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Raiders Of The Lost Ark: An Oral History
The making of the original Indy film, from the mouths of the people who made it.

Fools, Bureaucratic Fools

"The studio was saying, "If you can get another director in there who we have more confidence in, then you can do it."
George Lucas
Lucas: Raiders was turned down by practically every studio in town. They thought it would be a successful movie but didn't trust the budget: $20 million. Second, I was asking for a very tough deal, it broke a lot of precedents that no-one wanted to break. Its definition of profits upset their apple cart. The other part was I would develop it and turn it over to them, which gave them little control. They didn't like that. I had licensing. I controlled sequel rights. Things that fed off what I did with Star Wars.

Spielberg: On 1941, I became a bit like Colonel Kurtz. After my big successes, the studio was too afraid to dispatch Martin Sheen to terminate my command with extreme prejudice. Now I just wanted to make a movie where people would say he's a responsible director who came in under budget and under schedule.

Jon Rhys-Davies (Sallah): Steven had just had a relative critical failure with 1941 and the knives were out - the whizz-kid had clay feet, he was just a flash on the pan.

Lucas: The studio was saying, "If you can get another director in there who we have more confidence in, then you can do it." I was committed to Steven. We'd had a long talk about how we were going to make the movie. I trusted Steven. He had directed television. He knew how to do what had to be done.

Obtainer Of Rare Antiquities

Kasdan: Indy's a classic anti-hero. The idea always from the get-go was that he's fallen from grace as an archaeologist and he's become a grave robber.

Ford: I always saw him as an academic first and an adventurer second.

Lucas: I was wary of Harrison and I becoming like Scorsese and De Niro. I thought, "Let's create a new icon." We found Tom Selleck, but as soon as the network heard, his option on Magnum P. I. got picked up.

Deborah Nadoolman-Landis (Costume Designer): I had made a complete top-to-bottom prototype outfit for Tom Selleck. He wasn't replaced until pretty far down the line. I think the film benefited tremendously when the casting changed. Indiana Jones has so many different levels and a lot of that comes from the personality and introspectiveness of Harrison Ford.

Lucas: So then we were running short of time and Steven said, "There's always Harrison." I doubted he'd go for a three-picture deal - he didn't want to on Star Wars. And we had three pictures. Steven said to try anyway. I went to Harrison and he read the script and said, "Yeah, I'll do a three-picture deal. I'd love to."

Ford: We were all pretty sure that we would do three films starting out with Raiders. There really was no question.

Alison Doody (Elsa Schneider, The Last Crusade): He has that great quality of appealing to both men and women. And also he has that dry humour. Indy needed to be real, with flaws - that's what endears him to the audience. Harrison got that.

"We were all pretty sure that we would do three films starting out with Raiders. There really was no question."
Harrison Ford
Ford: We had a guy come to my house for a couple of lessons with the bullwhip in the beginning. It's a combination of relaxation while snapping the wrist at the proper time. It's really all a matter of timing. Not an easy thing to learn.

Vic Tablian (Monkey Man/Barranca): For that scene in the jungle where Indy whips away my gun, I'm standing there aiming it and Spielberg says, "Don't move." It's my hand, dammit! It's scary and the risk is there, because all Harrison has to do is come half an inch forward to hit my hand. But he never did.

Ford: I've said this before, but he's just this guy with a bullwhip to keep the world at bay.

I'm Your Goddamn Partner

Kasdan: I didn't want it to be just about the leads. The movies I loved from the '30s and '40s were rich with supporting characters. So even though some of them may only be on for three lines, they have to be a good three lines. Belloq always has good stuff to say.

Paul Freeman (Belloq): I had done this drama documentary called Death Of A Princess about Saudi Arabia that Steven saw, and he asked to see me. He'd already considered the Italian actor Giancarlo Gianni. When I went to meet him, he and George were lying on the floor looking at these new speakers with this new invention, the Walkman.

Allen: Steven had seen me in A Small Circle Of Friends and I was aware that there were a lot of people being talked about: Barbara Hershey, Debra Winger, Sean Young. I auditioned first with John Shea, who was trying out for Indy, and then I did a screen test with Tim Matheson, who I'd worked with on Animal House. The only scene I was allowed to see was the first meeting in the bar.

Spielberg: Sallah was originally written as a Sam Jaffe or Gunga Din type - almost a small creature from the Star Wars cantina in an earthbound adventure film. I had originally offered the part to Danny DeVito, who wanted to do it but couldn't fit it around his schedule for Taxi.

Rhys-Davies: Mr. Spielberg had seen Shogun. I went to see him and said, "Well, look, it says here that Sallah is a 5' 2" skinny Egyptian Bedouin. Are you proposing surgery?" He said, "No, I want you to do something between that character you played in Shogun and Falstaff." I thought, "Ah, this is interesting."

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