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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.

Show A Little Backbone

"It was either gonna be the biggest disaster of all time, or a new fashion in filmmaking."
John Rhys-Davis
Rhys-Davies: It read like a comic-book story. There were pages and pages of visual description but not much dialogue. It was either gonna be the biggest disaster of all time, or a new fashion in filmmaking.

Ford: It was loose, that was Steven's way. We were young and free and confident and happy - stuff happened.

Allen: I had a whole history for the character from the time she was born. What happened to her mother, how long she'd been in Nepal and her romance with Indy when she was 15 or 16. I remember showing it to Steven who said, "That's an entirely different movie."

Kasdan: Marion is named after my wife's grandmother. I took pride in the relationship part of it. It was all comedy character stuff, Cary Grant-Jean Arthur stuff. There's about three times as much that didn't get used. They just simplified the whole thing. When I look at the movie now, I think that they were right.

Allen: : Harrison's a private person. He had his own process, which didn't involve lengthy conversations about character. It took me a while to get the gist of his way of working. It wasn't that kind of sit-around-and-tell-old-theatre-stories relationship that I had with Ronnie Lacey, Paul Freeman and John Rhys-Davies.

Ford: The action sequences were done piece by piece; none of it was very difficult. That's the whole point of being an actor, to try and make it look like you are taking risks.

Freeman: Steven suddenly panicked that he hadn't even heard me speak in a French accent. So I had to get on the train from Banbury to just say, "Allo, I can do a Fraunch accent." As corny as that!

Spielberg: George became a casualty. He came to La Rochelle for the first week of shooting, then shipped himself back home due to terrible sea-sickness. When he came to Tunisia and grabbed a second camera, he not only got bad sunburn but his face had swelled up to twice the normal size. I could have turned the camera around and shot a horror movie.

Lucas: : It was the film I had the least number of problems with. We didn't hear from the studio, we just had fun. I was shooting second unit, running around like crazy getting shots: Indy running through the camp, Indy getting the rope and going over to the Well Of Souls, the sunset shot...

Kennedy: : It was the most fun we've ever had. There's so much at stake today, but when we were making Raiders we were making movies for around $20 million. We weren't encumbered with any of the responsibilities associated with being a genuine adult.

"I was one of the few people who didn't get deathly ill with the turistas. I'd heard that some people on Star Wars had gotten pretty ill."
Steven Spielberg
Freeman: Spielberg remains the most accomplished director I've worked with. There are some scenes in the script that were two or three people talking together in a room and you suddenly find that he planned it to be in a quarry with 500 extras going up and down ladders carrying buckets.

Spielberg: I was one of the few people who didn't get deathly ill with the turistas. I'd heard that some people on Star Wars had gotten pretty ill. I had 120 cans from Sainsbury's sitting in my hotel room. I ate three squares a day cold out of a can with a fork and a spoon.

Marshall: That was quite a day when Steven said, "Get the monkey to salute." I said to the animal handler, "Show me the monkey saluting." He went over, took a stick and tapped the monkey on the head. The monkey sort of protected himself with his arm and that was supposed to be saluting. So we devised a process: put a grape on a fishing pole, hold the grape just out of his reach and he would reach. After about 50 takes it finally looked like he was doing his Heil Hitler.

Freeman: The other thing that happened to me was with the scene where I first meet Harrison again, and I'm smoking the hookah. By the time they turned over to do the shot, I'd smoked so much of the stuff I thought I was going to throw up. I kept thinking, "Oh my God, this is my first major American picture and I'm going to throw up."

Spielberg: : I have inspected those frames the way some people have inspected the Zapruder film. And I am telling you, that fly did not suddenly jump into a fifth dimension. That fly went into Paul Freeman's mouth and Paul was so absorbed that he didn't realise he'd swallowed the bugger.

Freeman: Ahh, the fly. I had the best review of my career from Pauline Kael in The New Yorker about the fly. She said, "There is an actor with remarkable devotion to duty."

Kasdan: I never understood why the Arabs ended up singing during that secret dig. It was like a lot of things in the movie that you can't really judge by any reality.

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