Indiana Joness adventures
have never taken him to a parallel universe
well, not yet but theres a parallel
universe for the Indy films which we, the fans,
can visit. Its a secret dimension that most
great films inhabit, of different drafts, rejected
screenplays and budgetary constraints. Everyone
has their favorite Indy moment, and we know the
films so well that we could almost have been in
them ourselves. Yet if we lived in the secret
dimension of the nixed screenplays our memories
of the films would be very different of
Raiders of the Lost Ark,
with its, err... thrilling mine car chase? Or
the aerial dogfight in...
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom???
Okay, okay, how about the speedboat chase which
ends in a tremendous fight, just a few feet from
a giant, scything, ships propeller? That
was definitely in the third Indiana Jones film.
You know, the one where Indy travels through Africa,
looking for the Garden of Immortal Peaches.
Huh?!? Say what?!!!??!
Its true. The films we know
and love could have been very different. Everyone
knows that Tom Selleck was Lucas and Spielbergs
first choice for the part of Indy. Its less
well known that he almost got to play a swashbuckling
archaeologist by the name of Indiana Smith. The
story of how the films developed is fascinating
because it shows us what they might have been
and provides more than a few clues to what
Indy 4 might contain.
Contrary to popular belief Indiana
Jones didnt start his career on a beach
in Hawaii. In the early seventies George Lucas,
a little-known director of gloomy avant-garde
sci-fi films, tried his hand at scriptwriting.
He tried to take his writing in a lighter direction,
paying homage to the classic Saturday-morning
serials of his youth. His first attempt, Star
Wars, was eventually made and achieved
some modest commercial success ;-). At the same
time he created a modern serial hero, set in the
Thirties, Indiana Smith; a playboy
archaeologist who financed his louche Manhattan
lifestyle by collecting priceless artifacts from
all around the world, occasionally saving it into
the bargain. The films would follow his adventures,
but also reflect Lucass interest in ancient
cultures and the occult.
In this early incarnation Indy was
kind of heroic, but kind of a sleaze as well.
He was a womanizer, a drinker, and when confronted
with the theft of an ancient relic more likely
to yell it belongs in my pocket than
it belongs in a museum. Lucas worked
on the idea intermittently over a number of years,
in between writing Star
Wars. The first director he approached
to work on bringing Indy to the screen was Philip
Kaufman, who later went on to make The
Right Stuff, another film about modern
American heroes, the Gemini astronauts of the
Sixties. Its not known precisely what input
Kaufman had into the character of Indy, but one
important thing he did add for sure was the idea
of Indy looking for the Lost Ark of the Covenant.
This was based on stories about its power that
he heard as a boy in Chicago from an old Jewish
doctor, who according to Kaufman, was obsessed
with the Ark. The Ark would become the McGuffin
of the first film. A McGuffin was
Alfred Hitchcocks term for something that
gets the action moving in any film, be it a secret
formula or the stolen plans to the Death Star;-).
Powerful old artifacts are to Indy what stolen
nuclear submarines are to the James Bond films.
Possession of them drives the storyline and their
destructive power provides suspense.
Kaufman eventually dropped out of
the project, and as we all know George Lucas asked
his pal Steven Spielberg if hed be interested
in making an action film that would be better
than Bond. But Philip Kaufman left his mark
on the films with more than just the Ark of the
Covenant storyline. He almost certainly introduced
Lucas to a series of pulp adventure novels from
the 1920s that had an enormous influence
on the character of Indy and the films.
Ever heard of Jimgrim?
James Schuyler Grim, or Jimgrim, is the hero of
a series of books written by fantasy author Talbot
Mundy over seventy years ago. A cunning and resourceful
character - a blend of James Bond and Lawrence
of Arabia - Jimgrim is an American working
for the British Secret Service in the Middle East.
His adventures take him through classic Indy territory
Palestine, Egypt and Arabia, and later
Tibet and India. Along the way he battles larger
than life villains intent on harnessing occult
powers to take over the world. Like Indy, hes
supported by a cast of colorful friends. Theres
the Princess Yasmini a woman so tough she
makes Marion Ravenwood look like, well, Willie
Scott and Chullander Ghose, who bears a
close resemblance to Sallah. A very close resemblance.
Philip Kaufman definitely knew the series, because
in the mid-Eighties he wrote an unproduced script
for a Jimgrim movie called Jimgrim
vs. The Nine Unknown, based on one of the
novels. The storyline sounds a tad familiar
Jimgrim goes to India, where he battles a cult
bent on world domination by awakening the power
of the evil goddess Kali...
Even if George Lucas knew the
books, like Indy, hes not so much a thief
as an obtainer of rare antiquities.
Well, thats one way of putting it. He created
the character of Indiana Jones by acting like
him and bringing together a few ancient but powerful
relics James Bond, Jimgrim, and the Saturday
matinee heroes of his youth. When Steven Spielberg
joined the project he added another influence;
the classic film The
Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948), starring
of the Sierra
Madre DVD poster.
Treasure of Sierra Madre Bogart plays a
villainous, grizzled gold prospector, Frank C.Dobbs.
Dobbs sets out on a gold-hunting expedition with
two companions, and they find a fortune in gold
dust. However, his own greed and mistrust destroy
him, and at the end of the film the bags containing
the gold dust are ripped open, and the precious
dust returns to the sands of the desert. The opening
sequence of Raiders of
the Lost Ark is like a thumbnail sketch
of The Treasure of Sierra
Madre. Barranca and Satipo betray Indy
and themselves are killed. Yet despite the dangers
Indy is determined to secure the gold idol of
the Chachapoyan Warriors that taunts his
every step as Spielberg described it in
his production notes. Just before he swipes it
we see him letting the sand from his bag run through
his fingers; the image is repeated at the end
of the film when Belloq opens the Ark of the Covenant
and finds only dust or sand. While Toht laughs
Belloq watches incredulously as it slips through
his hands. Life itself is running out for him
too. In each case the handful of dust represents
the danger of obtaining anything through greed
or an obsession; it leads to death for the seeker.
Both times Indy barely escapes with his life.
Like Fred C.Dobbs, Belloq or Satipo, Indy too
is obsessed, with golden things, with fortune
and glory, with the quest for knowledge
of things that man is not meant to know.
He survives because despite these character flaws,
ultimately human beings are more important to
him than the things he seeks.
All these influences on Indiana
Jones, both literary and cinematic, culminated
in the films we know. The process of getting them
on paper began when Lucas and Spielberg asked
a young, unknown writer called Laurence Kasdan
to write a screenplay based on their ideas. Kasdan
would turn in a number of drafts over the next
couple of years. In these drafts, the characters,
story and action sequences would go through many
changes. Other factors would affect the film
like the ruthless penny pinching of the studio
Will Indy escape the Budgetary Constraints
of Doom? Find out next week in the second exciting
installment of Raiders
of the Lost Drafts!!
to Chapter 2 >>