My Raiders At 40 Celebration… All Of It

In case you missed it, I spent June of this year celebrating Raiders of the Lost Ark turning 40-years-old. I put together a rather large collection of articles covering various Raiders and Indiana Jones subjects. Four decades of Dr. Henry Walton Jones, Jr. which took a lot of research, writing and editing to get it all done. As there were so many articles, I thought that I could put them all together in one place so they were easier to find.

So here they are, all ten articles all in one place. Just give each link a click and the articles will open up in their own window for your convenience and reading pleasure.

Raiders At 40: An Indiana Jones Games Retrospective

A look at every Indiana Jones video game ever released.

Raiders At 40: Indiana Jones And The Raiders Of The Lost Plot Hole

Was Indy irrelevant in his own film?

Raiders At 40: Indy Rip-Offs

Several films that jumped on the Raiders bandwagon.

Raiders At 40: Movie Sequels We Never Got: The ‘Other’ Third Indiana Jones Film… And More

An interesting look at several Indiana Jones films that were never made.

Raiders At 40: The Future Of Indiana Jones?

I ponder what the future holds for the Indy franchise after Indy 5.

Raiders At 40: Behind The Boulder

I explore the famed opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark and discover and interesting inspiration.

Raiders At 40: Is Indiana Jones A Paedophile?

There’s a fan theory floating around the internet that Indy and Marion’s relationship may not have been ‘legal’. 

Raiders At 40: Creating A Legend, Part One

The first part looking at the making of Raiders concentrates on the conception and pre-production.

Raiders At 40: Creating A Legend, Part Two

Part two of the making of Raiders explores the shooting of the film.

Raiders At 40: Creating A Legend, Part Three

The final part looking at the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark covers post-production and the film’s release.

Raiders At 40: Creating A Legend, Part Three

At last, after an entire month of Raiders at 40 articles, it is the grand finale of my grand finale.

So, the filming of Raiders of the Lost Ark took seventy-three days, post-production took a couple of more months. This is where all the special effects, music, sound and smaller shots that didn’t require the main cast (for the most part) could be done. It was George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) studio that took care of all the special effects. Long before CGI was common use in film. The first effects work done was for the big finale, the opening of the Ark. Just how the opening of the Ark would kill all the Nazis was unknown, even the script rather vaguely described the scene as ‘they open the Ark and all hell breaks loose’, that was it. While George Lucas and Steven Spielberg knew they wanted it to be a spectacular finale, neither of them knew exactly how that finale should look or even what should be in the Ark when it was opened.

OPEN ARK

For the task of creating that spectacular and very vague finale, Lucas and Spielberg approached several storyboard artists and gave them carte blanche to do whatever they wanted and display ‘the power of God’ their own way. One came up with the idea to have the Ark spit out a mass firestorm, another drew up a series of storyboards featuring terrifying ghosts, the another suggested that lighting should be what kills the Nazis. All three ideas looked great when storyboarded, so Lucas and Spielberg decided to use all three. It was artist, Joe Johnston who was tasked with making all three ideas work as one. Quick aside, Raiders of the Lost Ark won an Oscar (it actually won five) for its effects work in 1982, with Johnston being one of the Oscar-winning team. ILM were actually doing effects work on two films at the same time. Raiders and Dragonslayer, so the team were doing double duty.

The first thing to tackle was how to make a ghost look convincing on screen. The original idea was to have them be animated with hand-drawn art. Early tests proved to be a bit of a disaster and the animation idea was pretty much thrown out… Pretty much. Instead, puppets were used, and they were filmed underwater in a big tank… Well, a cloud tank to be precise. Steven Spielberg had already used cloud tanks in Close Encounters, so he already knew how to use them well. Most of the ghosts in the finale are just man-made clouds, but puppets filmed underwater were also used to create that floating element for the more detailed ghosts. Plus there was some use of an actor in a classic white sheet. Oh, and there are a few frames of hand-drawn animation in there too. All of those elements were brought together to make those ghostly apparitions that you see flying around the Nazis in the flick.

GHOST

Then there was the infamous face-melting. It was Steven Spielberg who came up with the idea that the Nazis should suffer a truly horrific and gruesome end… Spielberg coming from a very Orthodox Jewish family. Moulds were made of the three actor’s faces that were to be destroyed. Each of the three all had a different demise. Makeup artist, Chris Walas, was the man who had to rebuild the actor’s faces using the moulds. Colonel Dietrich’s (Wolf Kahler) head was hollow, but had inflatable bladders filled with air. When shooting the scene, the air was sucked out of the bladders and this gave the effect that his head was being deflated, as if all life was being drained from his body. Major Toht’s (Ronald Lacey) head was made up of several layers of a specially created gelatin compound. The head was then melted via an off-screen, high powered dryer. Finally, there was René Belloq’s (Paul Freeman) head, which was made of plaster. It then had a large air cannon pointed in front of it, a couple of shotguns placed behind it and even explosive charges. Inside the head itself was a thinly made ‘skull’ which contained things like (fake) blood bags, bits of dried latex and the like. The head was then blown up, the blood and bits flew everywhere… And it had to be filmed three times to get it right too. Only there was a problem, it was way, way too gory to go into the film. So the idea to superimpose a fire effect to cover most of the gore was added. Seriously, go and watch that whole face-melting, head-exploding scene in slow motion, it is truly horrific.

RAIDERS HEAD EFFECTSTHOT HEADBELOQUE HEAD

While that iconic finale was being finished with effects work, another unit was busy working on another iconic part of the flick. The way that Lawrence Kasdan had written it in the script, he wanted to use montages of Indy travelling the world in order to reach the numerous locations in the film. This would prove to be too costly, what with filming so many locations. So to save some money, and to pay tribute to the classic films and serials that inspired Raiders, Spielberg suggested that they use a map and a line to show the route taken. A lot of 1930s/40s pictures used the same idea, The Humphrey Bogart flick Casablanca as an example.

The very last thing to be shot was the (almost) very end of the film. Originally, the flick concluded with Indy arguing with the government when they keep the Ark for themselves as ‘top men’ look after it. Cut to the shot of the Ark being put into storage, and the credits rolled. But there was no resolve between Indy and Marion, there was no idea of how Indy felt about being screwed over. It was George Lucas’ wife, Marcia who pointed out that the film needed a bit more of an impact. So Steven Spielberg got Harrison Ford and Karen Allen together for one final shot. The scene filmed on the stairs of the government building was added. It was filmed in San Francisco and it added that final bite the film really did need. It showed how annoyed Indy was with the government and it showed that Marion stood by her man until the end.

It has been said that Steven Spielberg’s first cut of the film came in at slightly over three hours (I’d actually like to see that version). Raiders of the Lost Ark was an epic film sure, but it wasn’t a ‘film epic’ and Spielberg knew it needed to be trimmed, no one would sit through a three hour, glorified and stylised B-movie. Enter editor, Michael Kahn. Spielberg and Kahn worked at getting the film edited down to a slightly more suitable two hour and some change film. With his cut of the film done, Spielberg handed it over to George Lucas and Lucas held a private screening with an audience to gain some feedback. The next morning and Lucas called Spielberg and told him that he thought the film was great, but it just needed a bit more trimming. George Lucas got into the editing room with Michael Kahn and they cut out a further seven minutes from the first half of the film to tighten up the pacing. Editing that Steven Spielberg was actually pretty happy about.

“I would trust George with any movie I ever direct to edit in any way he sees fit. He knows the secret of what an editor can do to a movie, how he can enhance the film.”

– Steven Spielberg

SPIELBERG AND LUCAS

After the final bit of editing (which would go on to win an Oscar), Raiders of the Lost Ark had a runtime of one hour and fifty-five minutes (with credits). And with the film now fully edited and ready, it needed to be scored. There was really only ever one man who could provide the music to this George Lucas and Steven Spielberg collaboration, the mighty John Williams. Of course, Williams also did the scores for Star Wars, Jaws and so many other Lucas and Spielberg flicks. Williams gave each of the main characters in the film their own music with their own themes and ideas. Even the Ark itself had its own music. The Ark was this deeply religious artefact, so Williams gave it an orchestral, foreboding like tune. Marion as the romantic lead was given a softer and more gentle piece of music. The Nazis had a very nefarious and darker piece. Then, of course, there was the theme of Indiana Jones himself, the main Raiders tune that is one of the most iconic and recognisable pieces of cinematic music ever created. A tune you can whistle anywhere in the world and everyone will know exactly what it is. Of course, there were variants of those four main themes in the film too.

Filming done, special effects done, editing done and music done. Raiders of the Lost Ark was finished and ready to be released. It was a Friday, the 12th of June 1981 and Raiders hit cinemas across America. A few weeks later in July, Raiders of the Lost Ark saw its international release and it soon became the highest-grossing film of 1981 and the number one flick around the world. Harrison Ford was catapulted into the limelight and he became a huge Hollywood star. Yeah sure, Ford was known because of Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back, but it was Raiders that made him a real star. The cast and crew of the film even embarked on a worldwide promotional tour, appearing at as many premieres as they could around the globe.

RAIDERS UK PREMIER

That opening fifteen or so minutes of the flick where Indy is introduced was always meant to feel like you just walked into a film already playing at the cinema. In the ‘good old days’, that is how cinemas worked, you paid for a ticket and just walked in to watch a film, start, middle or end. It’s where the phrase ‘this is where we came in‘ originates from. Anyway, Spielberg wanted to recreate that feeling of watching a film that had already started and that beginning was supposed to feel like the end to a film that you just missed.

“It’s not part of Raiders at all. It belongs to the film that comes before it, Raiders of the Lost Fertility Idol, if you like.”

– Steven Spielberg

Of course, that opening of Indy on a seemingly unconnected mission is also a call back to those James Bond openings. And the way Steven Spielberg got involved in this whole thing, back on that beach in Hawaii, was because he told George Lucas that he wanted to make a James Bond flick.

RAIDERS PAPER

Aside from making Harrison Ford a worldwide star, you can’t talk about the making of Raiders and not give Karen Allen a special mention. I mean, while she did play the damsel in distress, she played the character with balls. From the moment we are introduced to the Marion character and her socking Indy in the chops with a right hook, you just know this damsel was fierce. Also, she was the only main female in the whole flick too.

Raiders of the Lost Ark got a second wind of success after the 1982 Oscars where it was nominated for nine Academy Awards. It would go on to win five. Just for the record, Raiders won the Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley and Michael Ford), Best Sound (Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Gregg Landake and Roy Charman), Best Film Editing (Michael Kahn), Best Effects, Visual Effects (Richard Edlund, Kit West, Bruce Nicholson and Joe Johnston) and Special Achievement Award For Sound Effects Editing (Ben Burtt and Richard L. Anderson) Oscars. Not too shabby for a B-movie flick that no studio even wanted to make.

RAIDERS OSCARS

Theatrically, Raiders earned $384 million worldwide. Then in 1983, it was released on VHS, where it became the first-ever film to sell a million tapes. Paramount were very happy as they made $49 million from the video rentals alone, seeing as they put in $22 million for the production, that’s a decent profit. Spielberg ended up pocketing more than $22 million, which was more he earned from all of his previous films combined. Lucasfilm as a company made $21 million, but Lucas himself only got £2.5 million as the film’s producer. The cast and crew all shared $7 million in profit percentages as a bonus after being paid their normal fee.

All in all, Raiders of the Lost Ark was a gargantuan success. It took many old-timey cinematic methods and brought them into the eighties. It modernised action cinema by going back to its roots. It made Harrison Ford a household name. Steven Spielberg became one of the most revered and popular filmmakers on the planet. George Lucas and the Lucasfilm company became one of the most powerful studios working in film (okay, so Star Wars helped too). And a true film hero was born. Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark is the epitome of action films, a 40-year legacy that spans a multitude of mediums. Films, video games, comic books, novels, TV shows, theme park attractions and so much more. Everything Indiana Jones related can all be traced back to this flick, a film that no studio in Hollywood initially wanted to make at the time. One which most probably never would’ve happened the way it did if not for George Lucas’ love of 1930s serials and taking a trip to Hawaii after the release of Star Wars

RAIDERS POSTER

 

Raiders At 40: Creating A Legend, Part Two

Okay, so let’s crack on with this next part covering the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was the 23rd of June 1980 when shooting finally began on the film. Even though the production was set in the legendary Elstree Studios in London, that’s not where the first day of shooting was. The crew were around a hundred miles north of Bordeaux, in the French resort of La Rochelle, where they met a German film crew making their own movie. So we have an American production based in England, filming in France, crossing paths with a German film crew. Anyway, that flick the Germans were making was Wolfgang Petersen’s war epic, Das Boot. The production crew of Raiders struck a deal with the crew of Das Boot to use their submarine. Yes, that sub in Raiders was the very same vessel from Das Boot. When not in use, the sub rested in a submarine pen, that pen was also used as the Nazi base sequence in Raiders. Not only that, it was a genuine World War II Nazi submarine pen, complete with German writing on the walls from the war. An actual German sub and a real Nazi WW II structure too, can’t get much more authentic than that.

RAIDERS NAZI BASE

All of the water/boat scenes of Raiders were the first things shot, all in France too. Before filming began, the production team sought out a 1930s tramp steamer to be used as the ship seen in the flick, the Bantu Wind. You know the one that was supposed to take Indy, Marion and the Ark to London before they were boarded by Nazis. But they could not find a ship that looked right for the era they wanted. So a replica was built instead… Only it wasn’t seaworthy and couldn’t be used. This was just a few weeks before shooting began and they didn’t have a ship they could use. Fortunately, an almost perfect old-timey ship was found in an Irish port. The production crew commissioned the ship for a month and had it retroactively ‘downdated’ to look like a typical 1930s tramp steamer by the art department. It was then sailed to France  to be used for the film.

BANTU WIND

While everything was in place for filming to commence, the weather was not on the crew’s side. On the first planned day of the shoot, there was a rainstorm and the North Atlantic Ocean was too unstable to be used. The second day wasn’t much better either. Bearing in mind that the pressure was on to get this film made on time, or George Lucas would have to pay Paramount some hefty fines. Day three was far better and they got out on the sea to film what they needed. It took about a week to get everything required before the production moved on to Elstree Studios for interior shots.

It was the 30th of June when the first studio build sets were filmed. It was the home of Imam that was the first to be filmed. Imam was the guy from Cairo who translates the inscription of the head-piece medallion. You know, the whole ‘bad dates’ scene. It all just goes to show how amazing the art department were, because that scene looks very authentic and Cairo based… When it was actually filmed on a stage in London. But that’s nothing compared to what was next. Quite easily the most famous scene in the entire film, the South American temple. Yup, that spectacular booby-trap laden, golden idol stealing, giant boulder escaping scene was filmed on a stage in London too. A truly amazing set that looked like something directly out of one of those classic matinee serials that Lucas was influenced by. I don’t really need to cover this scene, as I already did that in another article.

On the 14th of July, filming began on the Well of Souls scenes where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, and yup, all filmed on those Elstree Studios sets. The set build was huge, in fact, it was too big and the two thousand snakes that Steven Spielberg originally arranged for the shoot just were not enough to cover the floor. At the last minute, another four and a half thousand snakes had to be brought in from Denmark to make the scene a lot more snakey. Three thirty-five-foot jackal statues dominated the set as Indy is lowered and then falls onto the snake covered floor. They were real, venomous snakes too. To ensure the actors were safe, Frank Marshall found and secured a ‘serum-man’ (as Marshall called him. However, serum-man couldn’t deliver on the serum, and he was the only serum-man in the country too. It really was a very dangerous set with real venom packed snakes and as the crew didn’t have a serum, the film shoot could not continue. After a few phone calls, the production crew found a hospital that had some serum they could use. Only when at the hospital, it was discovered that the serum was out of date and couldn’t be used. Finally, a useable serum was tracked down in France and flown into London. Even with a serum, the set was safeguarded as much as possible. The main doors of the set were left open with an ambulance just out of shot. Two medical experts in white coats stood on either side of the ambulance, with a syringe in each hand ready to act if someone was bitten. Everyone on set had to wear protective clothing, thigh-high rubber boots, extra-thick trousers and jackets, gloves and more. Everything was fine… Until the king cobra was brought onto the set.

RAIDERS BEHIND THE SCENES COBRA

Now, for those not in the know, the king cobra is one of the most dangerous and venomous snakes on the planet. A bite from a cobra can kill a human in fifteen minutes, they’re pretty effective killing machines really. And yes, that was a real king cobra on the set too. And yes, Harrison Ford was that close to it, inches away. Now, if you’ve seen the older print of Raiders of the Lost Ark, then you’ll know there was a sheet of glass placed between Ford and the snake. You can even see reflections in the glass of the older prints, which have since been removed digitally. Still, even with the glass between them, that must’ve been a pretty daunting thing to film. Here’s a little titbit for you. The cobra did actually kill while on set. There was another snake, a python, that was getting a bit rowdy and it bit the first assistant director, David Tomblin (he was fine). The cobra then bit and killed that same python, as if it was protecting the humans.

But there were even more snake shenanigans to follow. Vivian Kubrick (daughter of Stanley Kubrick who was filming The Shining at the studios at the time) visited Elstree Studios while the whole Well of Souls scene was being shot. Anyway, Kubrick complained that the snakes were being mistreated. Steven Spielberg assured her that they were not, and that the crew would take care of the snakes. She was not happy and called the RSPCA to file a complaint. The production was shut down for a day and extra measures were put in place to make the snakes more comfortable.

Both Harrison Ford and Karen Allen had to work with thousands of snakes on the set. While Indiana Jone suffers from ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), Ford himself loved them. In fact, he used to collect them as a teenager. Allen though, well that was a different story. She hated the things. Plus you have to remember what she was wearing for that scene too. Harrison Ford was fine in his Indy gear, leather jacket, trousers, boots, etc. But Karen Allen was wearing a white dress, her legs and arms bare, along with her feet.

KAREN ALLEN DRESS

Multiple times while filming, Allen walked off the set out of fear of the snakes. Her stunt double, Wendy Leach, had to step in a few times to finish the scene. Even the animal handler, Steve Edge, played Marion for a few shots. He had to shave his legs and put on the dress. So yeah, several times when you think you’re looking at Karen Allen’s amazing legs in the film, may not have been her at all but a male animal handler with shaved legs.

Right next to the Well of Souls set was the Catacombs one. You know where Indy and Marion escape from after crashing one of those huge jackal statues into a wall. That Catacombs set really was as tight and claustrophobic as it appeared on screen too. Only the bare minimal of crew could fit in it to film the scene, what with Harrison Ford, Karen Allen and a load of decayed bodies too. Tom Smith, who created those corpses, actually went to the London College of Surgeons and researched just what a dead body would look like after being buried for so long. He took measurements of real skulls and bones to ensure they were as accurate as possible. Smith then created multiple bodies in various states of decomposition, all in horrifically accurate detail. That escape scene took around eight days to film too, with plenty of dead bodies and dust having to fall on Karen Allen. It was not a pleasant experience at all.

“Huge amounts of dust falling into my eyes and mouth. Before, we had spent two weeks in the snake pit. At times it was challenging to figure out what I was doing, with snakes all over the place. It was difficult and unsatisfying in a way. I’ve done films like that since, such as The Perfect Storm, where sometimes you spent a whole day just drinking a lot of water, fighting for your life and screaming. But at the time (shooting of Raiders), I couldn’t figure out what it had to do with acting.”

– Karen Allen

CATACOMBS SCENE

It has been said that Kaen Allen really disliked Steven Spielberg’s methods of directing at the time. He never let her rehearse too much, or explore her character either. Plus, just going back to the Well of Souls scene for a second. Spielberg would often throw snakes and tarantulas at Allen to get her to scream more… Probably why she would walk off the set. After the whole Well of Souls and Catacombs escape was in the can, it was time for something a bit more ‘civilised’. Still at the Elstree Studios on another great set, it was time to shoot The Raven scenes.

No, not a big blackbird, The Raven was the bar that Marion Ravenwood owned in the film and the character’s introduction. Set in the Himalayas (filmed on a stage set in London), the very remote bar really looked amazing. Highly detailed and accurate for the 1936 setting, right down to the drinks. The furniture, the fireplace, everything was researched and re-created to be period-perfect. Aside from the amazing set design, the Raven scene also filled the viewer in on a lot of backstory and Indy’s history. Just a shame most of it was cut out of the film. Most of the dialogue that explored Indy, Marion and Abner’s relationship from that scene was cut, much to the disappointment of scriptwriter Lawrence Kasdan.

“Some of the best writing I’ve ever done was in that scene, but all that’s left is its beginning and end.”

– Lawrence Kasdan

Almost all of the interior scenes for the film were done, there was just one more location that needed to be covered. It was the 14th of August 1980, production moved from Elstree Studios and went on location to the Rickmansworth Masonic School in Hertfordshire. The school served as not only Marshall College (named after producer Frank Marshall), where Indy taught his students. But it also doubled for the Washington D.C. Government office at the end of the flick where Indy is told that the Ark will be looked after by ‘top men‘. With that, all of the set and internal filming for Raiders of the Lost Ark was done. Time for some globe-trotting.

MAP TRAVEL

North Africa was the first major location of the shoot. The backdrop for the German excavation site in the lost city of Tanis, the Tunisian desert of Sedala was the location used (yes, the same place that George Lucas shot Star Wars at). It was summer in North Africa… It was hot. Perhaps that is a bit of an understatement, as it got to 130° fairly often. Around six hundred Arab extras were hired and they began to complain when there just wasn’t enough water. Steven Spielberg was working fast too, he had to, to keep Paramount happy. Spielberg would average around thirty-five setups a day. That’s not thirty-five shots, thirty-five setups. A setup, by the way, means changing all the cameras, lighting, etc to suit the shots needed. They require a lot of work as all of the equipment is moved into position each and every time. Films tend to try to use as few setups as necessary (around twenty to twenty-five is average for a big Hollywood picture) to cut down on the workload, so doing thirty-five a day is pretty demanding… in 130° heat.

Through the shoot, Harrison Ford did most of his own stunts. This was a huge risk as he was the star and the production was under massive pressure to get done on time. If anything went wrong and Ford injured himself, that could put delays on the filming, and delays would mean huge fines that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg would have to pay to Paramount Studios. Ford did suffer a few cuts and scrapes, but nothing that would take him out of the picture.

“It’s true, you can do a lot of stuff yourself. And I’m glad to, if the stunt is coordinated so that there is an advantage for the film in my doing it myself. I don’t want to do it for glory. But sometimes, I begin to feel more like a football player, a battered football player than a movie actor.”

– Harrison Ford

One such injury occurred during the fight with the Nazi mechanic (Pat Roach). It’s the part in the flick where Indy and Marion have escaped the Well of Souls and try to get the Ark back by stealing a plane. During the fisticuffs, Indy is knocked down and does a backward roll to move out of the way of the plane’s wheels. This was rehearsed over and over to ensure it was safe, after everyone was happy and well practised, the camera rolled. As practised, Harrison Ford rolled backwards to avoid the plane’s wheels, only his foot slipped in the sand and slid out towards the wheel. Ford’s toe got caught and the tyre rolled up his tibia bone, stopping short of crushing his knee as the brakes were applied fast to stop the plane. Harrison Ford was pinned to the hot sand by the wheel. Thankfully, that 130° heat actually helped out as it made the tyre of the wheel soft, which prevented any serious injury, though he did tear the anterior cruciate ligament of his knee. Ford was checked over, bandaged up and he got right back to it. Just for the record, only thirty-four years later in 2014, Ford fractured his tibia bone on the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

After that, it was onto filming one of the greatest chase sequences ever. The awesome truck chase which involved a truck, several cars and jeeps, a motorbike… And a horse. A second unit directed a lot of this scene using doubles while Steven Spielberg was busy filming elsewhere. However, for all the close-up stuff that is very clearly Harrison Ford, Spielberg directed every second of film. And yes, Ford did most of his own stunts again. That is him hanging off the front of the truck. For the bit where Indy goes under the truck, that was a stunt double, but Ford was actually being dragged along the ground behind the truck (very slowly, the footage was sped up in post-production). Also, to keep the blood down to a minimum during this scene (to avoid a stricter age rating), instead of liquid, a red powder was used instead. Only the powder was made using cayenne pepper and when the squibs exploded, they sprayed that cayenne pepper everywhere… Including into people’s eyes.

TRUCK DRAG

With the truck chase done, it was time to film Cairo. Only it wasn’t Cairo, filming was done in the city of Kairouan in Tunisia. The first thing that had to be done was the removal of more than three hundred and fifty TV aerials from the roofs of the buildings. I guess 1980s tech doesn’t belong in a film set in 1936. This is also where one of the more well known behind the scenes stories of Raiders happened. During the iconic swordsman scene, where the big Arab guy shows off his sword skills. In the script, a big fight scene between whip and sword was written and it was even rehearsed several times too. However, pretty much everyone on the crew had come down with a nasty bout of dysentery due to the food in Tunisia. Everyone except Steven Spielberg, as he had brought some canned food with him from London and just ate that. Anyway, to put it politely, Ford had to keep running off to the toilet every few minutes and wasn’t really in the mood to shoot a big fight scene. He pulled Spielberg to one side and suggested a quicker resolution to the encounter and just shoot the guy instead. It was filmed, it got a laugh and Harrison Ford (probably) ran off to the toilet shortly after. If you do watch that scene again, pay attention to Ford’s face, you can tell he was ‘uncomfortable’.

On the 29th of September, the production moved on to Kauai, Hawaii to shoot the film’s opening. All the heavy equipment had to be lugged into the jungle and up some pretty steep inclines. Steps had to be built to aid with the getting to and from the location. But what a location it was, an amazing pool of water with a waterfall where Indiana Jones is introduced to the world for the first time. As beautiful as the location was, it was still in the jungles of Hawaii. The pool attracted mosquitoes, thousands and thousands of mosquitoes. Before every shot, a guy armed with a mosquito fogger had to spray the location down. The crew and actors were covered in anti-insect-bite oil. Even so, those little insects still made a meal out of the cast and crew.

The filming of the opening also requires two donkeys. Due to all the walking, the donkeys went lame and were unable to be used anymore. It took two days for two more donkeys to be found, only they were the wrong colour. The original donkeys used for some of the shoot were brown, the new ones that were found were grey. So the production team used a temporary dye to colour them brown. Then, they had to shoot on the Nāpali Coast in the northwest of Kauai. A mountainous and very difficult place to get to. So a helicopter had to be used to transport the actors, crew and equipment… Including the two donkeys. A crate had to be used and the donkeys were blindfolded, put in the crate one at a time and then flown to the location. Then there was the memorable biplane that Indy escapes in after running away from the natives.

BIPLANE

Yup, that’s the one. Anyway, it took a while for the crew to find a suitable plane to use. Finally, they found an original 1930s Waco biplane in Oregon. The plane was owned by Henry and Alice Strauch. It was painted and it was production designer Norman Reynolds who added the Star Wars reference. Once the shoot was done, the plane was returned to Henry Strauch in Oregon where he used it to fly to and from work. Oh, and there was a bit of an accident with the plane too. Harrison Ford doing his own stunts (again) had to run away from the natives, swing into the river and swim towards the plane. Then he had to climb on board while the plane was moving. Ford climbed onto the wing as the plane was about twenty foot in the air, his leg got caught in the right flap, which made steering almost impossible. As the plane flew behind some trees, it crash-landed. Thankfully, it was only a twenty-foot drop and the pilot managed to bring the plane down without any injures. Once the plane was recovered and the shot set up again, Ford did another take.

And with that, Raiders of the Lost Ark was ‘in the can’, as they say. Filming took seventy-three-days, within the eighty-five-day timeframe Paramount wanted. Steven Spielberg just made his first major film on time, for the first time. Still, there’s just the post-production and release of Raiders of the Lost Ark to cover… Which I’ll be doing in part three.

Raiders At 40: Creating A Legend, Part One

This is my final article celebrating Raiders of the Lost Ark turning 40-years-old this month. For my grand finale, I’m going to delve into the making of the film and I’ve been digging up as much behind the scenes info as I can. I’ve trawled through five different Raiders/Indiana Jones documentaries, a couple of dozen or so written articles/interviews and two Indy fansites to gather as much info as I could, and crammed it all into this one massive write up. So here we go, the story behind just how Raiders of the Lost Ark was made… In three parts.

It has been said that George Lucas came up with the idea for Raiders of the Lost Ark while on a beach in Hawaii. The well-known story goes that he pitched the idea to Steven Spielberg when they were both taking a break from making films. That’s a half-truth to be honest, as the idea of the film came before that beach meeting ever took place.

In 1973, George Lucas enjoying the success of his flick, American Graffiti. A coming-of-age teen comedy set in 1962, which went on to become a huge hit. American Graffiti even got itself a few Oscar nominations, including best picture and best director. Lucas suddenly became a big name in Hollywood and people waited for his next flick with great interest. Oh yeah, American Graffiti also featured a lot of then-unknown actors. Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard got parts. Some kid called Mark Hamill also tried for a role, but never got it. Another young fella did manage to land a part in the film though…

AMERIAN GRAFITI FORD

While American Graffiti was impressing audiences and the Oscar committee, Lucas was already outlining his next flick. George Lucas was a big fan of the old matinee serials of the 1930s, serials like Zorro’s Fighting Legion and Flash Gordon. That was when Lucas began to wonder why they don’t make films like that anymore? High-adventure, swashbuckling, globe-trotting hero pictures. He made his mind up, that would be the genesis of his next film, a 1930s style matinee serial, but on a much grander scale and with a more modern action slant. He even already had a very clear vision in mind, to revive the Flash Gordon character.

A huge adventure-type film crammed full of action, all set in space. However, Lucas could not secure the rights to the Flash Gordon character, not wanting to waste that action flick in space idea, he began to write a new story. Still set in space, still with that action-adventure theme, but with his own ideas for characters instead of using Flash Gordon. Something called Star Wars or whatever it was. It was 1975 when Lucas was finalising his script for this Star Wars flick and when he met film director, Philip Kaufman. Lucas and Kaufman got to talking about those classic matinee serials and that was when Lucas said he’d love to bring those back. Once he was done with this Star Wars flick, he would make his big-screen version of a high-adventure serial, he even already had the main character in mind too. Lucas began to tell Kaufman about this archaeologist character who would be a teacher by day, but an adventure-seeking hero by night. A character that would wear a leather jacket, fedora hat and use a bullwhip, who would travel the globe seeking out lost relics and ancient civilizations.

The two continued their chat, and George Lucas revealed that while he had a very clear idea of the type of character he wanted as his hero, he didn’t have any ideas of what he should be going after or a clear direction for the story to head in. That was when Philip Kaufman regaled Lucas with an old story he was once told about the Ark of the Covenant. A 1930s stylised heroic archaeologist character going in search of the Ark of the Covenant? It could work. Anyway, Lucas was still working on this Star Wars thing, so he put his whole archaeologist movie concept on ice, but not before offering Philip Kaufman the job of writing and directing the film once Lucas was done with Star Wars.

On the 25th of May 1977, Star Wars was released in cinemas across America… But George Lucas wanted to get away from it all, he was unsure if the film would do well, he didn’t want to sit around and have critics destroy his new movie. So he went off to the Mauna Kea Hotel in Hawaii to get away from it all and recharge his batteries after working on Star Wars for the last few years. He was joined by a friend and fellow bearded film director, some guy called Steven Spielberg. Spielberg had just finished work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind (set to be released a few months later in 1977) and just like Lucas, he wanted to get away from Hollywood for a while too.

STAR WARS

After dinner, one night, a very nervous Lucas received a phone call from Star Wars‘ distributor Twentieth Century Fox’s marketing chief, Ashley Boone. Boone told Lucas how huge Star Wars was, it was packing out cinemas across the country and getting rave reviews. A very relieved George Lucas’ mood changed overnight and on the beach in Hawaii the next day (apparently while building sandcastles), he began to talk to Steven Spielberg about possible future film projects. Spielberg said how he always wanted to direct a James Bond flick, but at the time, the Bond franchise was very much a British thing and they wouldn’t allow an American director anywhere near the franchise (true as all Bond film directors had been British at that point). That was when Lucas told Spielberg that he had an idea that was better than Bond.

George Lucas then began to pitch his 1930s styled, archaeologist character/Ark of the Covenant idea to Steven Spielberg. Just like Lucas, Spielberg was also a big fan of those matinee serials and said how he’d love to be involved, even direct the picture. Of course, Lucas had already offered the job to Philip Kaufman a few years prior, but Lucas promised that he’d get Spielberg involved in some way. Several months after that sandcastle building holiday in Hawaii and Steven Spielberg received a phone call from George Lucas. While Philip Kaufman was still on board to write the story of this Ark of the Covenant flick, he couldn’t direct it due to other work commitments. Lucas offered Spielberg the directing job… Which he snapped up.

The two friends met regularly and began to develop the film, while they were both working on other projects. George Lucas was busy as executive producer on Akira Kurosawa’s The Shadow Warrior (1980) as well as deep in work on a sequel to that Star Wars space film thing called, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) or something. Then, Steven Spielberg was directing a comedy flick starring John Belushi called 1941 (1979). Philip Kaufman finished the story, but it needed to be turned into a screenplay and Lucas told Spielberg, as the film’s director, to find someone he was happy with. Spielberg handpicked Lawrence Kasdan. The trio of Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan all met up in early 1978 to work on the finer details of Kaufman’s story and began to flesh the whole thing out.

LUCAS AND SPIELBERG

The hero was to be called Indiana Smith, the name Indiana coming from George Lucas’ dog (yes, he really was named after the dog), an Alaskan Malamute. Not the first time his dog has influenced a character as Chewbacca from Star Wars was inspired from Indiana too. Anyway, Steven Spielberg didn’t much like the name Smith, he thought the unassuming last name idea was good, but just felt that Indiana Smith might remind people of Nevada Smith, the 1966 Steve McQueen flick. So Lucas then suggested the last name of Jones instead. The Smith last name wasn’t the only thing that was changed early on either.

Indy was originally conceived as being a bit of a playboy, who used his expeditions to fund his hedonistic lifestyle. It was decided that Indy being a professor and an intrepid archaeologist was enough for his character. Also, Steven Spielberg envisioned Indy as being an alcoholic. George Lucas quickly quashed that idea as he felt he wanted the hero to be a role model for kids… And that perhaps a rampant party animal with a drinking problem was not the best springboard on which to base hero for a younger audience.

“He has to be a person we can look up to. We’re doing a role model for little kids, so we have to be careful. We need someone who’s honest and true and trusting.”

– George Lucas

It was the summer of 1978 when Lawrence Kasdan finished his first draft of the screenplay and handed it over to George Lucas. Lucas put it to one side and offered to take Kasdan out for lunch so they could talk, refusing the read the script. At that lunch, Lucas asked Kasdan if he would also write the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back. The original writer, Leigh Brackett, unfortunately passed away after he wrote the first draft and Lucas needed someone to tidy it up. That was when Lawrence Kasdan suggested that perhaps George Lucas should read his Raiders screenplay first, just in case he didn’t like it. That was when Lucas said that if he hated the Raiders screenplay, then he would have no problem in taking the Empire writing offer back… But he had a good feeling about the whole thing. After that lunch, the two went their separate ways. George Lucas read that Raiders screenplay that night. The following morning, he called Kasdan to tell him how much he loved it and insisted that Kasdan worked on Empire.

Both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg adored Lawrence Kasdan’s treatment of Raiders and couldn’t wait to get to work on it proper. But of course, it had to be put on the back burner as both Lucas and Spielberg were busy with other projects, and now so was Kasdan as he cracked on with that The Empire Strikes Back thing.

EMPIRE

There were more meetings as Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan continued to work their archaeologist flick through 1979. They needed a producer and Steven Spielberg suggested some young guy called Frank Marshall, who had only produced a handful of small-budget films previously. Lucas, Spielberg, Kasdan and Marshall met for the first time all together and an hour later, they were all shaking hands, welcoming the producer of their next flick. The production team were added too. Close friend and collaborator, Howard Kazanjian, joined George Lucas as executive producer. Douglas Slocombe was hired by Spielberg as the director of photography, after they had worked together on Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Michael Kahn was hired as the editor, again, after working with Spielberg. The backbone of the production team was in place and by the end of 1979, location scouting began with the aim to start shooting the film in the spring of 1980.

But, they needed a studio to actually pay for the production costs and distribute the film. Now, George Lucas was riding high at the time thanks to the staggering success of Star Wars, and the soon to be released sequel that would no doubt make some serious scratch too. Apparently, Lucas wanted to bankroll the entire film himself. However, according to Lucas’ biographer, Dale Pollock, in his book, Skywalking: The Life And Films of George Lucas, the bearded one was facing some ‘cash-flow problems’ and just could not afford to pay for a film to be made. The flick was offered to every major movie studio in America, and every one of them turned it down. This was due to something called the Lucas ‘killer deal’. The deal was that the studio put up all of the money, take all of the risks (if the film flops) and yet, still give George Lucas complete control over the movie with zero interference. Well okay, not every studio turned it down. President of Paramount Pictures, Michael Eisner, said it was an ‘unmakable deal’… But he also said that he had never read a better script and the chance to have a film made by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg was something that you just don’t turn down. Still, Eisner had a few stipulations. First, he wanted the sequel rights to Raiders and second, Eisner wanted to impose strict penalties against Lucas and Spielberg if the film went over budget and schedule. He got the penalties and Paramount would even be allowed to distribute the film forever (even with the later Disney buyout, Paramount still own distribution rights to Raiders and all the Indy films pre-2013), but any sequels would only be made with the full agreement and involvement of Lucas.

PARAMOUNT

Anyway, the deal was made and it was not exactly a ‘normal’ deal at all. George Lucas just didn’t trust Hollywood at all, he prefered indie (no pun) filmmaking. You also have to bear in mind that Steven Spielberg’s then-latest flick, 1941, was not liked by critics at all. It certainly was not as well-loved as his previous movies, Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And while 1941 made a profit ($65 million made over a $35 million budget), Paramount were very wary about Steven Spielberg’s longevity as a director. Bearing in mind that Spielberg was not the huge name back then that he is now, and he was seen as very much being a flash in the pan director who got lucky with his Jaws and Close Encounters flicks . So for Paramount to put up all of the money, give full creative control to Lucas and trust a director whose most recent film was rather ‘poor’, it was certainly an unusual deal.

“All he said was, ‘Trust me’. So we had Spielberg who had spent a lot of money to make 1941, George saying trust me and us having to guarantee completion money for a film that might cost $50 million. It was not a standard deal, to say the least.”

– Michael Eisner

Still, Lucas loved the deal because of how he was treated by 20th Century Fox when making Star Wars. The studio was continually interfering and putting pressure on Lucas. They even threatened to take the film from him and put it into cinemas without his input before it was fully finished. George Lucas almost ended up having a nervous breakdown, that was why he disappeared off to Hawaii when Star Wars was released, to get away from it all. But now? Now Lucas had full control over the film and with Paramount paying for everything… He had nothing to lose.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was given a budget of $20 million and an eighty-five-day shooting schedule. Steven Spielberg was pretty well known in Hollywood for going over budget and over schedule. See the making of Jaws… The making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind… The making of 1941. Every major flick Spielberg had made up to this point had gone over budget, gone over schedule, or both. So, in order to keep things under control, some written scenes and ideas were removed from the shooting script or simplified. A scene where Indy infiltrates a Nazi base and discovers several super-weapons and an experimental Flying Wing was removed. Then there was the idea that Gestapo agent Thot would have a mechanical arm that was also removed to save time. As this early concept art shows.

THOT MACHINE GUN

In fact, Thot originally was even going to be partly cybernetic. He was going to have a radio/communication device built into his head and that mechanical arm was going to work as a machine gun that would fire bullets through his finger… Seriously…

THOT MACHINE GUN 2

Also to keep things running smoothly, George Lucas wanted the production to be based at the legendary Elstree Studios in London. Big flicks such as Superman: The Movie and of course, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were made there. Lucas knew the place well and was 100% confident that they had the right people to work behind the scenes to get the film made, and most importantly made on time and within the budget. Around 80% of the film was storyboarded with over six thousand images sketched out. Steven Spielberg also had the art department at Elstree studios make scale models of each set and location, which Spielberg used to pre-plan out each and every shot in advance. There’s this great behind the scenes photo of Spielberg planning a shot over a model of the iconic dig site from the film.

SPIELBERG PLANNING SHOT

Everything was planned and gone over with a fine-tooth comb in order to keep the shoot tight, within budget and to ensure it was all filmed in that agreed eighty-five-day shooting schedule. Then after all of the planning had been done, budget worked out, locations scouted, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg turn their attention to the cast.

For the lead role, Lucas wanted an unknown, or at least, a very little known actor. An actor who wouldn’t be too busy with other projects if the option of sequels came about. Seeing as Lucas had already written two other story outlines, in case Raiders was successful, he needed an actor who could commit to (at least) three films. Auditions were held, but none of the actors were given a copy of the script. Steven Spielberg would meet any interested actors and just talk to them, give them the general gist of the character they would be playing and ask them to act as that character. If they were liked, they were asked to come back for another audition, but this second audition was a bit more specific and a scene would be written especially for them to act out. Nothing from the Raiders script itself (as to keep things top secret), but a scene that would hopefully show what these actors could do. As the production team whittled down to their final choices for all the roles, their auditions were filmed.

The casting director, Mike Fenton, championed for Jeff Bridges to play Indiana Jones. While George Lucas’ wife, Marcia, eyed up Tom Selleck. After a meeting, Lucas and Spielberg agreed that Selleck was the man for the job and he was invited in for a final audition where he was filmed in a screentest with Sean Young as Marion (YouTube it).

SELLECK AND YOUNG SCREENTEST

Tom Selleck was offered the Indiana Jones role there and then as both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg felt he was perfect. However, Selleck had just finished shooting a pilot for a TV show called Magnum P.I. for CBS. The pilot was a success and was to be turned into a full TV show. CBS refused to let Selleck out of his contract to film Raiders, Lucas asked CBS if they would delay the shooting of Magnum P.I. by a few weeks so that Tom Selleck could do both, they refused again. So Lucas and Spielberg were back at square one, looking for a new leading man. As an aside, while Tom Selleck was in Hawaii preparing for his Magnum P.I. role, there was a writers strike, which delayed the production of the show. Selleck could’ve done both roles, only he was stuck in Hawaii wanting to shoot Magnum P.I. while the production of Raiders was based in England. I quite honestly think that Tom Selleck would’ve made a fantastic Indiana Jones too.

It was now just a few weeks before shooting began and the film had no lead. One afternoon and George Lucas had Steven Spielberg watch and advance screening of The Empire Strikes Back. It was while watching that screening when Spielberg found his leading man. Spielberg told Lucas he felt that Harrison Ford was the right man for the job. However, Lucas was not so sure. He didn’t want it to be seen as a Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro type thing, what with Lucas already working with Ford on not only the two Star Wars flicks, but also the previously mentioned American Graffiti. It took some convincing, but Spielberg managed to talk Lucas round. Harrison Ford met Steven Spielberg in his home. They just hung out, playing pinball and video games, while talking about the film. It was during that informal chat when Ford really understood Spielberg’s vision for the flick. Harrison Ford signed up to play Indiana Jones there and then.

Both Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford shared a flight from LA to London to begin shooting Raiders. On that flight, they went through the script line by line and refined some of the rougher aspects. Around ten hours later when they landed in London, Spielberg and Ford and polished the shooting script as much as they could. Even though Ford was only hired as an actor, he had no obligations to help out with the script, he just wanted to.

“Harrison is a very original leading man. There’s not been anyone like him for thirty or forty years, and he does carry the movie wonderfully. Harrison was more than just an actor playing a role, he was a collaborator and really was involved in a lot of decision making about the movie. And this wasn’t by contract, it was because I sensed a very good story mind and a real smart person and called on him time and again.”

– Steven Spielberg

FORD AND SPIELBERG

Going right back to George Lucas’ original vision for the character, a ten-foot bullwhip was always the weapon of choice. Harrison Ford had to master it in a short space of time too, given the fact he was only hired a few weeks before the film began shooting. Before becoming an actor, Ford worked as a carpenter. During a job, he had an accident and broke his right wrist when he fell off a ladder. The wrist never fully recovered and so using a bullwhip became a lot more difficult than it already was. Raiders of the Lost Ark’s stunt coordinator Glenn Randall was the man who had to train Ford and train him fast. Ford picked it up really quickly though.

“I lashed myself about the head and shoulders for at least a couple of weeks before I really figured the thing out.”

– Harrison Ford

In fact, Harrison Ford got so damn good with the whip that he not only impressed the stunt team, he also convinced Spielberg to use the whip a lot more times than it was used in the script, as well as to let Ford do (pretty much) all his own stunt work too. So with Indiana Jones cast, and cast well too, they needed their leading woman.

Originally, Steven Spielberg wanted Amy Irving to play Marion Ravenwood (Spielberg was dating Irving at the time). However, Irving was not available… Or her and Spielberg split up and he pulled the offer of the role, depending on what story you want to believe. So the role was then offered to Debra Winger, who turned it down flat. That was when Sean Young was screen-tested with Tom Selleck and obviously, that didn’t work out for either of them. New York stage actress, Karen Allen was next on the list who had previously auditioned for the role. There used to be an image of Steven Spielberg doing a screen test with Karen Allen, with Spielberg playing Indy (as this was when they had no leading man cast) complete with the hat. But I can’t seem to find that picture anymore. Anyway, after a lot of dead ends, Marion Ravenwood was found and Karen Allen was given the part.

WRITING

As for Indy’s main rival and antagonist of the flick, Rene Belloq. Italian actor, Giancarlo Giannini was almost cast. Steven Spielberg really wanted him for the role too. But before a contract could be signed, Spielberg watched the controversial drama-documentary Death of a Princess starring Paul Freeman. After which, Spielberg offered Freeman the part of Belloq. The rest of the cast also included (mostly) English actors, what with the production based in London, that made a lot of sense. Ronald Lacey famously played sadistic Gestapo agent, Major Arnold Toht. Denholm Elliott was cast as Indy’s close friend and colleague, Marcus Brody. And the part of Dr Jones’ guide when in Egypt, Sallah, was originally written specifically for and offered to Danny DeVito. However, DeVito’s agent demanded more money than the production could afford… Or were willing to pay. So the five-foot and twenty-two inches tall character was given to the six-foot tall John Rhys-Davies. When Davies learned the role was written for a much shorter actor, he spoke to Steven Spielberg and asked:

“What do you expect me to do, have surgery at the knees?”

– John Rhys-Davies

With the script done, the cast in place and everyone at Elstree Studios ready, Raiders of the Lost Ark began shooting on the 23rd of June 1980. And I’m going to end this lengthy part of the making of Raiders here as both you and I could do with a break. Part two looks at the filming of Raiders of the Lost Ark.