Interview with the Ladies of Indiana Jones

The following is a Question and Answer session with Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood, Raiders of the Lost Ark), Kate Capshaw (Willie Scott, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) and Alison Doody (Dr. Elsa Schneider, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), who attended the Indiana Jones DVD press junket in LA, on Saturday October 11th, 2003. The following transcript of the question & answer session has been provided by DVD File, special thanks to Peter Bracke.

Karen, you started it all. Did you have any idea what this was going to become?

Karen Allen: No, I don't think I did. Because it was Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, I had a sense of something wonderful happening. But, certainly, I had never been involved with a film that created a stir like this film did. So, no on one hand, and, yes there was a sense on the other that there would be a lot of attention paid to it.

When you look at the documentary, you really see how difficult all three films were to make...

KA: People often ask me how tough it was in terms of the physical aspects of it. But I didn't find the physical aspects that difficult. There were moments when certain things were asked of me that I never in my wildest dreams imagined I'd be doing. Like dealing with snakes or dealing buckets of dirt being dumped on me in the catacombs. Doing take after take after take with dirt cascading up your nostrils and down your throat.

Interview with the Ladies of Indiana Jones

Harrison Ford: (in booming offscreen voice) Bitch, bitch, bitch!

(At this moment, Ford makes an unexpected entrance from stage left to uproarious crowd applause. Despite pleas from Firstenberg, Ford declines to take the spotlight away from the ladies and, after posing for photographs, quickly departs.)

Kate, when the second film came around, you kind of knew this was a good deal. So what was it like to consider this, as you were in a very different place in your career?

Kate Capshaw: I think I had only done maybe one or two films. Actually, when my agent and wanted me to go in and audition, I was still thinking that I was a New York actress only doing things like Sophie's Choice. I actually had a very arrogant response. I said, I cannot follow Ms. Allen, but I would really like to meet Steven. (laughter)

How hard was the production for you? Watching the documentary - which is extraordinary - you must have had a large amount of courage?

KC: Because I didn't really want to do the movie, I didn't really read the script. So actually I did not read the stage direction, so it wasn't until we were on location in Sri Lanka that I realized there were snakes and bugs and all that stuff. I really didn't know. I thought it was really physically exhaustive. I didn't think Willie really had more to do necessarily - and it wasn't just the snakes and bugs and elephants, although the elephants were very hard - but it was a long shoot for us because Harrison had a back problem so we had to go on hiatus and had to come back. So it was almost four months.

By now (pointing to Alison Doody), we know that this is a historic series. You were a Bond girl...

Alison Doody: Yes, I was. (laughs)

What kind of decision was involved in making you an Indy girl?

AD: I was just so lucky and so fortunate that I found myself auditioning. I was one of the first girls that they saw. So I had a lengthy period where I was in limbo, not knowing if I was being considered or not, which I found very hard. Waiting is so hard. And everybody was saying to me, If you get this, this is going to be such an opportunity for you. And I knew it would be. I knew it would be the experience of a lifetime, regardless of what happened afterwards. I think I waited six months. Something ridiculous. And at one stage I was just hoping to get told No, just to get it over with.

How rigorous was it for you?

AD: I also found it quite grueling. A lot of stunt work and running alongside Harrison. Just being wet, cold.

KC: The costumes were not comfortable at all in the second one. Except for the jammies. (laughter) They made me very happy.

Let me ask each of you, was there some way that you psychologically make these adjustments to accommodate for what is an extraordinary difficult experience you never had before and may never have again. How did you deal with that on a day-to-day basis.

KC: Fall in love with the director. (much laughter)

KA: Harrison was helpful to me in that he had done two Star Wars films, and I could watch him and see the incredible craft that he had developed. I had been working in experimental theater and the few films had I had done had been very collaborative processes. They were mostly about human relationships. I had never had a film where I had to spend a day sort of leaping from one place to another. Or pulling something across the screen. There is a lot of physical, repetitive detail work that I had a very hard time understanding how to do it well and what was really required in the doing of it. And it often would feel to me when we would go for days and I would have never a line of dialogue sometimes, I would just be hefting things across the screen at the camera. And not doing it particularly well, because it is a very technical process. So Harrison was very admirably adept at it, so I had the good fortune at the time just watching him and thinking, Okay, there is a way to do this without feeling so awkward at the time. It was just really slowing down and seeing that this was a part of the craft.

Mostly, what I had learned up until that point was trying to learn to forget that the camera was there. Because the types of films I was doing, we would be having an intimate conversation in a restaurant, and mostly we were trying to create a sort of private moment for the camera. In this case, I often had to know where the camera was at all times. Because everything I was doing, if i was going to do it well, was dependent on me being in the right place at the right time at the right angle. It was completely new to me. And challenging.

Alison, you had had some experience with action, so was it easier for you to adapt?

AD: Action-adventure is just so much fun. You are getting a great adrenaline rush by doing these great, big, epic things. I remember being told by Steven to just drive the boat. Harrison is going to be hanging on the back, and just drive towards the camera. And I was driving, and I look and see Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Frank Marshall, all of these people - and I'm driving very fast, and I look up and see (makes frantic, panicked waving motion to stop). So, it was extraordinary fun. I just enjoyed it thoroughly.

Now, these films are in the American film heritage, and you were all a part of them, you were there from the beginning, and now you get to celebrate them. I think the wonderful thing is that, just think of all the future generations that will see them on DVD. They are going to be calling you up, writing you letters and asking for your autograph.

AD: I get letters all the time. All the time. That is what I think is so much fun about, well, one the business, but also about being a part of Indiana Jones. It is always going to be out there because it is such a great film. But you had the chance to make people laugh, the escapism, the fact that you were able to do that.

KC: I remember when I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, it was one of the most exciting film experiences I had ever had up until that point.

So you remember exactly when you first saw the film?

KC: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Because at that point - Ms. Allen was very articulate about how doing this kind of movie is a very, very, very different kind of thing than what you imagine acting to be. You know, Steven would say, Faster. Funnier. Or louder. Or just, Again. So it wasn't sitting with your director and figuring out what your moment before was or what was the arc of the character. And that was where Harrison...he deserves all the credit from me as well. He said, Look, it is a B movie. You are giving it way too much thought. Let's just go, he took your hand, and watching him, you realized you were in a different thing.

But, when my boyfriend at the time asked me to go to the movies, it was Raiders of the Lost Ark. And again, I was going to the art houses in New York and foreign-language films and, you know, Indiana Jones - well, it wasn't Indiana Jones then, it was Raiders of the Lost Ark - but I didn't want to go. But we went. And from the beginning, I was just thinking, Wow, I am experiencing something I have never experienced before in my life.

Could each of you briefly tell us how you perceived your character, if you had any input into shaping her and if there was anything specific that changed because of your collaboration?

KA: I just fell in love with her immediately because when I auditioned I was given the scene in the bar where Indy comes in and I punch him in the jaw. And I just thought she was the best character I had ever read. I thought, Can there be a better introduction to the character than sitting next to this 300-pound mountain man in Nepal? I was sort of in love with the character before I read the whole script. I felt fiercely protective of her once we started seeing. I felt I had a strong sense of who she was.

As in action films, often there will be a lot of scenes written and you don't know what the other characters. So I would be in a scene that Indiana Jones was in, and maybe there wasn't much of a description of what Marion was doing. So I found that often, when she was passive, I just always wanted her to be on her toes, ready to sprint into action, ready to jump for the frying pan or a large object she could smash somebody with. So, I guess, I do feel I was given a little freedom to shape her. Although I do feel that Steven very much had a clear idea of who the character was and what he wanted from me. I think it became a very interesting collaboration between the two of us. I think there were times when I would fight for certain things and not win my way, and there were times when I was able to push the character in a direction that excited me.

KC: I found Willie Scott to be...reading her, I found her to not be very appealing. I kept trying to figure out what they saw in me that they felt that I could play that part. (laughs) But it was so much fun to play this very annoying, petulant, arrogant...she is always uncomfortable. The whining, the carrying on...and Steven - and this isn't a fault - is always very clear about the picture he is making - but he is so generous with the actors. If you come up with an idea he lets you do it. And so you almost have to be careful of the ideas you come up with because he would let you do it and he will roll film. So, if later, you don't like it, it may end up in the movie.

I love physical comedy, so almost anytime we had anything to do in terms of that I was always trying to figure out how I could fall off, turn around backwards, all the physical stuff - it was all us standing there trying to figure out what to do that would amuse us. Because in hot climates and long filming hours you are, ultimately, trying to find something to amuse yourself. So for me, she ended up being a funnier girl than I anticipated.

AD: I was really learning the business at the time because I had no real experience. I had done some work but had never studying acting so it was very new to me. Acting for me was hard. I wanted my character to be attractive and sexy. But I found the accent very cold. So it was very hard for me to do that. And I was furious at Sean Connery, because I felt he had my part. (laughter) The film was about the father-son relationship, and that should have been me! That is why the third worked really well, because you had that wonderful relationship. But I can't say that I found it easy. I found it quite tough.

But looking back now, my character I quite liked the fact that she goes from being on the side of good to being totally obsessed herself. And wanted the Grail for herself. But I did find it very hard.

Now with the DVD coming out and all the attention being paid to you, how do you find the experience of doing interviews and looking back?

KC: I thought it was fun. I had forgotten so many stories. It was such a hard shoot and there were so many things that had happened. I don't think I've done another film where there was so much drama and excitement.

AD: It is a movie that, again, hasn't really dated. And there are very few films that I think you can say that about. So to be a part of this is just such a great memory.

KA: I hadn't talked about it in-depth for years, so my first really in-depth conversation was with Laurent when we were doing the interviews. And it was fascinating to me because he had done a great deal of research and had so many questions that sparked so many memories and things that I hadn't thought about in such a long time. So many things came rolling back into my mind. Then, I have been doing a lot of foreign interviews over the telephone, and it is the same thing. I find myself remembering things I hadn't even known I remembered. And it is also an interesting perspective to talk about something that had happened now 22 years ago. I feel like I have grown a lot as a person and had a lot of life experiences and now look back at that experience with kind of a different lens. It has actually been very meaningful to me.

Was there ever any talk about any of your characters reappearing in any of the other Indiana Jones films, and now with Indiana Jones 4, has there been any talk about bringing any of you back?

KA: When I was asked to do the film, I was told from the very beginning that they had planned to do three and that my character will only be in the first film, because the plan was to go back in time. So I knew I wouldn't be in the other two. And I would be delighted to do Indiana Jones 4. I have heard little rumors - I'll get calls going, I was reading in an interview...

Officially, I have heard nothing. I would be delighted. Only time will tell. I don't think there is a script yet. Frank...?

Frank Marshall: I know nothing. (laughter)

KC: I'm with Frank.

AD: Elisa has a twin sister. And she's really good. She tries to clear her family name. Are you hearing that, Frank? (more laughter)

Last question...what was each of your most grimy, eekiest moment on the set?

KA: My single most disgusting moment was, there was this cobra that bit a python, and the python died instantly. And Steven took this dead python and threw it into a ice chest. And kept it there for three or four days. And so the flesh got really pretty semi-rotted. And, at one point, when we are about to escape from the Well of the Souls, and Harrison is up above me climbing, trying to figure out a way to break through these catacombs, I am below, standing there with my torch. And he (Harrison) hits a snake with his torch, and onto me falls the dead python. And completely slimes me.

KC: (horrified) Oh, my God. That is awful! Steven has grown up a lot since then. (laughs)

KA: I had all this snake slime all over me that I had to scrape off with my hands. That was my most grotesque moment.

Can you top that?

KC: No, I can't! I think the biggest story at the time - Frank will remember this - is when we got to Sri Lanka, there was a room in the hotel where we were staying - and not at a Motel 8 down the road, this was the nice hotel. There was a whole room for three giant snakes. I didn't know how I felt about snakes at the time, and the scene was that Willie was taking her cleaning up and she is in this little lace thing, and while she is talking or complaining, I'm sure, out of the tree behind her comes a snake that is thirsty and goes down behind her into the water, and then it begins to wrap itself around the legs of Willie Scott.

So, we went to this giant swimming pool that had been shipped to Sri Lanka to create this fake little pond thing. Meanwhile, I still didn't know how I felt about snakes. About three weeks into Sri Lanka, we have to shoot this little bit which is the last thing I have to do. And Frank probably thought we'd just have this little go with the snake and we'll go visit the little sand beach and the little pool. And what kind of snake was it?

FM: A python...

KC: And I'm looking at it and I'm going to touch it - that is what they want me to do, they want me to touch it - and make nice with the snake. So I touched it and I went - I just thought it was horrible. I didn't realize it but I had a very serious, serious, bad, bad, bad reaction. And I knew by this time, after three weeks, that I was not a pansy or a complainer or anything that Willie was. It was for real. And Frank, Kathy and Steven are all kinda leaning behind me as I have my episode. We stayed there for about an hour. And they cut that scene out. Steven added the bugs.

AD: The rats. I actually felt slightly relieved that they were not caught in the street. They were being bred specially so they were cleaner. So I was quite pleased about that. Actually, the thing about rats is that if they get terribly cold they freeze up and then thaw out. But they were fantastic. I often say that they were better than the some of the two-legged rats I've worked with. (laughter) I remember in one of the scenes on the boat, I could feel rats in my hair, trying to cling to it as I was leaning my head back to get the shot. But I didn't have a problem with it at all.

I think I would have had a problem if I had to do the scene which I think was actually cut, with a Burmese spider, which I think was the only one like it in England at the time. The only way it can express that it is annoyed is, unlike a rat would, it rears its back and starts to shake. And it would be on Harrison's back arching, going "Eeeeeeee!", and I wouldn't have fancied to do anything like that!

Special thanks to Peter Bracke DVD File for the Q&A reports. Thanks Paramount Pictures, Lucasfilm and AFI for hosting the press junket. Pictures by John Lowry, Copyright London Features.