Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Indiana: Meet me at Omar's. Be ready for me. I'm going after that truck.
Sallah: How?
Indiana: I don't know, I'm making this up as I go!

In 1936, archeology professor Indian Jones received information from a museum curator about a biblical artifact called The Ark of the Covenant.  For many generations rumors, stories and mysteries surrounded that of The Ark and its tie to human existence.  Having heard that the Nazis are digging in the place where The Ark is believed to have been buried for centuries, Jones must travel to such places as Nepal and Egypt in order to get to The Ark before the Nazis do.  Upon doing so, he finds that he must fight his own enemy, Renee Belloq.

On June 12, 1981, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" made its U.S.-wide premiere.  Interestingly enough, it premiered in the Soviet Union just three days later.  Other countries such as Argentina, the U.K., the Netherlands, Australia and so on would have to wait a month or two before being able to see the film.  Other countries had to wait until later in the fall and winter months.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" cost an estimated $22 million to make.  However, the film went on to gross over $212 million domestically, making it the #1 hit at the Box Office for that year.

Having already directed such huge hits as "Jaws" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," the world already knew the name Steven Spielberg.  The world also knew the name Harrison Ford thanks to his role as Han Solo in the ever-popular films "Star Wars" and "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back."  When these two were coupled together during its filming from June through October of 1980, everyone knew that "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was bound to be a major film for Paramount Studios.

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" starred Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, Karen Allen as Marion, and Paul Freeman as Dr. Rene Belloq.  It also co-starred Ronald Lacey as Major Arnold Toht, John Rhys-Davies as Sallah, and Denholm Elliott as Dr. Marcus Brody.

Nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" won Oscars for Best Art/Set Decoration, Best Effects and Visual Effects, Best Film Editing and Best Sound.  It also won a Special Achievement Award from the Academy for its Sound Effects Editing.

Nominated for many other awards and winning quite a few, here's some more information on this fantastic adventure you might enjoy...

1.  George Lucas first dreamed up the idea of an adventurous archaeologist about the same time he came up with the idea for the Flash Gordon-type space story which became "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope."

2.  Traditionally when one of his films is about to open, George Lucas goes on holiday to get away from all the hoopla. As "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" was just about to open, Lucas went to Hawaii where he was joined by Steven Spielberg. When the grosses for Lucas's film came in, and it was clear that his movie was going to be a hit, Lucas relaxed and was able to discuss other topics with his friend. It was at this point that Spielberg confessed he always wanted to direct a James Bond film, to which Lucas told him he had a much better idea - an adventure movie called "Raiders of the Lost Ark". The conversation came up while the two were making a sand castle. After their trip, they got together and developed the script with Lawrence Kasdan.   

3.  Indiana Jones' name comes from the name of George Lucas' dog and is a play on Steve McQueen's eponymous character name in "Nevada Smith." Indiana the dog, who was a Malamute, also served as the inspiration for Chewbacca in "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope." In the end of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," it is revealed by Indiana's father that Indiana is really named Henry Jr., but went by the name of his dog, Indiana.  The original name of the lead character in the script was Indiana Smith. His name was changed to Jones on the first day of production.

4.  Steven Spielberg and George Lucas argued over who Indy's companion should be. One idea was that she was to be a Nazi spy. After discarding that idea, they couldn't decide if they wanted the character to be Indy's former mentor, or an old lover. It was Lawrence Kasdan's idea to combine the two ideas, by making her the daughter of Indy's teacher.

5.  Tom Selleck was Steven Spielberg's second choice for the role of Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford was his first, but George Lucas objected, since Ford had been in both American Graffiti and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. Selleck was not able to take the role because he was committed to Magnum, P.I.. However, that series did not go into production until Raiders' filming had already wrapped. Selleck was, in fact, in Hawaii waiting for the series to start as the final scenes to be filmed (the opening sequence) were being shot in Hawaii. "Magnum" did an episode called "Legend of the Lost Art" that parodied "Raiders", complete with hat, whip, booby traps, etc.   

6.  Actors considered for the role of Indiana Jones included Nick Nolte, Steve Martin (who chose to do "Pennies from Heaven" instead), Bill Murray (who dropped out due to scheduling conflicts with "Saturday Night Live"), Chevy Chase, Tim Matheson, Nick Mancuso, Peter Coyote, and Jack Nicholson. Jeff Bridges was also considered, but turned down the role of Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford was cast less than three weeks before principal photography began.

7.  Amy Irving and Debra Winger were considered for the role of Marion. Sean Young was used as Marion in the screen test for all who auditioned for the lead role of Indy. Tim Matheson and John Shea were used for Karen Allen's screen test. Young would later star opposite Ford in "Blade Runner."

8.  Steven Spielberg originally envisioned Giancarlo Giannini for the role of Dr. Rene Belloq and then considered French actor/singer Jacques Dutronc who turned out to not speak a word of English. Spielberg then chose Paul Freeman because he thought Freeman had "striking eyes", having seen him act in "Death of a Princess." Also at one point, Spielberg was concerned if Freeman could act with a French accent. Spielberg then contacted Freeman (who was on vacation at the time) and asked if he could come back to London to meet with him and act out some lines in a French accent for him.

9.  When John Rhys-Davies auditioned for the role of Sallah, he was concerned since the script originally described Sallah as a "5-foot-2, skinny, Egyptian digger". Steven Spielberg mentioned that when he first heard Rhys-Davies speak, he reminded him of the Shakespearean character Falstaff. Spielberg then told Rhys-Davies that for his performance as Sallah, to combine his earlier role as "Vasco Rodrigues" from the miniseries "Shogun" with the character of Falstaff.

10.  Steven Spielberg originally wanted Danny DeVito to play Sallah and DeVito was set for the role, but he had to drop out due to conflicts with TV's "Taxi." DeVito later appeared as a second banana to Michael Douglas in the Raiders tribute/derivative film, "Romancing the Stone."

11.  The opening scene in the lost South American temple is partly based on a classic Disney Ducks adventure written by the legendary artist Carl Barks, many of whose comic books have inspired George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Exploring a lost temple, Donald Duck, his nephews, and Scrooge McDuck must evade a succession of booby traps, like flying darts, a decapitating blade, a huge boulder, a tunnel flooded with a torrent of gushing water, etc., in the story "The Prize of Pizarro" ("Uncle $crooge" no. 26, June-August 1959), which hit the newsstands when Lucas and Spielberg, both avowed fans of that comic book, were respectively 15 and 12 years old. Another Barks story, "The Seven Cities of Cibola" ("Uncle $crooge" no. 7, September 1954), has a native American lost city and a valuable idol that triggers a giant round rock to smash everything in its way.

12.  The sacred idol of the Hovitos that the Dr. Jones character is taking possession of at the beginning of the film is apparently a fertility goddess. It is a molten image of a woman squatting down and giving birth.

13.  The giant boulder that chases after Indiana Jones at the start of the film was made of fiberglass. On the Bonus Features DVD, sound designer Ben Burtt said that in order to get the proper sound effects for the giant boulder, he and the sound crew tried pushing boulders down a hill, but the sounds they were getting weren't up to par with what they were looking for, and later that day, as they were leaving in a Honda Civic that they coasted down a gravel embankment, Burtt noticed that the sound was just what they were looking for, so he grabbed a microphone and held it near one of the Civic's rear tires to record the effect.

14.  Harrison Ford actually outran the boulder in the opening sequence. Because the scene was shot twice from five different angles, he had to outrun it ten times. Ford's stumble in the scene was deemed to look authentic and was left in.

15.  When Brody first goes to Indy's house to discuss the mission, Jones is dressed the way he is because he was entertaining a young woman in his bedroom. The script originally planned to show her before moving to the next scene to give Indy a more worldly persona (like James Bond). However, her appearance was cut out as Spielberg thought that being a playboy did not fit Indy's character.

16.  An early draft of the script had Indy traveling to Shanghai to recover a piece of the Staff of Ra. During his escape from the museum where it was housed, he sheltered from machine gun fire behind a giant rolling gong. Also in the same script, Indy and Marion flee the chaos caused by the opening of the Ark in a wild mine-cart chase sequence. Both of these scenes were cut from the script, but ended up in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."

17.  During filming in Tunisia, nearly everyone in the cast and crew got sick, except director Steven Spielberg. It is thought that he avoided illness by eating only the food he'd brought with him: cans and cans of Spaghetti-O's.

18.  The famous scene in which Indy shoots a marauding and flamboyant swordsman was not in the original script. Harrison Ford was supposed to use his whip to get the swords out of his attacker's hands, but the food poisoning he and the rest of the crew had gotten made him too sick to perform the stunt. After several unsuccessful tries, Ford suggested "shooting the sucker." Steven Spielberg immediately took up the idea and the scene was successfully filmed.   

19.  The monkey raising his paw and saying (in his own language) "Heil Hitler" was thought up by George Lucas and is one of Steven Spielberg's two favorite scenes (in the video box set, he says his other favorite is the "where doesn't it hurt" love scene on the ship). In Empire magazine, Frank Marshall said that they got the monkey to do the Nazi salute by putting a grape on a fishing pole and getting the monkey to reach for the grape, which was dangling just out of camera range. This took about 50 takes before it actually looked like a Nazi salute. Voice-artist Frank Welker provided the chattering sounds for the monkey, including the "Sieg Heil"-like chirp that the monkey gives when it raises its paw in salute. (Welker later provided similar monkey chatter for Abu, the spider monkey in Disney's "Aladdin.")

20.  Shooting in Tunisia proved to be so stressful and so hot that Steven Spielberg managed to compress a six-week shoot into four-and-a-half weeks. This helped the production complete principal photography 12 days ahead of schedule.

21.  Although the Nazis speak German in many scenes, most of the lines were dubbed for the German versions of the film because the actors spoke very bad German with a very strong American accent. Some lines were simply wrong. On the recent DVD release, no German lines are wrong. The majority of the German lines seems to be spoken by native German speakers with a slight south German accent.

22.  To achieve the sound of thousands of snakes slithering, sound designer Ben Burtt stuck his fingers into a cheese casserole. This was augmented by applying wet sponges to the rubber on a skateboard.

23.  In filming the Well of Souls sequence, the producers scoured every pet shop in London and the South of England for every snake they could lay their hands on. Hence there are snakes that are identifiable from many different geographical areas. However, once all the snakes were on set, it became clear that there were not nearly enough of them, so Steven Spielberg had several hoses cut into lengths, and these were used as well. Looking closely, you can tell which are the real snakes and which are not. A sheet of glass separates Harrison Ford and the arched (and highly dangerous) cobra when he falls in. The snake actually did spray venom onto the glass.

24.  Director Steven Spielberg admitted that watching the stage hands preparing the Well of Souls set by laying out the thousands of snakes for the scene really made him nauseous--even to the point where he nearly wanted to puke a few times.

25.  During filming of the Well of Souls sequence, one of the pythons died after being bitten by one of the cobras.

26.  Most of the body blows you hear were created by hitting a pile of leather jackets with a baseball bat.

27.  The out-of-control airplane actually ran over Harrison Ford's knee, tearing his ligaments. Rather than submit to Tunisian health care, Ford had his knee wrapped in ice and carried on.

28.  Renowned British wrestler Pat Roach gets killed twice in this film - once as a giant Sherpa left in the burning Nepalese bar and once as the German mechanic chewed up by the plane's propeller.

29.  When Indy is dragged under and then out behind a moving truck, it's a tribute to Yakima Canutt's similar famous stunt in John Ford's "Stagecoach." In fact, it was a stunt that stuntman Terry Leonard had tried to pull off the year before, and failed to do so, on "The Legend of the Lone Ranger." He was thrilled at the chance of having another shot at it, but only agreed to do it if his friend & colleague Glenn Randall Jr. was driving. The truck was specially constructed to be higher above the ground than normal so as to allow clearance for Indiana Jones to pass underneath safely. The center of the road was also dug out to allow more clearance. In "Great Movie Stunts: Raiders of the Lost Ark" we see, on the camera slate, that the camera was set at 20 frames per second instead of the traditional 24 fps; in other words, the shots were done in "fast motion," so the truck was not really moving as fast as depicted on screen. Harrison Ford was actually dragged behind the truck for some of the shots, badly bruising his ribs. When asked if he was worried, Ford quipped: "No. If it really was dangerous, they would have filmed more of the movie first." During the chase, Harrison Ford dispatches all three of his stunt doubles, all of which are playing German soldiers. Terry Leonard plays the driver of the truck, who gets punched out of the cab by Harrison. Vic Armstrong and Martin Grace play soldiers hanging onto the side of the truck before being knocked off. The truck chase took approximately eight weeks to film.

30.  Production designer Norman Reynolds had found a rusty looking ship that was perfect for the Bantu Wind. However, when the time came for this sequence to be filmed he was horrified to discover that the ship had been repainted and now looked pristine. It had to be swiftly repainted to achieve its distressed look.
31.  Indy's line to Marion when they are on the ship - "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage" - was ad-libbed by Harrison Ford.   

32.  The instructions for the construction of the Ark are found in Exodus 25:10. The clothing that Belloq wears while acting as a high priest during the ceremony at the end is found beginning in Exodus chapter 28.  Both are incredibly accurate in detail in the film.

33.  To create the sound of the heavy lid of the Ark being slid open, sound designer Ben Burtt simply recorded him moving the lid of his toilet cistern at home.
34.  The words that Belloq slowly recites before opening the ark are (badly pronounced) Aramaic, and are part of a paragraph recited in many Synagogues today when the Ark that holds the Sefer Torahs (the Old Testament handwritten on Parchment) is opened as part of the Sabbath service.   

35.  The spirit effects at the climax were achieved by shooting mannequins underwater in slow motion through a fuzzy lens to achieve an ethereal quality.

36.  The film was originally given an R-rating because of the exploding head at the end. They didn't want the picture to be rated R, so they added layers of fire in front of his face to make it appear less graphic.   

37.  Three different stunt men were used to double for Harrison Ford: Vic Armstrong when riding the horse; Martin Grace at the falling statue and Terry Leonard when pulled behind the truck.

38.  Indy's battered leather jacket was actually brand new and had to be artificially aged by the costume department. There were 10 jackets for general wear and tear and stunt purposes.

39.  Indiana Jones's hat came from the famous Herbert Johnson hat shop in Saville Row, London. The hat was the shop's Australian model.  Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman said that in order to properly age the hat, she grabbed and twisted the hat, then she and Harrison Ford both sat on it, and it eventually looked like "a very lived-in and well-loved" hat.

40.  Indy's whip is 10 feet long, although some shorter versions were used, depending on the shot required.

41.  The first time Steven Spielberg ever directed in the UK.

42.  Director Steven Spielberg was quoted as saying: "I made it as a B-movie... I didn't see the film as anything more than a better made version of the Republic serials."

43.  Originally intended as a small low-budget adventure, production costs tripled to $22 million.

44.  George Lucas made what was at the time an unusual deal for this film. The studio financed the film's entire $22-million budget. In exchange, Lucas would own over 40% of the film and collect almost half of the profits after the studio grossed a certain amount. It turned out to be a very lucrative deal for Lucas. Paramount executive Michael Eisner said that he felt the script for this film was the best he had ever read.

45.  Steven Spielberg and Melissa Mathison wrote a script during shooting breaks on the location of this film. Mathison was there to visit her husband, Harrison Ford and Spielberg dictated to her a story idea he had; that script was eventually called "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial."  It's a good thing they came up with the story -- the film just happened to be #1 at the Box Office for the following year, 1982.

And now you know.

Sequels to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" included "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984), "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989), and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (2008).  All three sequels were among the top 3 Box Office hits for the year of their release.  If you're a fan, you'll be interested to know that a yet untitled "Indiana Jones 5" has been announced, Harrison Ford to reprise his role as Indiana Jones.

Enjoy these pictures stills from the film, some rare behind-the-scenes pics as well...

Marion: You're not the man I knew ten years ago.
Indiana: It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage.

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