Tonight: Harrison Ford, with Karen Allen, Paul Freeman and Ronald Lacey in the adventure classic Raiders of the Lost Ark.
“I made it as B-movie,” said director Steven Spielberg. “I didn’t see the film as anything more than a better made version of the great Republic serials.”
With one scene an obvious tribute to Citizen Kane.
An ad line for the picture announced: “Indiana Jones—the new hero from the creators of Jaws and Star Wars.
A reference to director Spielberg and producer George Lucas.
The two friends were vacationing in Hawaii in 1977, as the original Star Wars was about to open.
While collaborating on the creation of a sand castle on the beach, Spielberg said he had always wanted to make a James Bond film.
Lucas responded that he had a better idea: The basis for tonight’s film.
But the dream team actually had trouble selling their project to a studio.
Republic had been out of business for 2 decades and every other studio took a pass.
Eventually, reluctantly, Paramount agreed to take a chance on this big budget “B-movie,” because Michael Eisner concluded that the script, written by Lawrence Kasdan (based on a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman) was the best he had ever read.
So Paramount financed the project based on a $20 million budget. With Lucas retaining a 40% equity and collecting 50% of the profits after the studio had received a pre-arranged profit.
Considered for the title role were Steve Martin, Tim Matheson, Chevy Chase, Jeff Bridges, Jack Nicholson, Peter Coyote, Nick Nolte and Bill Murray.
The first choice of both Lucas and Paramount was Tom Selleck, but he had a conflicting commitment to do a new CBS TV series called Magnum P.I.
But Harrison Ford had always been Spielberg’s first choice to play Indiana Jones.
The character’s name was originally supposed to be “Indiana Smith.”
Lucas owned a dog named “Indiana.” (He was the inspiration for Chewbacca in Star Wars.) And Lucas liked Steve McQueen’s name in Nevada Smith (1966).
The bull whip used by Harrison Ford in the film was sold at auction in 1999 in London by Christie for $43,000.
The jacket and hat he wore were donated to the Smithsonian. Note how Ford never loses his hat in the picture, regardless of any and all action in which he was engaged.
This was done as a homage to the serials of the 1930s and 1940s.
Considered for the female lead that went to Karen Allen: Amy Irwing (Mrs. Spielberg) and Sean Young.
Pre-production began on April 1, 1980.
Shooting commenced on June 23 and concluded on October 14, 1980.
Locations included San Francisco, Stockton and San Raphael, California; Hawaii; France; Tunisia and the EMI Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England.
Everyone got sick except Spielberg, while shooting in Tunisia. He was spared because he only ate food brought with him—cases of cans of Spagetti-o’s.
What did make Spielberg sick, however, was watching stage hands prepare the “Well of Souls” set, laying out thousands of snakes for those scenes.
Spielberg’s aversion to the snakes became part of Indiana Jones’ character in the film.
The famous scene in which Harrison Ford shoots the flamboyant swordsman was suggested by Ford.
As scripted, Ford was supposed to get fancy with his bull whip. But the scene was so difficult, with everyone recovering from food poisoning, that Harrison simply suggested, “shooting the sucker.”
It’s the funniest moment in the movie.
The best stunt is when Ford is dragged under the moving truck—a tribute to Yakima Canutt doubling John Wayne in a similar scene in Stagecoach (1939).
The truck chase took 8 weeks to film.
Lucas, himself, directed some of the second unit footage.
Ford suffered some bruised ribs from the action.
The lost Ark of the Covenant referred to in the picture was the chest that initially contained the 10 Commandments.
According to “The Sign and the Seal” by Graham Hancock, the actual Ark is located today in the Saint Mary of Zion Church, in the City of Axum, in Ethiopia.
The final cost of Raiders was $22 million—2$ million over budget.
The domestic rental (studio revenue) was $15 million, with another $283,000 overseas, so the worldwide revenue was nearly $400,000.
Raiders was 1981’s to grossing film. An enormous commercial success!
Oscars were awarded for Best Art Direction, Visual Effects, Editing and Sound.
Roger Ebert wrote, Raiders of the Lost Ark is an out-of-body experience, a movie of glorious imagination and breakneck speed that grabs you in the first shot, hurtles you through a series of incredible adventures and deposits you in reality 2 hours later—breathless, dizzy, wrung-out, and with a silly grin on your face.
“This movie celebrates the stories we spent our adolescence searching for in the pulp adventure magazines…Plays like an anthology of the best parts from all the Saturday matinee serials ever made…
“Spielberg was old enough (34) to have the clout to make the film and young enough to remember why he wanted to…watch the film with someone you know fairly well.
“There will be times when it will be necessary to grab somebody.”
Raiders was followed by two sequels: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
And the series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, co-produced by Lucas.
And now—from 1981—Harrison Ford in the George Lucas-Steven Spielberg’s adventure classic
Raiders of the Lost Ark