Today, the 12th of June 2021 marks exactly forty years to the day that Raiders of the Lost Ark was first released in cinemas. Four decades of Indiana Jones is exactly why I started this very lengthy, multi-article celebration (I’m not even halfway through yet). Now, I have looked at a few movie sequels that we never got already this year, with more coming too. As I continue my celebration of Raiders of the Lost Ark turning 40-years-old, I thought I’d look into possible Indy sequels we never got.
There had been a few false starts in relation to the fourth Indy film before it eventually happened. Indy 5 is now in production and filming as I write this very sentence, which too suffered a few false starts over the years. But they did eventually come about, or will soon exist. Yet, there was one Indiana Jones film that we will never see, the third film in the franchise. Now I know what you’re thinking, Indy III does exist with 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Yes, Last Crusade was the third film… Eventually. But there was another third and very different film that was in early development before Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was made. After Temple of Doom was a hit, another sequel was put into production. While in pre-production around 1985, the film was simply titled Indy III. George Lucas came up with a bare basic story premise.
Anyway, George Lucas then gave his plot synopsis to Chris Columbus. Columbus being the man who wrote Gremlins and The Goonies in the eighties, before becoming a director in his own right. Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, a couple of the Harry Potter flicks and more all had Chris Columbus as a director. Columbus set about writing a script based on Lucas’ story premise for the third Indy flick. The following plot summary is taken from indianajones.fandom.com:
“It opened in a castle in Scotland in 1937, where Indiana Jones, while on a fishing trip, investigates murders by a ghost, the Baron Seamus Seagrove III. Indiana returns home, where Marcus Brody tells him to aid the zoologist Clare Clarke in Africa, who has discovered a 200-year-old pygmy named Tyki. Indiana meets up with her and his old friend Scraggy Brier in Mozambique, and discovers a suicidally lovestruck student of his named Betsy has stowed along. The Nazis, led by Lieutenant Mephisto and Sergeant Gutterbuhg (who has a mechanical arm), attack, and despite Indy’s best efforts in the ensuing boat chase, Tyki is captured.
Still, Tyki gave Indy a scroll which guides him to a Lost City via the Zambesi River. There, Indy, Clare, Scraggy and Betsy enter an uneasy alliance with pirates, led by Kezure. The Nazis attack in a giant tank, which Indy manages to rescue Tyki from by using a rhino as his steed. Tyki takes them to the city of Sun Wu King, where it is revealed Tyki is a prince. His father is then killed by the Nazis, and a battle ensues where Indiana is killed by Lieutenant Mephisto. The Nazis are defeated though, and Tyki takes Indy into a garden of immortal peaches, where Sun Wu King comes to revive Indy. Kezure eats a peach, but dies because he isn’t pure of heart. Sun Wu gives Indy his transforming Golden Rod, while Betsy decides to stay with Clare.”
The title was changed to Indiana Jones and the Lost City of Sun Wu King. Lucas made a few other edits to the story, like making the lost city in his story to house the Fountain of Youth, which would be used to kill off the Nazis. If you read that brief story outline up there, there are already a few ideas that carried over to Last Crusade. A boat chase, Nazi attack in a tank, a Jones ‘dying’ and being revived, the bad guy dying from the very thing that was meant to grant immortality, etc.
As Chris Columbus worked on a second draft of his script, things were changed. The Betsy character was removed completely and one of Indy’s ‘friends’ was changed to a bar owner called Dashiell who sides with the Nazis. Columbus even turned Sun Wu King into a bad guy, one that made Indy and Dashiell play chess against each other, using real people. When a piece (person) was lost, Sun Wu King disintegrated them… And I bet you thought Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had a batshit crazy plot. Then, after defeating Sun Wu King and his army, Indy and Clare Clark escape and get married. Chris Columbus also changed the title to two possibilities Indiana Jones and the Monkey King and Indiana Jones and the Garden of Life. I’ve managed to dig up a few more details on Chris Columbus’ story idea for the film, and some of them are really quite WTF?
From what I can gather, there was some upset over how dark Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was. So much so that this proposed third flick would be far more light-hearted. The opening set in a haunted castle, where Indy is looking into ghost murders (seriously) would see Dr Jones fighting off empty suits of armour, like something out of Scooby-Doo. When facing off against the Nazi tank mentioned in the above synopsis, it would scare off the animals of the African plain that the scene took place in. A rhino would charge at Indy, for him to grab the animal’s horn and flip himself onto the beast’s back. Then, Indy would use the wild rhino to charge at the tank, the rhino stops abruptly when the tank fires its gun. This sudden stop would launch Indy from the back of the rhino and the onto tank.
Oh, it gets worse. Indy doesn’t actually stop the tank and it rolls closer and closer to the lost city. This is when Indy’s two female companions, Betsy and Clare, ‘talk’ to a group of trained gorillas and get them to attack the tank (I wish I was making this up, I really do). The apes pull the hatch off the tank, get inside and knock the Nazis out. The gorillas then take control of the tanks… Get dressed the Nazi uniforms and everything (again, I’m not making this up). The now Nazi uniform wearing apes steer their tank towards another Nazi tank and destroy it with a single shot, the Nazi-apes then celebrate their victory. Quick reminder… This was written by an actual, well-paid and respected Hollywood writer. You thought Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had some stupid scenes… It did, but seriously… Indy fighting haunted suits of armour and Nazi gorillas?
Oh, and before I forget, the main Nazi bad guy, Sergeant Gutterbuhg’s ‘mechanical arm’, as it was described in the synopsis, was going to be a fucking machine gun arm. Further research reveals this was a left over idea from Raiders of the Lost Ark (see my making of article coming later for more details).
As for Betsy, Indy’s companion in this flick? Well, she was so infatuated with Indy that she tries to commit suicide because she couldn’t have him. She tries to hang herself with Indy’s whip. Douses herself in bourbon and tries to set herself on fire with a match. She purposely tries to knock a hundred and fifty-pound urn onto her head and more. There was even a scene written where Betsy is sexually harassed by a chimp. As previously mentioned, in later drafts, the Betsy character was removed completely… I can see why. I know you probably don’t believe a lot of that crap I just wrote, but do an interwebs search for Indiana Jones and the Monkey King and you’ll find several sites all reporting on the same thing with links to back up the claims. I mean, there’s even a read-through of the script right here.
Now, I have actually found the script online. However, it says it was for Indy IV and not Indy III. Plus it is dated 1995 and Last Crusade came out in 1989. So, was all this madness what may have happened instead of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? To be honest, I’ve found conflicting stories over whether this proposed sequel was going to be Indy III or Indy IV. I think it is very possible that it was originally written as an Indy III, but when they decided to go ahead with Last Crusade, it was re-worked as a possible Indy IV? Either way, here’s the script. Or there is another possible theory, the script is a fake/fan-made one. There most definitely was a Indiana Jones and the Monkey King story being developed as a possible Indy III in the mid eighties, but I honestly can’t find any concrete proof that the linked script is genuine.
Anyway, the story goes that neither George Lucas nor Steven Spielberg liked the direction that the film was going in. They felt it was unrealistic (no shit!). Lucas came up with the idea to make the MacGuffin of the flick be the Holy Grail. He also gave the job of writing the story to Menno Meyjes who came up with the idea of turning the Grail into a metaphor, and that by fining the Grail, Indy also finds his relationship with his father. Meyjes’s story was then given to Jeffrey Boam to do some tying up and he penned the screenplay that would (thankfully) become Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
And that was just one of the proposed sequels… One of. Oh yes, there were other Indy sequels that never came about. I’m not going to go into as much great detail on these ones because firstly, details on these are much more scarce and mostly seem to be rumour-based over fact-based. Secondly, this article is getting on a bit and I have more Indy topics to cover. So anyway, these are the ideas for other Indy sequels that never happened.
Indiana Jones and the Haunted Mansion was said to be a genuine idea on the table for a while. But Steven Spielberg was reported to be unsure about making another film focusing on ghosts after his flick Poltergeist. Ideas were stripped back and it became the intro to the Indiana Jones and the Monkey King film that I just covered. The screenplay for this more supernatural focused Indy film was by Diane Thomas, who also wrote the Raiders rip off, Romancing The Stone.
Indiana Jones and the Saucermen from Mars was one of the ideas being thrown around for a proposed Indy IV for a while. It also has quite a bit more detail surrounding it. George Lucas wrote the story around 1993-94, before handing it off to Jeb Stuart to do the screenplay. Reportedly, Stuart was struggling to make any kind of sense of Lucas’ ideas, so it was then passed on to Jeffrey Boam, who had done such a great job with Last Crusade. At the start, Indy almost marries a linguist called Dr Elaine McGregor. Guests at the wedding included Marion, Willie, Sallah and Henry Snr. But it seemed that Elaine suddenly disappears. Indy goes in search of his betrothed and he learns that she had been investigating the arrival of aliens on Earth. Long story short and Indy finds Elaine, they both crack a code on a stone cylinder, which leads them to a mountain. All while Russians are in pursuit, wanting to learn the secrets of the aliens for themselves. There’s action, Indy beats the Russians and discovers that aliens are real. He and Elaine finally get married and Short Round makes a cameo appearance at the end.
As you can see, this was pretty much where the idea for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was born. Aliens, Russians, Indy gets married, etc. As for why it didn’t happen? Well, George Lucas was developing the idea in the mid-nineties, then Independence Day became a huge hit in 1996 and Lucas didn’t want it to seem like he was copying the whole alien film idea. So he sat on it for a few a while with the intention to get Jeffrey Boam to do rewrites and work on the plot more, to then make the film a few years later when everyone had forgotten about Independence Day. Sadly, Boam died aged 53 from a rare form of lung disease in January 2000. After that, George Lucas just lost all interest in the Indy vs aliens idea… For a few years, until 2008 with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Indiana Jones and the Lost Continent was one film that was heavily rumoured to be worked on in the early nineties. After the success of the brilliant Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis adventure game from 1992, stories began to appear in the press that the next Indy film would be based on the game. From what I’ve managed to dig up, that’s a half-truth. It seems there was some early work on a flick where Indy goes in search of Atlantis, but it wasn’t going to be an adoption of the game. It was going to be a whole new story, but with Indy still in search of Atlantis. In the film version, it was going to be revealed that Indy had a long lost half-brother, who tags along for the adventure. A few names of who would play Indy’s brother were thrown about with Kevin Costner being one. Another actor’s possible involvement was much more interesting though. At one point, Tom Selleck was rumoured to be playing Indy’s brother. That would’ve made a nice little reference, what with Selleck being the original actor hired to play Indy before his contract with CBS over the Magnum P.I. TV show put an end to that casting.
As for why it never went much further than very early development? Well, it seems that while Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg really wanted to move forward with the idea, George Lucas was not so happy and wanted to push another idea for a fourth flick (aliens?). So as no agreement could be made, the film just never came about.
Indiana Jones and the City of Gods is the last unmade Indy sequel that I managed to find some decent info on. Written by Frank Darabont around 2003, this is the closest any film ever got to actually being made as the fourth Indy flick before Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008 came about. Indy was going to have a 13-year-old daughter with Marion, which, according to The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV show, is accurate. Yup, Indy originally had a daughter before Mutt Williams was ham-fisted into the canon. Anyway, the film was going to be set in the 1950s, Indy was well past his prime and had retired from his adventurous ways. With thanks to a Russian colleague called Yuri, Indy comes into possession of one of the infamous thirteen crystal skulls… Yup, just as with George Lucas’ Indy vs aliens idea, the crystal skulls were previously explored too.
Marion is brought back and she’s a bit of an adventurer herself, just like her dad. It was Marion who had hired Yuri to get the skulls in the first place as she wanted to try and find the Lost City of the Gods, with the skulls being the keys to open the city’s secrets. Marion convinces Indy to come out of retirement and help her find the Lost City of the Gods. With the crystal skulls returned to their rightful place, aliens grant Indy and those with him a wish. A spaceship tries to take off, but it crashes into the City of the Gods destroying it and any evidence it ever existed. Indy and Marion go back to the US and get married. The bad guys were to be former Nazis and Mutt Williams never existed.
As you can see, Frank Darabont’s idea eventually became Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Those who read Darabont’s script have said it was actually pretty good. Yes it still involved aliens (something I’ve never had a problem with), but Darabont’s script reportedly had better action scenes, better dialogue, it stayed true to Indy’s history and more. Apparently, both Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg loved the script, but George Lucas, not so much. Lucas took over the script and hired more writers to work on it. Frank Darabont became pretty pissed off with that and left the project, which, of course, (d)evolved into Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It has been said that at least one version of Darabont’s script is floating around on the interwebs. Quite honestly, I’ve not looked into it. But I did find this interview that Frank Darabont did with MTV back in 2007, just before Crystal Skull began filming, where he talks about his wasted time on the project. Here’s the main bit of the interview for you to read:
MTV: “Would you say one of those bad experiences is the time you spent writing the aborted ‘Indiana Jones 4’ script?”
Darabont: “Indy is definitely in that category, topping the list. It showed me how badly things can go. I spent a year of very determined effort on something I was very excited about, working very closely with Steven Spielberg and coming up with a result that I and he felt was terrific. He wanted to direct it as his next movie, and then suddenly the whole thing goes down in flames because George Lucas doesn’t like the script.”
MTV: “Did you ever speak to George Lucas directly?”
Darabont: “Yes! I told him he was crazy. I said, ‘You have a fantastic script. I think you’re insane, George’. You can say things like that to George, and he doesn’t even blink. He’s one of the most stubborn men I know.”
MTV: “Do you know if any remnant of that story lives in the one they’re about to start filming?”
Darabont: “I have no idea if there’s a shred of it left. It was a tremendous disappointment and a waste of a year.”
MTV: “I would think part of you still wants to share that script with the world.”
Darabont: “I would love it, but it’s not my material to disseminate. At this point, I don’t give much of a damn what George thinks, but I wouldn’t want to harm my friendship with Steven.”
Wow, Frank Darabont was pretty pissed off with George Lucas eh? It really makes me wonder just how much better of a script Darabont’s was over what was actually filmed with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? But with both Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg returning for that flick, they must’ve been pretty happy with whatever changes were made.
Anyway, that’s it. That’s about all the info I could find on Indiana Jones sequels that never quite made it. Some pretty interesting stuff, about five different films that were all lost for various reasons. Some of their ideas made it into both Last Crusade and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull eventually though. With Indy V currently filming as I write this (due to be released next year), I wonder if we will see any more previously abandoned ideas make it into the film? Quick addition: sites are reporting that Indy 5 is being filmed at Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland, England. This is said to be the opening of the film… Just like the opening of the unused Indiana Jones and the Lost City of Sun Wu King script?
I still have more to come in my Raiders at 40 celebrations, as I ponder what the future of Indiana Jones holds.