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The Making of

Chapter 1: Completing a hat trick


Loyal to his original plan for a series of adventure films Lucas started working on Indy's next outing in early 1985. Despite earlier announcements from his own company, that there would be a total of five Indy films, it was decided that this third one would be pulling the curtain on the adventure serials of the past. With the negative reviews of the previous film still echoing in his ears Lucas thought it would be better for Indy to return to the light spirit of Raiders. The initial deal of making three films, along with the bittersweet taste Temple of Doom had left, made no questions about Spielberg's involvement in the next chapter of the adventurous saga. He felt bad about making such a dark film as Temple of Doom and wanted to make up for the audience. Besides he felt obliged to Lucas, as a friend, to complete the project that started some years ago in that Hawaiian beach.

An early idea involved a ghost story, with children and a haunted house but it was soon dropped because it reminded Temple of Doom a lot. Another idea based on a quest for the Holy Grail was explored for a while but was soon abandoned, too. Spielberg didn't like the concept of a modern day quest for the Holy Grail because he had always associated it with Monty Python and he couldn't really relate it to any present day myth. "The Grail legend was interesting to me symbolically because it represented the search for one's self - but making a movie about that seemed too esoteric for this genre."

Even George Lucas, who had proposed the Holy Grail storyline, grappled with the problem of developing an action tale around what was essentially a mythological object. "The Ark of the Covenant was supposedly a real artifact," Lucas observed, "whereas the Holy Grail, or at least the story surrounding it, is more of a myth. The Grail was the cup that Christ drank from at the Last Supper and was then used to catch his blood and that was probably a real object. But the Arthur legend that came out of that was completely mythological. As a result, my initial ideas were very metaphysical and the Grail was difficult to define."

The adaptation of a Chinese legend involving the Monkey King in Africa impressed Lucas so much as in early May 1985 he talked with scriptwriter Chris Columbus and producer Robert Watts. Lucas, with Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy even flew to Africa for location scouting. Columbus scriptwriting credits included The Goonies, Young Sherlock Holmes and Gremlins, films that Spielberg had developed as producer. "What attracted me to doing Indiana Jones is that he may very well be the greatest American hero of the 20th century," stated Columbus. "To write this film is a bigger challenge than writing Sherlock Holmes. I'm going about it the same way I did Holmes. I'm determined to write the best Indiana Jones movie that anyone has ever seen. I've no idea what the story will be, but I know it certainly will be different that the last two." Unfortunately, the screenplay he wrote during that summer failed to please either Lucas or Spielberg. After several drafts, however, both Lucas and Spielberg decided it was not the story they wanted to tell. "Chris writes comedy brilliantly and his script was very humorous," Spielberg recalled. "It was upbeat and full of the same nostalgia that we tapped into in Raiders of the Lost Ark, so in that sense Chris was right on the money. But I don't think any of us wanted to go to Africa for four months and try to get Indy to ride a rhinoceros in a multi-vehicular chase, which was one of the sequences Chris had written. Once ? got into the script, I began to feel very old, too old to direct it, anyway."

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Spielberg, Ford & Lucas

By the time Columbus' script was placed on the shelf, Lucas had developed several new ideas to bring the Holy Grail myth down to earth, particularly the notion that drinking from the authentic Grail would insure immortality, while a sip from the wrong one would age the partaker into dust. The Nazis again would be after the Grail. Though intrigued by these developments, Spielberg still pressed for more. Somewhere at this point a new idea was born: "Why don't we give Indy a father?" Coincidentally, Ford, Lucas and Spielberg had recently become fathers. "I did not want Indy on a headlong pursuit without a subplot that was almost stronger than the actual quest itself," said Spielberg. "So we came up with the father-son story because the Grail is symbolic of finding the truth in one's life - the truth we are always looking for, consciously or unconsciously. For me, that was represented by Indy and Henry meeting. In this context, the Grail made sense to me. They actually go after the Holy Grail, but their quest is also symbolic of their search for each other. Once ? could look upon the Grail twofold as a physical antiquity from religious history and as a symbolic metaphor for self-illumination, then it became interesting to me." The concept of introducing Indy's father would give a new dimension to the series and also provide the emotion missing from the second film.

After the basic parameters of the story were hammered out, Menno Meyjes, who had worked with Spielberg on The Color Purple, wrote the first draft, which Spielberg wasn't very fond of. Meyjes went off to get involved in another project and the two filmmakers started looking for a new scriptwriter. Jeffrey Boam had impressed Lucas with his work of Joe Dante's Innerspace and David Cronenberg's adaptation of Stephen King's The Dead Zone and in early 1987 Spielberg called him and asked him how he would feel about working on the new Indiana Jones film. Boam's answer came as a surprise; "I don't know why you didn't call me in on it a long time ago." The reason Boam felt so sure was because he had already analyzed the first two films and felt he knew what was missing. "For me the first two movies just didn't have enough character. Indiana Jones has always been a great character but he has always been this being presented full-blown with his leather jacket, hat and bullwhip. I felt that given the opportunity, I could bring an added dimension to the Indy character and basically get inside him and let the audience find out how Indiana Jones became Indiana Jones. With those ideas in mind I felt ready when George said, 'Let's sit down and talk about the story'." When Boam was brought in he expected a plot skeleton of some kind to layer story muscle and tissue upon. "George Lucas gave me nothing," was his remark of his early meeting. "I was given a laundry list of elements, we would meet Indy's father, Sallah and Brody would return, there would be a female character to cross swords with Indy and there would be an adventure. George told me what he wanted in the story and then said, 'Give me a story'."

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Writer Jeffrey Boam

Soon Boam found that things weren't as difficult as he thought. "George Lucas made a conscious decision to keep the Indiana Jones films similar. They're not that open-ended and I knew going into the project that I couldn't just do anything I think I managed it get some different things in, but I also know that George vetoed a lot of my ideas. The Indiana Jones movies use the cliffhanging serial as a role model. It's a unique formula but, bottom line, it's a formula that means the writer is faced with a confined structure and a series of expectations that need to be met. Fortunately for everybody involved, this formula is a highly entertaining one. The biggest challenge was making something as exciting as the first two Raiders films. Writing sequels is generally easier than starting from scratch. But when you've got these two enormously successful films in front of you that are considered classics, you don't want to be one to drop the ball. Giving the audience something new was the real challenge."

Boam and Lucas created a story where Indy's father, Henry Jones, professor of medieval literature spent his entire life searching for the Holy Grail. Absorbed by his search Henry neglected his son, even when his mother died. As a result to that the two drifted apart and hardly spoke to each other. Twenty-six years later Indy finds out that his father has disappeared while looking for the Grail. He travels to Europe to find him and the rest of the story is based on the conflict between father and son, and how they blame each other for mistakes of the past, while at the end they become for the first time friends.

One of Boam's challenges was writing the film's opening sequence. Actually, he wrote several openings, but the consensus was that all of them were basically empty exercises. The big problem was that the teasers in the first two films always told something new about Indiana Jones, and what Boam discovered was that he had nothing new to say. Finally, Lucas came up with the idea of seeing Indiana Jones as a boy and working on an artifact that would carry over into the body of the film. "Nothing traumatic happens. The sequence doesn't reveal any terrible dark secrets in Indy's past. What we will see is that Indiana Jones, as a young teen, was always right on the verge of becoming the adult he ultimately became. What we show is that moment when he became Indiana Jones. All the elements, his style, his cloths, it all comes together in this sequence", explained Boam. "We find out many things about Indy's background. We learn the origin of the bullwhip, the leather jacket and the hat. We'll learn where the name Indiana Jones came from, where he grew up and what his parents were like. We also learn how he developed his fear of snakes. By the time this film is over, Indiana Jones won't have too many secrets left." Spielberg didn't like the idea of young Indy at all because he had recently made Empire of the Sun, and after the reviews he received he didn't want to make any movie with kids in it. Finally, under the persuasion of Lucas he agreed.

Another major problem for Boam was the introduction of a female character into what is basically an action-oriented male adventure without being contrived. She had to be a challenge for Indy and, consequently, as smart and sophisticated as he is. That led to the creation of Elsa Schneider, a combination of Indy's two previous counterparts, Marion Ravenwood and Willie Scott. Elsa was determined, she wasn't afraid to enter a catacomb with leering skulls and blackened skeletons and she managed to maintain her femininity and sex appeal under all circumstances. By making Elsa an art historian, she immediately became a viable element in the plot's development and became involved in an interesting back-and-forth relationship with Indiana.

One thing Spielberg definitely wanted was a three-part test at the end of the film that Indy had to pass in order to get to the Grail. "The nature of the individual tests was changed several times," explained Lucas. "Various ones were developed in the Menno Meyjes script. Then we took a bunch out and later put them back in. The three tests that are in the movie now, The Breath of God, The Word of God and The Path of God, were essentially Steven's ideas."

Inspired by the crusades that took place some 700 years before and the filmmakers' intention for completing the trilogy, the completed script was entitled Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and was much like the first two Indy films in terms of structure and formula. It started out with the tease, which gives the impression of being the last few minutes of another film, and then it flash-forward to Indiana in his tweeds in front of his college class. At this point Indy's father who is on a quest in Europe is being introduced. Indy joins him in his quest, and mixed in with the usual twist and double-crosses, it becomes a metaphor for the father-son relationship as well as a jumping-off pint for Indiana Jones' search for himself. Rising to the high expectations of Indiana Jones fans worldwide, the script also contained an abundance of exotic locales, action, intrigue and death-defying stunts.

Once finished the script was then taken to Harrison Ford for approval. Ford felt that many elements that had made the character attractive to him and the audience were missing from the second film and he was ambitious to bring them back in the third one. "When you have done something two times before the obligation to the audience is to provide the best that you can come up with," was his opinion. The appearance of Indy's father would provide the elements Ford wanted. "In this film, you see another side of Indy's personality. These are men who have never made any accommodation to each other. Indy behaves differently in his father's presence. Who else would dare call Indy 'junior'?"

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Producer Robert Watts

In October 1987 Robert Watts, who would produce the film, began organizing the entire production from all aspects in order to deliver to Spielberg the wherewithal to tell the story while the last got fully involved in the film's pre-production. Undertaking Indy III Spielberg had to abandon two other projects he was working on at the time. The one was Rain Man on which he had spent half a year developing and the other was Big. Barry Levinson was the one who finally helmed Rain Man and received an Academy Award for his work on the film.

Most of the filmmakers who worked on the first and second motion picture adventures of Indiana Jones reunited to make Indy's last crusade. They include cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, editor Michael Kahn, production designer Elliot Scott, costume designer Anthony Powell, composer John Williams, sound designer Ben Burtt, special effects supervisor George Gibbs, and stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong.

After locations for filming had been selected, Spielberg began making storyboards of his visualization of the screenplay. Production designer Elliot Scott used Spielberg's storyboards as references in developing the film's sets. He's main objective with each setting was to devise the one that would best enhance the action of the scene, "The background to all the films is logical and realistic. We go to a great deal of trouble to make everything as real as we can, using such details as authentic Latin inscriptions on tablets." The use of storyboards was proven valuable not only for the film's director and production designer. "The storyboards give one time to fully plan how to achieve certain effects," said director of photography Douglas Slocombe, who was renowned for his use of lighting to emphasize important story elements in each frame of film, so that "one sees right away what is happening without any extraneous image."

Three-time Oscar winning costume designer Anthony Powell researched extensively for the creation of 1938s apparel while Academy Award-winning special effects supervisor George Gibbs began his work on the mechanical effects by meeting with experts in the fields of hydraulics, electronics and engineering since every day of filming would involve special effects on two units. "Special effects may not always be obvious on the screen," Gibbs related. "For example, mechanisms for props are built by special effects, from breakaway door handles to airplane chassis."

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Producer Frank Marshall

"With Raiders of the Lost Ark we set a pattern for what these movies were going to be: action, adventure, comedy and giant globetrotting locations," added Frank Marshall.

At the time of casting the actor who would portray Jones Sr. Spielberg had already the answer, "There is only one person in the entire universe who can play Indy's father, and that's Sean Connery," said Spielberg smiling. "Sean was immediately my first choice. I never had to think about it, because the second I thought, 'Who is worthy enough and strong enough in the area of screen charisma to be Harrison Ford's dad?' I ruled out every character actor that the casting people gave me. And I immediately went right to Sean Connery, never thinking we could get him." Lucas protested. Following Boam's image of Jones Sr. he had envisioned him as a crotchety old man, just like Henry Fonda's character in On Golden Pond and, continuing his Star Wars parallel, more Yoda-like. He had considered several little known British actors for the part. He couldn't imagine Connery as a bookish professor. Jones Sr. was supposed to be a much older gentleman, a scholar who is completely out of his element in the chaotic world of his son's adventures. Having Connery in the role completely altered the character and unbalanced the film. Spielberg, although, insisted because he "wanted Ford to have a rise to the challenge of working against a strong star performer, something that hadn't been required for him in the previous two films."

Once Ford was announced that Sean Connery was considered for the role he was pleased, although, he had some reservations because Connery was only twelve years older than he was. Ford was an admirer of Connery's work. "When I got to be an actor, I could see that Sean was one of the good ones."

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Senior and Junior Jones

When Connery was offered the role he asked Spielberg in pure Hollywood fashion, "Is this Indiana Jones meets James Bond?" "No", said Spielberg, "It is Indiana Jones meets the strongest father alive!" Connery liked the idea and agreed to accept the role if the script would please him. Once he read the script he was not only unsatisfied but also furious, first because he didn't imagine Henry Jones as an elderly, gnomish wise man but astern Victorian patriarch, a contradictory mixture of action man and quixotic academic. A modern version of Sir Richard Burton, the swashbuckling Victorian explorer and sensualist who explored the sources of the Nile, secretly visited the Muslim city of Mecca and translated the Arabian Nights in all it vampant horniness. Second because his character appeared in page seventy of the script. The script was rewritten, Boam restructured the character a bit, taking away some of the crotchety elements and giving him a bit more vitality. In the new script Henry Jones appeared in page fifty, pleasing Connery, although, it had an effect on other roles, like the one of Kazim, the leader of the Brotherhood sworn to protect the Grail. "I was rather disappointed," Connery explained. "When I voiced my reservations about it, Steven was, I think, a bit surprised. My reservations at the beginning were mainly to get a clearer picture of where we were going with this character, this father figure. I like the idea of him being more like Sir Richard Burton, the explorer: much more active and academic to begin with and then you realize what the genes were that produced this Indiana Jones. So you get this picture of the action man with the academic but still very much a Victorian father. And therefore, you could get a lot of mileage out of the stunts and still play the father and be part of the relationship." When asked about his opinion about the character of Indy Connery said, "He's got skin and that's what I think captures an audience for this type of story and that's what the James Bond films had, too. Indiana Jones, in some ways, is a Bondian character because he always ends up in terrible situations, which always have to resolved with some invention or humorous action. That's the only solution he ever has whether it's jumping into a plane and says he's can fly it but he doesn't know how to land it. Yes, he's very Bondian." To please Connery, even more, Boam created a competitive relationship between father and son by having them both bed the same woman. If Henry Jones was to be portrait by any other actor it would have been silly, but with Sean Connery in the part things were different. Tom Stoppard was also called in to beef up the character. Uncredited he wrote the scenes in which Indy taxes his father with having abandoned him as a boy to go off on his own adventures.

Connery contributed to the script's rewriting making it more fun. "I always try to find the comedy in everything, because it's much more revealing, much more enjoyable and harder. There is something quite comedic and absurd about somebody sitting in that sidecar! What we really got down to in the Last Crusade was trying to find as many places as possible where they would have problems relating to each other, which always lends itself to the comedic elements. Right from the very beginning Henry calls Indy 'junior!'"

Since Connery signed for the role, Lucas presented to Paramount a budget of $ 44 million and a schedule same as before while less than 20% of the cost would be given to the actors. The studio bulked, at first, but finally they agreed.

With the writing process left behind Boam said about his collaboration with Lucas and Spielberg, "George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have created a new genre out of a very old one. George has the mind of a writer and understands instantly when an idea is right or wrong and how it affects the plot. George and I would paint in broad strokes and Steven was great in coming up with how to embellish them."

Next: Casting the Crusaders >>


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