Harrison Ford was so committed to the now-iconic role that he insisted on doing most of his own stunt work. The actor earned himself a few bruised ribs, a torn knee ligament and a severe back injury filming some of the more trying scenes. Despite his injuries, just like his onscreen counterpart, Ford relished the element of risk.
By A Different Name
The original name of the archeology professor was actually Indiana Smith. Concerned that ‘Smith’ was too generic, Steven Spielberg suggested his name be changed to Indiana Jones. His full name is revealed in The Last Crusade to be Henry Jones Jr.
Tom Selleck was initially offered the lead of Jones but was hesitant to take on the part due to his involvement in Magnum P.I. Jeff Bridges also passed on the offer. George Lucas, the formidable brain behind the movie concept, was hesitant to cast Ford since he had already starred in the Star Wars franchise.
Jones’s instantly recognizable outfit was conceptualized long before the movie went into production. Ford actually repeatedly sat on his hat in order achieve the fedora’s well-worn look, while the costume designer took a swiss army knife to his jacket to give it a weathered appearance. Indy’s iconic jacket and fedora are on display at the Smithsonian Institute.
In one of the many memorable scenes in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jones nonchalantly shoots a swordsman. The original script called for Indy to whip the sword from the man’s hands using his whip. After a nasty bout of food-poisoning, Ford made a few unsuccessful and lackluster attempts at the stunt. Eventually, the actor gave up and asked to just “shoot the sucker”.
A Spark of Genius
During the production of Raiders of the Lost Ark Ford’s wife at the time, Melissa Mathison, often came to visit him on set. Spielberg, the revered director behind the lens, pulled her aside to pitch an idea he had for a future film. The two ended up writing the script for E.T. the Extra Terrestrial between takes.
In the 1989 film The Last Crusade, Indiana ventures off to rescue his father from Nazi kidnappers. In one scene, depicting a Nazi rally, a large group of extras raises their arms in a Nazi salute. Jewish Spielberg asked the cast to put their other hand behind their backs and cross their fingers.
Pit of Danger
In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jones attempts to escape a snake-filled secret chamber. The production crew initially brought in 3000 pythons and cobras for the scene but discovered that the number was not nearly enough to carpet the chamber floor. An extra 7000 serpents were brought in to complete the shot. Ford, ever the courageous hero, was entirely unfazed by the creepy crawlies.
George Lucas’s dog actually has a surprising role in the inspiration behind the lead character’s name as well as one of Lucas’s iconic characters. George’s dog, an Alaskan malamute, was actually named Indiana. The large, hairy and lovable dog was also the inspiration for Chewbacca from Star Wars.
Who’s Your Daddy?
When casting the role of Indy’s father, Spielberg was adamant the part could only be portrayed by James Bond, the ultimate James Bond: Sean Connery. Lucas was worried the casting choice wouldn’t be believable, Connery was only 12 years older than ford at the time of shooting.
No Pants Dance
In The Last Crusade, the crew and cast were getting extremely over heated. In the scene where the two actors are sitting at a table on the zeppelin, neither Ford nor Connery is wearing pants. The two decided to go pant less to avoid profusely sweating during long takes. Genius idea.
Love On Set
Spielberg has said that he least enjoys Temple of Doom out of all the Indy movies. But the production of the film offered him one lasting, life-changing experience. Kate Capshaw, who played the film’s leading lady, would go on to marry the director. The two have been happily wed for the over 30 years.
The rat-infested crypt scene featured in The Last Crusade, took some serious preparation. The 2000 rats were especially bred to be used in the film since producers were concerned ordinary rats would carry diseases. An additional 1,000 mechanical rats were used during the fire scenes.
In the Temple of Doom installment, the Indian actor D.R. Nananyakkara who played the shaman, did not speak a single word of English. He managed to deliver his lines by phonetically copying Spielberg while the camera was rolling. The pauses in his scenes are him waiting for Spielberg to prompt him with his next line.
Whip it Up
Paramount executives wanted Jones’s bullwhip to be computer generated in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull film, the studio was worried the whip would be a safety hazard, but in true Ford fashion, he insisted on using the real thing. His original kangaroo hide whip was sold in December 1999 at Christie’s auction house in London for $43,000.
While shooting The Raiders of the Lost Ark the out of control airplane actually ran over Ford’s knee. The actor ripped his cruciate ligament. Rather than submit to Tunisian health care and halt production, in yet another Indiana-like move, Ford had his knee bandaged and iced and continued filming.
The Well of Souls snake scene resulted in some pretty close calls for the crew and cast. A large python bit first assistant director David Tomblin’s hand. After the persistent snake was detached from the director’s hand, he received medical attention but sustained no serious injuries. Another interesting fact, a sheet of glass was placed between Ford and the snake during the character’s face-off with the angered cobra.
Lucas is a huge fan of leaving clues and concealed tributes in his films. Eagle-eyed viewers have spotted a seemingly innocuous detail featured in the Well of Souls scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. A golden pillar features a tiny engraving of R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars.
Despite having the formidable backing of Spielberg and Lucas, Raiders of the Lost Ark was turned down by several large Hollywood studios. Paramount Pictures, after much fervent persuasion, eventually took on the ambitious project.
The Last Crusade featured some breath-taking cinematography shot in Jordan’s Petra. After the film’s release, the ancient rock-cut city experienced an unprecedented boost in tourism. Prior to the movie, the city saw only a few thousand visitors every year, after its famous scenes were released, the number of tourists rose to millions.
With his tenacious optimism, lightning-quick wit, devilish charm and impressive capacity for high-intensity stunts, Indiana Jones is one of the world’s most beloved characters. Jones was voted the second greatest hero of all time by the American Film Institute. He lost to Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird, who took first place.
While editing Raiders of the Lost Ark, sound designer Ben Burtt resorted to some unconventional methods in order to achieve the desired sound effects. To create the sound of the heavy lid of the Ark being slid open, he recorded himself moving the lid of his toilet cistern at home. To create the sound of the snakes in the Well of Souls scene, he stuck his hands in a cheese casserole.
Raiders of the Lost Ark was an undeniable success. The film earned $389,9 million dollars off a relatively small $18 million budget. The film was the year’s top-grossing movie, it also nabbed eight Academy Award nominations, ultimately winning four.
Spielberg has one of the most illustrious directorial careers in recent history. The director was so dedicated to the Indiana series he turned down two major opportunities in order commit to shooting The Last Crusade. Spielberg passed on Big and Rain Man.
When you’re Harrison Ford, it appears people in some high places will do what they can to please you. In The Lst Crusade, the four horses that were featured in the very final scene were loaned to the film by none other than by King Hussein of Jordan.
Despite the fantastic stunts and often outlandish happenings, the movies did take historical credibility into account. The Nazi uniforms that were used in the Berlin book burning scene in The Last Crusade, were actually authentic originals, a rare find by costume designer Anthony Powell.
In yet another sneaky ode to his other creations, Lucas included a special nod to the Star Wars character Obi-Wan Kenobi. In one of the beginning scenes of Temple of Doom, Jones visits the bar owned by the movie’s villain Lao Che, the establishment is not-so-subtly titled Club Obi Wan.
One of the most-loved Temple of Doom characters was the mischievous pickpocket Short Round. The actor behind Dr. Jones’s young companion is Jonathan Ke Quan. Despite landing the role, Jonathan never actually auditioned for the part – his brother did. Casting directors were so impressed by his sideline coaching of his sibling that he ultimately won the part.
Temple of Doom‘s character Willie, is first introduced to the dapper Mr. Jones in the Shanghai club scene, while wearing a particularly exquisite, embellished sequined dress. Before the scene was actually shot, one of the elephants on set took a bite out of the authentic 1920s costume. The dress had to be hurriedly repaired to keep the production schedule on cue.
In a case of art imitating life, Ford and little Jonathan Ke Quan became fast friends while shooting Temple of Doom. In preparation for their many high-intensity water scenes, Ford actually taught the young actor to swim during their time on set.
The original script for the first Indiana film was actually handwritten. George Lucas also commissioned a comic book artist to create elaborate stills for the film. The richness in tone and detail was exactly what was wanted and defined Indy’s iconic character.
The exploding head shot from Raiders of the Lost Ark pushed the crew to go to some creative lengths to make the gore look believable. Real beef liver and meat were used. The scene actually earned the film an R rating. In order to avoid the rating, layers of fires were added in post-production to obscure the gory explosion.
Scale it Down
In order to stay within the first film’s budget and on-schedule, Spielberg made use of elaborate miniature models. The Well of Souls and Egyptian marketplace scenes were just two of the exotic locations actually created in studio.
Animal wranglers had some trouble with the first film’s featured monkey. The little guy refused to do the Nazi salute. Someone had to dangle a bunch of grapes off-screen in order to get the desired shot.
Few fans know that the action film was shot in a surprisingly short period of time. Raiders of the Lost Ark was shot in just 73 days. Very impressive for what would be 1981’s highest-grossing film.
The fifth Indiana Jones movie is set to be shot next year. Ford will be almost 80 years old when the film is released. Rumors have been swirling about what the movie might have in store for its audiences. Some say the film will feature the moon landing, a more outlandish theory speculates that the movie will take place in space. Only time will tell.