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Chapter 5: Apotheosis


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade premiered on May 24, 1989, in 2327 theaters across the US and Canada claiming the biggest seven-day opening in film history, with receipts close to the $50 million mark. Although the summer of 1989 was dominated by sequels of some of the most profitable movies ever made, like Ghostbusters II, Lethal Weapon II, James Bond's License to Kill etc, Last Crusade was the second most popular film in the US with final box-office tally of $ 195 million, right after Tim Burton's gothic epic Batman, and the box-office champion worldwide.

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Steven Spielberg.

There were people who at the time of the new film's release accused Lucas and Spielberg for making another Indy film. George Lucas had just got divorced from his wife Marcia and he had given all his money in order to retain the control of his companies. Spielberg on the other hand hadn't direct anything successful since Temple of Doom while his serious attempts towards a mature audience with films like The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun got unnoticed and criticized by the critics with less than kind remarks. The word was that they both needed a success soon, in order to maintain their status in the film business but poisonous remarks like these never bothered the two filmmakers much.

Proud for his work Spielberg stated that he made the film as an apology for Indy II, "I wanted to make a movie I could stand naked on top of."

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Ford as Indiana Jones.

The key to the success of the film was the wonderful teaming of its two stars. Early on, when it was announced that Sean Connery would be cast opposite Harrison Ford there was a bit of concern about how the chemistry would work in putting them together. Since both Ford and Connery have been these extremely large screen personas there was the fear of the two actors becoming competitive to each other thus jeopardizing the production. It wouldn't be the first time to happen on a movie set. Fortunately, they clicked as actors and as characters from the very beginning. There was nothing competitive in any of it and what resulted were great performances from both. Harrison Ford having Sean Connery opposite him delivered his best performance as Indiana Jones, while Connery was marvelous. "It was a brilliant idea to bring Sean in," said Ford. "I want all the possible support the film and I can have. And anyway I think I can take care of myself. I think competition on a movie set is a big mistake." Sharing Ford's thoughts Connery went on to say, "I'm highly competitive in sport, and I've never made any secret of that, whether its golf, tennis or poker, but I'm not competitive as an actor. I don't mind giving a scene to anyone who can take it from me."

"There is the most wonderful chemistry between the two of them," said Spielberg. "It's a little like the Newman/Redford chemistry in Butch Cassidy and The Sting. It's a real sparkle of screen magic." "When Sean and Harrison arrived on the set," said Spielberg, "everyone got quiet and respectful. The two are like royalty, not the royalty you fear because they can tax you, but the royalty you love because they will make your lives better."

"And have fun I did, so much that I told Harrison, 'If you give me all the jokes, you'll really have to work for your scenes.'" Connery.

The mutual respect and admiration grown between the two actors continued off the set and was apparent to any press conference they gave by referring to one another as dad and junior. In 1994 when Harrison Ford was presented with the American Film Institute award Connery made a congratulating ad to the industry's prestigious Variety magazine saying, "I'm very proud of you, Dad."

River Phoenix, although, he had a very small part in the picture he was hailed by critics. One of them wrote that if Harrison Ford ever decided to hang up his whip the character of Indiana Jones was in very good hands but Phoenix rushed to say, "I don't think that anyone could ever do justice to the character of Indiana Jones. A production without Harrison would never be that good. I think it should remain the way he has done it."

In England, where the film was premiered on June 27 and attended by the Prince of Wales, Last Crusade grossed 15.923.000 pounds.

In France, Indy met a real apotheosis. Within two and a half weeks from its release, Last Crusade broke the one million tickets barrier in Paris establishing an absolute record. Four million French run to 310 theaters in France for their rendezvous with their favorite archaeologist. In the long run the Last Crusade made a gross of 6.248.000 tickets.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade entered the top-10 of box-office champions with a worldwide gross of $494.8 million.

Following the hype the film had generated Indiana Jones' brown fedora and leather jacket became national treasures when Harrison Ford personally presented them to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington DC. The event was a publicity triumph much like the film's premiere. "I'm very flattered to be here and to have these artifacts on display here", said Ford to the hordes of reporters in attendance.

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Ford presenting the fedora and leather jacket.

Unfortunately, Indy's whip didn't have the same fate. Harrison Ford kindly donated it at the Christie's London auction house in aid of the Institute Archaeology in London. The auction took place on Christmas 1990 and the cinematic artifact was sold at the price of $24.300 to the owner of Paris's City Rock Cafe. But Ford did confess to having another at home. "It's on the top shelf of my hall closet, handy in case I need it".

The final shot of the Last Crusade with the four intrepid adventurers literally riding off into the sunset, towards new adventures, was one of the many hints revealing Spielberg's intentions on the continuation of the Indiana Jones saga. "I built every clue into this movie I possible could think of to let George know that we should retire this guy's number. I did all I could. But at the moment I think I'd like to quit. At this point we all feel pretty much have a nice first, second and third act. Why go and create a forth act? We don't need one."

When talked to journalist Phil Brown Spielberg was very clear about his intentions of making another Indy film, "I don't control the destiny of the Indiana Jones movies. George can make as many as he like but it's certainly my graduation gift to be able to work on something like this in the best way possible, say goodbye to all my old friends and move on." Tough he agreed that his decision was not one without regrets. "I'm really going to miss working with Harrison as Indy. I look forward to working with him in other sorts of roles, but I'll really miss sitting with him in that hat and that jacket with all the sweat and the dirty khaki shirt and the boots and the whip and the pouch and the sidearm and the five-day stubble and most of all, I'll miss his sense of humor. Working with Harrison as Indy was kind of like working with Fred C. Dobbs from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre for eight years and I'm going to miss that very much."

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Creator George Lucas.

Spielberg wasn't the only one stating that he wanted to move on, as George Lucas, too, found the prospect of another film unlikely. "I don't foresee there being another one. Anything is possible, but I've run out of ideas. I've had a great time making the Indiana Jones films, but now it's time to move on. I would just as soon do other things," said Indy's creator.

Robert Watts, being more conciliatory than the two filmmakers went on to say that, "It was always envisioned as three movies, this is the third and it's called The Last Crusade. Sean Connery was never going to make another Bond film, but he did. I couldn't tell you, to be honest whether there will be another one. I don't know… um it's possible… but I suspect it would never be quite the same team again, but I couldn't tell. I think the formula has been very successful and I think the movies are great fun. I personally would love to see another one get made, but ultimately it's not my decision, so… all I can say is, 'Wait and see!'"

"Indy doesn't die at the end," was Boam's observation. "His father doesn't die. Sallah and Brody don't die. Nobody dies. We haven't burned any bridges. We all know how this business works, and that never doesn't necessarily mean never." John Rhys-Davies shared the same thoughts that Boam had about the continuation of the saga, "In the film business the door is always open just a crack. Harrison is more of a mainline leading man these days and I'm not sure that he really wants to do any more Indiana Jones films. And this isn't really the sort of films Steven wants to direct. I think he's more into areas of the human heart than action and adventure. But you never know."

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Spielberg, Ford & Lucas.

The last person to speak for Indy's future was none other than Indy himself. Although the role of Indiana Jones was the one that catapulted Ford into stardom he was eager to take other, more dramatic roles in the future and the prospect of another Indy film didn't sound as the right choice. So in early interviews (prior to the film's release) he wanted to clear out that he was moving on. "Nobody has proposed doing any more of them. We all have other ambitions, other projects. It took us a long time to find a script we were happy with for this one. Since we are locked in a timeframe, which demands I don't get any older, we can't take forever to settle on another script, either. It's been eight years since the first picture, I believe. It would be another four or five years before we have a script and I'd be in my fifties. It might be unseemly." But even for smoothie Ford, who doesn't want to admit this is his favorite role, the idea of another one wasn't completely out of question. In an interview he gave to MTV's The Big Picture show he seemed more conciliatory and said, "I don't think we've run Indiana Jones into the ground. He's a romantic, but he's also a cynic. The interplay between the two extremes is what interests me so much. And it's his bravery, indomitability, and selflessness that make him irresistible to audiences. And for what it's worth, we simply haven't exhausted all the dangerous situations he can get into. If there is something I learned from Sean is to never say never!"

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