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Chapter 2: Casting the Crusaders


For the casting of the supportive characters many prospective performers were screen tested in London and their tapes were sent to Spielberg in LA. Kevork Malikyan impressed Spielberg with his performance in Midnight Express and was given the role of Kazim, member of a Brotherhood sworn to protect the grail. Actually, Malikyan might have played Sallah in Raiders had he not arrived an hour late for his interview with Spielberg because of a traffic jam. Comic Alexei Sayle played a pasha with a taste for vintage automobiles.

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Julian Glover is Donovan

For the role of colonel Vogel Robert Watts, the film's producer, suggested his London next-door neighbor Julian Glover. Glover except from his experience in big budget movies, like The Empire Strikes Back and For Your Eyes Only, had joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. Spielberg decided Glover had the right genial menace for Walter Donovan, American industrialist who employees the Joneses to find the Grail. Julian Glover plays Walter Donovan, who Glover describes as "a rich industrialist with a passion for ancient artifacts. He's an extremely intelligent man who is prepared to sacrifice everything for his ultimate goal." The role of Vogel was given to Michael Byrne, with whom Ford had worked before in Force Ten from Navarone. In that film Byrne played a German General and Ford played the good American boy, again. The cast of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade includes Michael Byrne as Vogel, a villainous officer in Hitler's secret police. "A good villain can't be a buffoon or someone you see as an object of humor," George Lucas says. "He has to be somebody to fear and have the realistic motivations of a normal human being."

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Michael Byrne is Vogel

John Rhys-Davies would reprise his role from the first film as Sallah, the best digger in Europe. According to Rhys-Davies in the two years that followed Raiders Sallah has become more prosperous as "He has left digging behind and has a small antique business." Returning to familiar territory was a nice feeling for the actor, who had been cast in similar roles after Raiders' success and now he was returning to the real McCoy. "Sallah is sort of a bravura figure. I suspect my cinema life is destined to play these somewhat broader than-life characters. But they're a lot of fun. It's a wonderful part galloping after a tank when you're on horseback and things like that," said Davies. Remembering his character's days since he was one of the Raiders of the Lost Ark Davies said, "He has gotten older and a little fatter. This time, we see him without the appurtenances of his wife and children. He's a little more resolute now, and he's more ready to have a physical go at the Germans himself. But other than that, he's still the same old Sallah." When asked about the way he sees the relationship between Sallah and Indy Davies noted, "It's one of those relationships that you know has evolved over a period of time and therefore is unquestioned. It starts off with the premise that we are friends, we will get into trouble, but somehow we will sort things out. I think the Indiana/Sallah relationship is very firm, very steady. The relationship between Sallah and Marcus Brody is slightly more protective. Sallah is trying to look after him because he's not awfully competent."

Also returning and with much more screen time was Denholm Elliott as curator of antiquities Marcus Brody. Elliot described his character as "a rather eccentric professor and reluctant adventurer who is always saying the wrong thing at the right time. He's Indiana's friend and boss at the university. When Indy gets involved in these escapades, Brody sometimes accompanies him and gets into all sorts of uncomfortable situations. I quite enjoyed doing the first Raiders. I didn't have much to do in it. But in the Last Crusade, Marcus was built up and made to be a figure of fun. Basically, he had two left feet! He was totally out of place once he left his library. I did get quite a few laughs in the picture. I love comedy, life is too boring and sad without it. But Marcus is really the comedy relief of the film. He's such an old fool. In the midst of terrifying things, he does something so incredibly stupid. He's sort of the absent-minded professor. Marcus isn't as boring in the third film as he was in the first. He cared about Indy but he was much more serious in the first film. There were moments of seriousness in the Last Crusade when he was in his own territory but once he got out of it, he was like a duck out of water! And that was great fun to play!"

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Alison Doody is Elsa

Elsa Schneider was to be played by queenly blonde Irish unknown Alison Doody. Doody had grown up in Ireland and went to school at a convent. Finishing school she decided to enter the show business. Her credits included only some television commercial work and local theatrical credits when an Irish director recommended her to an acting agent in London. With the agent's argue she decided to go to London to pursue an acting career and she moved to London at the age 19. "I was quite naïve and I didn't know one area of London from the next," she remembered laughing, "so of course I ended up living in a red light district. Every time I came out of the house, somebody would say 'How much, love?' After a while it became normal. If I came out and somebody didn't say 'How much, love?' then I worried whether I looked bad."

Her early work included British TV drama series such as Deceptions, Queenie, Echoes and the BBC's Campaign. In 1985 Doody appeared in Roger Moore's last James Bond outing, A View to a Kill as Jenny Flex, henchperson to heavies Grace Jones and Christopher Walken. Although at first she was excited to become a Bond girl at the end the experience left a bitter taste on her lips. Doody joined the other Bond girls for the picture's promotional tour and dropped out in mid campaign. "It was unnerving, because the crowds viewed us as pieces of meat! It shocked me when people tried to pull my hair, tugged at my clothes and even pinched me! It would be fun to be famous but that's not what I have in mind."

She returned to movies playing a terrorist with Mickey Rourke in A Prayer for the Dying and Taffin with Pierce Brosnan.

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Actress Alison Doody

One day Doody received a phone call from her agent telling her that Spielberg was casting for his new film and that he wanted to meet her. Although she wanted the part, she thought she had a slight chance because she knew that Spielberg was looking for a 28-year old Austrian lady, and she was 24 and Irish. When they called her back she got quite excited and she started to think that Spielberg was really interested. When she went back to meet him again Spielberg gave her three scenes and asked her to come back two days later with an accent to tape her. She did so and a few weeks later she was contacted to hear that she had got the part. "The nicest moment for me was when I heard I had the part. I was just so delighted and happy. It was such a buzz, as you can imagine, to find out that you've got the part. I'm sitting there on my bed and I'm thinking, 'Oh God, I'm going to be working with Harrison Ford.' It was wonderful. It was a great feeling." Doody was very please with her character. "She's between the two. She's not a screamer; she's a very independent lady. They're actually trying to go more towards the first film again, so I think Elsa is like Karen Allen's character, but she's not as tomboyish as Karen Allen was. She's quite like Indiana Jones in the sense that she goes out and gets what she wants. I would say she is definitely stronger than the second character. She's quite a clever lady." While overwhelmed about her casting Doody remained down to earth, "I'm not an actress for the sake of becoming famous, but for the satisfaction of it. My parents always told me I should come home the minute I stop enjoying the business. But, there's all the adrenaline one could wish for. There are those who go to drama school and reap tremendous benefits, while others emerge after three years with nothing. I didn't have that opinion; instead, I'm going to the school of experience, and it's wonderful. I love it; I've been very lucky. When I started Crusade, Harrison Ford said to me, 'Just enjoy it all!' I look at it as an event more terrific than mere words can express, not one that guarantees me future work or will make me a superstar, but the chance of a lifetime."

For the role of young Indy Lucas choose River Phoenix. Phoenix had played opposite Harrison Ford in 1987's Mosquito Coast and was nominated for an Academy Award a year later for his performance in Running on Empty. He was the hottest young actor in Hollywood at the time and after many dramatic roles Phoenix wanted something light, more entertaining. The casting of Phoenix as young Indy was one of the production's best-kept secrets. The script never referred to the character by name; he was simply "Boy On Train". Once word leaked Lucasfilm announced a fallback rumor that River Phoenix played Indy's younger brother.

The film would be shot, as the previous two in London's Elstree Studios. The Brent Walker entertainment group had bought Elstree Studios for 32.5 million pounds in 1988, at the height of a property boom, visualizing it as the cornerstone of a movie-making empire, but the company overextended itself, and was now trying to sell the studios. With MCA's backing Spielberg tried to buy the complex. He visualized it expanded onto nearby Rainham Marches to become a Universal-type movie theme park, but local council refused permission for fear of environmental damage, and Elstree closed down. In 1993, half would be sold to the Tesco supermarket chain. The Star Wars Stage was dismantled and moved to Shepperton studios.

Next: Filming family bonds >>


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