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George Beahm interview
by Mitchell Hallock - posted on March 17, 2008
Indiana Jones--Off the Beaten Path: An Unofficial Expedition

I recently had the opportunity to talk with George Beahm, who along with former Disney Imagineer, Tm Kirk, set out to document those behind the scenes tales of the globe-trotting, adventurer. Their efforts have been compiled into the new book from Hampton Roads Publishing entitled; Indiana Jones--Off the Beaten Path: An Unofficial Expedition.
The book explores things as the truth behind some off the events and places from Indy’s adventures where might the Ark be? Does anyone speak Hovitos? Where is the real Club Obi Wan? And there are a ton of Indy trivia and tidbits that Indy fans will love to learn more about.


Mitchell Hallock: First off George can you tell readers a little bit about yourself? From your bio in the book you seem to be a "man of many talents" like Indiana Jones. How you did you get into writing?

George Beahm: I’m an ink-stained wretch. Or, as fellow writer so aptly put it, "A writer is a person who sits in a small room and types all day." I’ve published nearly 30 books, but that’s not being prolific: it’s simply working steadily, on a regular schedule, and watching the books pile up. I majored in English Language and Literature in college, but realized I had to make a living first, so I was in ROTC in college and was commissioned as an officer, leaving the military with the rank of major. All of my real adventures were in the military: commanding troops during a riot in Virginia Beach, nearly getting shot out of the sky by a howitzer battery during a tactical training mission, and working with incredibly talented and modest pilots in an Air Force fighter wing in the southwest. But those are just old war stories.
Now, I like to light a fire, put on a good movie, pull out the laptop, surf the Internet, and write. It’s a good life. When I think of a man of "many talents," I’d nominate people like Tim Kirk or Dr. Eric Cline (contributors to Off the Beaten Path), both of who are multi-talented and, as is always the case with truly good folk, exceptionally modest and consummate pros, to boot.
Me? As I said, I’m just a writer.

"Shot out of the sky by a howitzer"? That sounds a little Indy-esque! Speaking of Indiana Jones; when was it that you first encountered the subject of your latest book, Indiana Jones: Off the Beaten Path?

George Beahm
George Beahm

Like other fans who are (cough, cough) of a certain age, I saw Indy at the movie theatre in 1981, which was then, and now, the best way to see it, in a darkened room with larger-than-life images and a sound system to match. --- Home systems are in comparison a poor substitute! Part of the fun of seeing an Indiana Jones movie is the experience of sharing it in a group setting in which people can moan, groan, gasp, and clap wildly as Indy puts the classroom behind to go off the path and become an adventurer.
Twenty-seven years after its initial appearance, Raiders of the Lost Ark holds up very well indeed—in fact, I can’t imagine how it could be improved. It was, frame for frame, cinematic perfection.

Ahem, I am also of a "certain age" but we won’t be getting senior discounts on our movie tickets, yet! What was your immediate reaction to Raiders?

My experience of seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark was similar to seeing Star Wars in 1977, which I saw in the company of artist Tim Kirk, my collaborator on my Indy book.
What struck me most forcefully was the element of pure fun, pure excitement that is the trademark of an Indiana Jones film: the kind of movie that depends on visual storytelling and characterization, not special effects--a weak substitute when all else fails.
People go to the movies because they want to be transported, taken away to another place, and Raiders of the Lost Ark certainly did that. The opening sequence, with Indy making his way into, and out of, the cave to retrieve the gold fertility statue is simply unsurpassed in terms of its ability to transport the reader to 1936, the time-frame of the movie.
Most impressive of all, for its run time of 115 minutes, I was glued to my seat: the movie riveted my attention from start to finish. As a movie, it’s the perfect template for how action-adventure films ought to be made.
In short: I was blown away.

In your book you said you pull no punches, and are honest about the subject matter. So, with that in mind how about the later films, Temple of Doom and Last Crusade and what did you like or not like? Let's talk Temple first?

click to enlarge
Art © 2008 by Tim Kirk

In my book, I make it clear that, in my opinion, Lucas and Spielberg strayed, and stayed, off the beaten path with Temple of Doom, which was needlessly dark in every possible way.
The biggest challenge is to produce a sequel that has the dynamics of the first film and takes risks by exploring new themes; unfortunately, Temple of Doom was over the top and, while I wasn’t looking for a repeat of Raiders, I also wasn’t looking for the doom/gloom/death/gross-out factor that, to me, characterized Temple of Doom.

And Last Crusade?

The feedback from the second film forced Lucas and Spielberg to re-think the approach to the third film, which they felt had to go back to Indy’s roots. Though Temple of Doom did well at the box office, it was clear that fans did not want a repeat of the unremitting darkness that characterized that movie.
If Last Crusade had simply been Indy’s search for the Holy Grail, the cup of Christ, it would have been a great adventure film. But Spielberg’s notion of adding an emotional element--one of his filmic trademarks--is what takes the movie to a higher level: estranged from his father, Indiana Jones’s search for the Holy Grail parallels his search for the elusive relationship he’s never had with his father, who by the end of the movie reaches out--figuratively and literally--to symbolically rescue his son. It’s closure for both Jones Sr and Jr., and its renewal. Father and son are finally together.
Sadly, Sean Connery, who played Jones Sr., declined to come back for Crystal Skull to reprise his role, which would have been welcomed by Indy fans. Connery, now retired from acting, is sorely missed, as is the late Denholm Elliott, who portrayed Dr. Marcus Brody.

Well, who knows who will turn up in Indy 4? Moving away from the films, let's talk about what set you down or rather "off the beaten path" and what was the dynamic to make you want to write a book about Indiana Jones? Was it "fortune and glory"?

I’ve published nearly 30 books and the first thing that comes to mind is whether or not I want to spend a half year (or more) exploring in detail a specific subject.
With Indy, what struck me most was that, given the long interval between Last Crusade and the release of Crystal Skull -- an interval of 19 years, a book like mine would serve two purposes: to take long-time fans back down memory lane, and to bring new fans up to date.
When I began research on what was available and what was announced, it was clear that nobody was planning on writing about Indy the way I had planned to cover him, the movies, and the fandom that surrounds the Indy universe. So I pitched the idea to my publisher, Hampton Roads Publishing, and they agreed it was a viable idea, which gave me the opportunity to go off on my own--with the help of artist Tim Kirk and professor/archaeologist Eric Cline--and explore Indy’s world.
As for "fortune and glory," I wouldn’t recommend full-time, freelance writing to anyone who is seeking either: There are easier ways to make a living, but the creative arts (as a rule) is a tough row to hoe.
If you want to make a fortune, bet on the lottery: the odds are better.
I should also point out that the late writer L. Sprague de Camp, who was something of an adventurer himself, observed that writers tend NOT to be adventurers--they prefer to go exploring in their imaginative worlds, and not out there where you might step on a hairy tarantula or sinuous snake. I think de Camp is right.
I should point out that de Camp spoke "several languages" and traveled "world-wide" and had his share of adventures. "He has been chased by a hippopotamus in Uganda and by sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, seen tiger and rhinoceros from elephant back in India, and been bitten by a lizard in the jungles of Guatemala," according to an online biography ( Few writers are in de Camps class! And few have his taste of adventure!

George in the book Off the Beaten Path, you mention that you are an "armchair adventurer", what exactly does that mean?

It means that I like to go off on adventures, but do so from the security of an overstuffed chair in the living room.
It means I like to experience things vicariously, instead of striking out in the real world for an adventure.
I had fun with this notion by poking fun at myself in the bio that’s in the book, in which I deliberately explain what I haven’t done: I’ve never jumped out of a plane at high altitude, I’ve never scaled mountains, and I’ve never scuba-dived in the undersea world popularized by Jacques Cousteau.
I prefer to keep me feet on terra firma: the more firma, the less terror. In other words, I like to play it safe. This way, I don’t have to worry about encountering asps. As Sallah would say; "Asps. Very dangerous".

Like Indy, you have several companions who were part of your "journey" in making Off the Beaten Path, can you tells us some more about the man behind the illustrations in the book, Tim Kirk;

Art by Tim Kirk
Art © 2008 by Tim Kirk

First, Tim has been my steadfast companion, friend, and illustrator on all of my books for Hampton Roads Publishing, for which I am eternally grateful.
Unlike many nonfiction books being published today, I believe book illustration is essential in adding a visual dimension that’s otherwise lacking when there’s only page after page of small text.
By any barometer, Tim is probably one of the most imaginative, and intelligent, creators on the planet. His imagination is simply world class: A veteran Disney Imagineer with 23 years of experience, he preceded that long run with stints at Hallmark Cards, and thousands of cartoons and illustrations for fanzines, magazines, book covers and interiors.
My great admiration for Tim, as an artist and person, led me to write Kirk’s Works, which was an illustrated index of his published work that book was published in 1980 (see for details)
In my opinion, Tim -- who has designed billion-dollar theme parks worldwide -- is a one-of-a-kind creator: he’s simply the best at what he does.

Tim has had the chance to influence many of the Disney attractions, particularly the Indiana Jones ones. In your research and in the book you mention some tidbits; tourist might want to know if they ever go to see the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular at Disneyworld, where folks are chosen from the crowd to be "extras" in the show. Have you ever been fortunate enough to be in one of the shows?

I haven’t--and that’s by intent. I think its great fun for tourists who want to participate, but I’d prefer to watch. In fact, I make sure to blend in, disappear, like Marcus Brody when he’s in a foreign land, as Indy points out.
For those of you who want to be an "extra," I’d recommend being upfront, with bright clothing, and wearing a distinctive hat, and being very loud and animated. You’ve got to get their attention!

You also have fantastic Indiana Jones prop replicas from Anthony "Indy" Magnoli in the book; are you a huge Indiana Jones memorabilia collector like many of community?

I was a collector, but my book, artwork, and action figures threatened to overtake my house, so I was forced to draw the line. It reminds me of what comedian George Carlin said: a house is nothing but a place where you store your stuff.
I have too much stuff.
That said, I did buy a candid color photo taken by Steven Spielberg of Harrison Ford slouched down in a movie director’s chair, a photo published by Official Pix. Because it shows the wear ‘n tear Indy has gone through: Remember, folks, it’s not the years... it’s the mileage.
Now, if I were to run across a replica of the Holy Grail cup, I’d buy it just to put on the fireplace mantle. And if someone saw it and knew what it was, I’d know we are of like minds.
Indy Magnoli began his line, not for profit but for his own collection. There wasn’t much available and what there was available, he couldn’t afford (being an impoverished college student). Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the considerable talents Indy Magnoli possesses--he can literally make anything!

You have a Dr. Eric Cline, professor at The George Washington University, who provided the foreword in your book, and you devote a section of your book to "A Day in the Life of an Archaeologist". Was Dr. Cline, or any of the folks you met on your journey in writing Off the Beaten Path armchair adventures or are they maybe even the real Indiana Jones?

Dr. Eric Cline
Dr. Eric Cline

Dr. Cline is quick to point out that Indiana Jones is really more of an adventurer than archaeologist, which is made clear in the trailer for Crystal Skull in which Shia LaBeouf asks Harrison Ford if he’s a teacher, and Harrison replies, "Part-time."
The Indy character really is interested in getting his hands dirty, going out in the real world and finding artifacts. If you were to look for someone who is a dedicated archaeology professor, you couldn’t find anyone more qualified than Dr. Cline, who is well regarded in his field. He also wears a second hat, as a field archaeologist, so he’s the Real McCoy.
I don’t get the impression that he’d be interested in being run over by a boulder, chased by natives, or fist-fighting with bad guys, but he probably wouldn’t mind meeting a long-legged blonde like Alison Doody, who played Dr. Elsa Schneider, for a game of chess...

Off the Beaten Path is really a great traveler's guide into the world of Indiana Jones, like one of those tour guide books you take with you on vacation if you were an adventurer. You also cover lost treasures like Atlantis, Easter Island, and King Tut's Tomb. If you were to "take up the challenge" in real life, which one of Indy's quest would you go after? The Ark? The Grail? Crystal Skull? or something else?

Whew, what a question. I’d probably like to tag along with Dr. Cline if he happened to uncover Atlantis, because that’s a lost world and one that holds many secrets to past civilizations... if it exists. I don’t think it does, and Dr. Cline probably doesn’t think so, either, but isn’t it fun to think so?
Crystal skulls are intriguing, of course, and what Lucas has done with them in the new movie will be fun – the whole Roswell name on the crate in the trailer, the alien looking skull on the posters – real "Area 51" stuff!
Reality time: I was in the military for many years, on active duty, in the National Guard, and in the Reserves, and had a top secret clearance.
The last assignment I had was with an F-16 fighter wing in the southwest. I spent a lot of time with pilots, and during one of the sessions, I had to ask (tongue in cheek, of course): "Just what the hell are you guys HIDING out at Area 51? Aliens?" It got a big laugh.
Folks, there ain’t NOTHING at Area 51 that came from outer space. Trust me on this one.
A friend of mine, a film producer, speculated that in Crystal Skull, Area 51 is the site of the top secret Army facility we saw in Raiders.
It’s an interesting notion, but since Area 51 is under Air Force control, and not the Army’s, that wouldn’t make sense.

Which creepy crawlies would you want to avoid? Snakes? Bugs? Rats? or Giant Ants?

Bugs. Oh, dear God. NOT BUGS! AHHH!! ARRGH!!

Now for the hard question, do you think you would be more like Indy, Henry, Sallah or Marcus Brody?

Easy, question, actually. In my imagination, don’t we all want to pretend to be Indy, if only for a day? But I’m more like Marcus Brody, a bit distracted, though I’m usually pretty good about not getting lost because map reading is a skill I picked up in the military.

Looking back what was your favorite moment(s) in writing this book?

Off the Beaten Path
Indiana Jones --
Off the Beaten Path:
An Unofficial Expedition

Working with Tim and meeting Dr. Cline. I’m always amazed at what Tim comes up with, but for this project he sent me clippings, gave me suggestions on where to look for more info, and was the silent partner doing research behind the scenes. Meeting Dr. Cline was sheer luck: I found an article of his on the web, in which he debunked the credential-less poseurs and encroachers who have glommed onto archaeology as a way to defraud the masses and seek funding for dubious projects. I thought it was worth reiterating in my book, as he did, and so we started working together on that basis. Happily, he became more involved and, as a result, the book benefits greatly from his presence: he is a real-world archaeologist and knows whereof he speaks. I’m just a pop culture writer.

Did you come across many "Indy fans" on or "off the beaten path"?

Not yet, but Tim and I hope to meet as many Indy fans as possible at the Newport Beach Film Festival at the end of April. We’ve both been interviewed for Indyfans and the Quest for Fortune and Glory (by Brandon Kleyla of who interviewed in December 2007-MH). As for my book and the reaction it’s gotten, Tim and I have been pleasantly pleased. You never know what kind of reaction you’re going to get. (In fact, we did send an advance copy to a guy named George Lucas, but we didn’t expect to hear from him.)
Most of all, I wanted to have fun with my Indy book, and share my own enthusiasm and interest in the character and his world with new and old fans, and I think I accomplished that, if nothing else.

After Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull comes out on May 22nd, do you plan on revisiting this topic, perhaps coming out with a new Indiana Jones book?

Realistically, I may update the book at some point in the future, but I’m not likely to do a second book on this topic, since I think I’ve said everything I’ve wanted to say about Indy. I’ve got other books to write and other projects to work on, and I need to get to work on them.

I have to ask, one of your other books is Caribbean Pirates, that takes a look at Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean being a big fan of Captain Jack Sparrow and Indiana Jones, who would win a fight?

It’d be a toss-out, wouldn’t you think? Jack’s lucky and Indiana’s pretty good with his fists, so I think I’d have to give Indiana Jones a slight edge.
But then, given Indiana’s good-hearted nature, I think he’d be more likely to give Jack a lop-sided grin, clap him on the shoulder, and say, "Whiskey!" And they’d go off to find the nearest tavern.

George, I thank you for your time and giving us some insight into the making of your latest book; Indiana Jones--Off the Beaten Path: An Unofficial Expedition available at bookstores on April 12th or get it online at
I have read the book and it is one of a kind! A great look back at the nearly three decades of Indy and all the thrills that have come along with it. Whether it really is the mileage or years – it has been one hell of a ride and your book is a great tour guide into that world. I am sure I speak for Indy fans around the world in saying; our fedoras are off to you for having the gumption for undertaking such a huge, but fun, challenge of going down the road less traveled and into the world of Indiana Jones. Is there anything you would like to add in closing?

George Beahm: Thank you Mitchell and thanks to me fellow Indy fans at, it is a fantastic site! One appeal, I think, of the Indy films for me -- and others of my generation -- is that they take me back to a time when life was simpler and more idyllic: nostalgia, perhaps, tinges everything, but the world seemed so fresh and young back when Raiders came out, and George Lucas didn't have the salt-and-pepper in his beard, and Spielberg looked like a kid. Indy, mostly, is timeless: He'll forever be the action hero we all love and admire, precisely because he's what we'd want to be if we could be anyone else. I'm sure a lot of guys (and gals) feel that way.

Ditto! Thanks again George! For more information and to contact the author of Indiana Jones--Off the Beaten Path: An Unofficial Expedition be sure to check out his site at


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