she noted that at that point, there were no conversations for such spin-off, with the focus being on wrapping up Ford's tenure as Indiana Jones.[7]

Helena's mother is indicated to have died by 1969 in an Entertainment Weekly interview,[12] though Dial of Destiny doesn't directly address it. There, Basil Shaw only states that he has a daughter in 1944 and that Indiana Jones entrusts the Shaw family's care to their housekeeper in 1951 perhaps indicates that Helena's mother is long since out of their lives.[1]

Appearances[]

Sources[]

Notes and references[]

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