The 1978 Spielberg/Lucas meeting that spawned Raiders of the Lost Ark

lucasspeilbergThe next Indiana Jones is a go! Plans for the film were confirmed in the latest issue of Vanity Fair by no less an authority than Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, executive producer for every one of Indy’s past adventures. Yes, even the one some of us pretend doesn’t exist.

Granted, Kennedy just said Disney “will one day” make another Indiana Jones movie, which anyone could have guessed, given the archetypal character’s popularity. There’s no script, and there isn’t any word on whether it will be a sequel, prequel, or reboot.

The news did make me nostalgic for the beginning of the franchise. No, not for Raiders of the Lost Ark—I’m talking about a full three years earlier, when George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan sat down to hash out their ideas for Raiders from start to finish.

It took them a week, but the transcript of the entire story conference, which just surfaced on Reddit, is packed full of quirky, enlightening insights into the thought process behind what eventually became my favorite action-adventure film. Here are a few highlights, and trust me: they belong in a museum.

Indie’s costume was modeled after Humphrey Bogart’s in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
After mentioning that he wants Indie to be in the “John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery tradition,” but with Humphrey Bogart’s scruffy side, George Lucas adds, “the image of him which is the strongest image is the Treasure Of Sierra Madre outfit, which is the khaki pants, he’s got the leather jacket, that sort of felt hat, and the pistol and holster with a World War I sort of flap over it. He’s going into the jungle carrying his gun.”

They wanted him to be afraid of something, but didn’t know what
“What’s he afraid of? He’s got to be afraid of something,” Spielberg says at one point. George agrees, but doesn’t have a suggestion, even though he mentioned earlier that Indie’s bullwhip “looks sort of like a snake that’s coiled up behind him, and any time it strikes it’s a real threat.” Come on, guys! It’s right there!

Peter Falk was considered for the role of Indiana Jones (for like five seconds)
Lucas keeps defining Jones’ look: “Peter Falk is one way of looking at him, a Humphrey Bogart character. The fact that he’s sort of scruffy and, not the right image, but…”

Spielberg finishes: “Peter’s too scruffy.”

If you know Peter Falk as the rumpled police lieutenant he played on Colombo or for his role as the grandfather in The Princess Bride, you know exactly what they mean by “too scruffy.” This also proves that Lucas really enjoys using the word “scruffy.” No mention of nerfherders this time, however.

Max von Sydow is mentioned as a “dying” mentor
Spielberg suggests the extra cast member: “He should have a mentor in this. Somebody you never see, but he refers to from time to time, somebody you want to see. The man who taught him everything. The man who gave him whatever power he has now. Maybe some supreme archaeologist who’s maybe 90 years old, like Max Von Sydow, and is dying now. So you know it didn’t start with this guy.”

Aside from proof that Spielberg was really pushing for an American James Bond series that could keep going with new characters, it’s interesting that Von Sydow was mentioned. Spielberg was off by thirty years on his age, and Von Sydow is now old enough that he was actually cast as a 90-year-old character in another Lucasfilm production: The Force Awakens. Presumably, he’ll be a mentor in that one, too.

Some ideas were recycled for later adventures
Spielberg suggested a use for the whip: “At some point in the movie he must use it to get a girl back who’s walking out of the room. Wrap her up and she twirls as he pulls her back. She spins into his arms.”

That’s not in Raiders, but it wound up in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, alongside the idea for a coal mine roller-coaster ride they mention later. George Lucas posits that Indie has done some ghostbusting (“ghost chaser,” in Lucas’ words, but either way, he’s who you’re gonna call), and in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Indie tangles with a few ghosts and creepy castles. This early brainstorming session kept bearing fruit.

The scene they called “a ride at Disneyland” became a ride at Disneyland
The opening temple scene, Spielberg says, will be “kind of like one of those rides at Disneyland.” He succeeded. A couple decades later, it was exactly like one of those rides.

Indie was always a cynical romantic
“I think basically he’s very cynical about the whole thing,” Lucas says. “Maybe he thinks that […] somebody’s going to rip this stuff off anyway. Better that he rips it off and gets it to a museum where people can study it, and rip it off right.”

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