The Making of a Legend

A seaside Chat Gives Birth to One of the Greatest Action-Adventure Film Series of All Time...

"He's just there with a bull whip to keep the world at bay." - Harrison Ford on Indiana Jones

Like so many great stories, the INDIANA JONES saga has quiet a beginning. In May 1977, just after the premiere of George Lucas' Star Wars on a handful of screens around the country, the writer-director felt the need to take a break from Los Angeles and his intense work on the film. He journeyed to Hawaii for a vacation and met up with his longtime friend, director Steven Spielberg, who recalled: "George thought Star Wars to be a monumental disaster."

A week later, as Lucas learned more about the phenomenal success of his film, "George was suddenly laughing again," Spielberg said. And he was ready to begin thinking about new film projects.

As they sat on the beach one day, "Steven was telling me how he really wanted to do a James Bond film, and that he actually went to the people who owned James Bond and asked them if he could direct one ... and they turned him down." Lucas recalled.

"So I said, 'Well, look, Steven, I've got a James Bond film. It's great - it's just like James Bond but even better," Lucas said. "I told him the story about this archeologist and said it was like a Saturday-matinee serial, that he just got into one mess after another. And Steven said, 'Fantastic, let's do this!'"

There was only one hitch: Lucas had named the character after his dog, Indiana. Indiana Smith. Spielberg hated the name, it sounded too hokey. So, Lucas said, "Name him Indiana Jones or whatever you want - it's your movie now."

Just six months after their trip to Hawaii, Lucas and Spielberg official agreed to collaborate on RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Lucas drafted the story of a rogue archeologist who finds himself up against no less a force than Nazi soldiers in a quest for a sacred artifact. Filmmaker Philip Kaufman, who received a story credit along with Lucas, suggested that the goal of Indy's quest be the legendary lost Ark of the Covenant. Lucas signed on as executive producer, while Spielberg committed to direct the throwback to movie serials of the '30s and '40s. The reason behind their enthusiasm for the film was simple, Lucas said. "We're making it because Steven and I love movies, and this is exactly the kind of movie we'd like to see."

Making 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'

The hero of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was a unique creation - a mild-mannered university professor who becomes a daring hero when he dons a leather jacket and fedora - and demanded a similarly unique actor. After an intensive search for just the right fit, Lucas and Spielberg decided upon relative unknown Tom Selleck.

Shortly after casting, though, Selleck had to drop out of the role due to his commitment to play playboy detective Thomas Magnum in the CBS series Magnum, P.I. Lucas turned instead to Harrison Ford, who had become a household name when he starred as Han Solo in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.

Filming on RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK began in June 1980 - one year before the films anticipated release date. A breakneck production schedule took the filmmakers, cast and crew to six locations in four countries on three continents and principal photography wrapped in a speedy 73 days.

To film RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, Spielberg and Lucas had a budget of $20 million and used 7,000 live snakes, 500 Arab extras, and 300,000 feet of film - resulting in 11,000 individual shots that were augmented by visual effects work from Industrial Light & Magic. Joining Ford in the cast were consummate actors whose experience on RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK would be their first foray into blockbuster territory.

As Marion Ravenwood, Indiana Jones's long-lost love interest, Karen Allen took on a type of acting from anything she had experienced in films like Animal House, Cruising and A small Circle of Friends or her stage work with the Washington, D.C., Polish Theatre Laboratory. But Spielberg felt her earthly good looks and irrepressible charm were perfect for the role. "When she came on the set, she thought it was going to be acting for 10 weeks and discovered it was a combination of acting and enormous physical prowess," Spielberg remembered. "I said to Karen, 'We're moving you out of the Al Pacino school of drama into the Sam Peckinpath school of action,'"

Welsh actor John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings) was also in for a surprise. As originally described in the screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, the character Sallah was "a small, cheerful, energetic fellow in his forties." But Rhys-Davies made the role his own, to immense critical acclaim. Likewise, stage and television actor Paul Freeman went from relative obscurity to overnight fame in just his third movie role, as the nemesis of Indiana Jones, French archeologist René Belloq.

The first-ever partnership between Spielberg and Lucas went well, thanks in part to Lucas's finely honed instincts as a film editor, which augmented the Oscar-winning work of the film's editor, Michael Kahn. "George never re-cut the film," Spielberg said. "But he made trims here and there and jumped action. George is brilliant at that. The biggest cutting he did was when the Ark is opened and all the spirits and the fire come out of it. George said to me: 'Steven, you know what you've tried to do? You've tried to top the ending of Close Encounters. As long as you live, you will never top that, so don't try to top it with this one. Just get the story told and get out of the movie and finish the picture already.'" Working with Kahn, Lucas "went in there and trimmed six minutes off just like that - and it was great!"

When it opened in the U.S. on June 12, 1981, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was an immediate cinematic sensation, meriting cover stories in Time, Newsweek and Rolling Stone and rapturous critical acclaim. "It was the movie Hollywood was born to make," wrote Dave Ansen in News week. In the Los Angeles Times, Sheila Benson wrote, " Hurrah and hallelujah! It's hats-in-the-air, heart-in-the-mouth time at the movies again."

With long lines of repeat viewers throughout the summer, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK went on to earn $242 million at the U.S. box office and another $141 million at international cinemas. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Directory, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK received four Oscars and a special-achievement award for Best Sound Editing.

Making 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom'

Cleary, a sequel was warranted, but neither Lucas nor Spielberg felt compelled to return to the drawing board simply for the sake of exploiting the popularity of their newly minted action hero. Instead, Lucas began working on a story that would take the action and adventure of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and give it a new twist.

"George had in mind something much scarier -- with black magic, human sacrifice, voodoo dolls, evil sorcerers and subterranean villainy," Spielberg said. "This was going to be Indiana Jones' most frightening adventure."

In June 1982, after writing a complete story outline, Lucas hired the husband-wife writing team of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz to write the screenplay for an adventure set one year prior to the first film. This time instead of battling Nazis in the desert, Indiana Jones would find himself pitted against the mysterious Thuggee cult of India for control of legendary stones with mystical powers. The sun-drenched locations of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK would give way to the lush exotic jungles of India and Dr. Jones would pick up both a new love interest and a new sidekick - American nightclub singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and 11-year-old street urchin Short Round (Ke Huy Quan), respectively.

The foreboding working title Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death was softened slighting to INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM. But in either case, Lucas's intention to put Indiana Jones himself front and center was clear: "George had a devilish grin on his face when he announced he would not be using t Raiders title,” Spielberg recalled.

Principal photography began on April 18, 1983, on location in Sri Lanka, and later moved to the EMI-Elstree Studios outside London, England, where it occupied nearly every soundstage.

The sheer physicality of the production - which involved everything from collapsing rope bridges to underground temples to full-scale musical number - meant filming took nearly five months and wrapped on Sept. 8, 1983. Additional shots were filmed in Marin County and Mammoth Mountain, Calif., while pos-production and visual-effects work continued through march 1984 - just two months before the films slated release.

Perhaps the film's most breathtaking sequence, the rope-bridge standoff was filmed on a specifically constructed set that spanned a 300-foot-deep gorge near an existing construction site. In the pre-digital era, the nail-biting mine-car chase sequence was accomplished by meticulous stop-motion effects.

"I remember when we looked at the scrip in the early days and we all said: 'How the hell are we going to do all this?'" said producer Robert Watts. "But somehow or other we did it. It got done."

In addition to Capshaw, who would later become the wife of director Spielberg, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM features a stellar international cast that perfectly conveys the sinister-yet-humorous comic-book tone of the film. Indian film actor Amrish Puri, veteran of more than 140 films, plays the evil Mola Ram, leader of the Thuggees, while acclaimed film and television actor Roshan Seth plays Mola Ram's duplicitous prime minister, Chattar Lal.

On may 23, 1984, INDIAN JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM opened to a record-breaking weekend gross of 25.3 million, on its way to U.S. box-office take of $179.8 million and an international gross of $333 million, making it one of the 10 highest-grossing films of the entire decade.

Upon its release, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM was hailed by critics as a hyper-kinetic and bold departure from expectations with an opulent look and sense of pacing. "This superior adventure thriller packs more terror, laughter, and rip-roaring fun into a couple of hours than an awestruck moviegoer .... would dare to anticipate," wrote the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel's Candice Russell.

And, of course, it merited a sequel - a third chapter in what would become known as the Indiana Jones Trilogy.

Making 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'

During the production of the 1987 comedy-adventure Innerspace, Spielberg met that film's screenwriter, Jeffrey Boam, and felt he had found just the right person to bring a new perspective to Indiana Jones adventures.

By late 1987, Boam delivered a final draft of INDIAN JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, based on a story by Lucas and Menno Meyjes (The color Purple), and the Lucasfilm Ltd. art department was hired at work bringing Indy to life for a third time.

Among the brand-new characters the film introduced were two that would spark the public's imagination:" a young Indiana Jones, who's teen-aged exploits foretold a life of wild adventure; and Henry Jones Sr., Indy's cantankerous, anachronistic father. The roles were perfectly cast with River Phoenix Portraying the free-spirited young Indiana Jones in the film's opening sequence and Sean Connery, action-film ledged, playing the elder Dr. Jones.

Their relationship is the framework for an Indiana Jones adventure that combines audience-pleasing thrills and spills with the unexpectedly touching human drama of a long-estranged father who is reunited with his reticent son.

"These are two men who have never made an accommodation for each other," Ford noted. "In this film, you see another side of Indiana's personality. Who else would call Indy 'Junior' - which is something Indy hates?"

Set in 1938, two years after Indy's exploits in the Egyptian desert, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE introduces a new legion of Nazi agents who'll stop at nothing to waylay Indiana Jones n a fantastic quest for the most elusive of all religious artifacts - the Holy Grail, Jesus Christ's chalice at the Last Supper.

INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE is a winning combination of action and character that adds an unexpectedly rich aura of spirituality to the cinematic swashbuckling that is a trademark of the movie series. It also creates a sizzling romantic tension between Indy and his new "leading lady", an art historian named Dr. Elsa Schneider who is every bit a match for Indy's bravado and derring-do. "She is quite similar to Indy," said Alison Doody. "Like him she goes out and gets what she wants."

Adding to the fun is the second appearance of two favorites from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: museum curator (and Indy's boss) Marcus Brody is played again by the late Denholm Elliott; and John Rhys-Davis reprises his role as the irrepressible Sallah.

Director Spielberg and his crew began shooting INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE on May 16, 1988, in Almeria, Spain, after several months of pre-production work. It was just the first of many locations in nine countries (on four continents) and eight U.S. states that would be visited during the 13-week production schedule. Among the complexities in creating third installment of Indiana Jones adventures was the script's call for vehicles - a lot of vehicles. "For this film, were faced with the problem of recreating almost every form of transportation that was available in 12938: trains, planes, boats, a Zeppelin, horses, camels,:" said Robert Watts, who again served as producer, Bu the efforts paid off.

Released in the U.S. on May 24, 1989, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE drew massive crowds (to the tune of a $29.4-million opening weekend) and lavish praise from critics. In his three-page feature in Time magazine, reviewer Richard Corliss offered that "a sequel can be as fresh as the face of a teenage Indy ... Indy 3 is the same, different and better."

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers wrote, "Spielberg has also restored something that's been missing from movie escapism for too long: its good name." Audiences agreed, making INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE the No. 2 movie of 1989 with a U.S. gross of $1997 million, augmented by nearly $300 million more from international moviegoers.

In 1999, just 10 years after Indy's “last crusade," RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was voted to the national film registry by the Library of Congress, cementing Indy's place in cinema history. That designation only confirmed what audiences already knew - Indy remains one of the most popular action heroes ever to grace the sliver screen.

Together the three Indiana Jones films are among the most well-known, successful and acclaimed adventure films ever made ... and this fall, movie lovers will be able to have the adventure of a lifetime right in their own living rooms, with the DVD premiere of THE ADVENTURES OF INDIANA JONES - THE COMPLETE DVD MOVIE COLLECTION from Lucasfilm Ltd. and Paramount Home Entertainment.