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TheRaider.net Films Young Indy Chronicles The Idea
 
The Making of
 

Chapter 1: The Adventures of a Lifetime

 

The Last Crusade completed the adventurous trilogy Lucas envisioned and the character of Indiana Jones was about to take his place in film history as one of the greatest cinematic figures ever created. In the time following Indy’s third outing Lucas got involved in the development of The George Lucas Education Foundation. At the same time he turned to another medium he found attractive, television. Realizing the potential of storytelling through a medium, which hasn’t the two-hour limit of a feature film Lucas started research for a television program that would be educational and entertaining at the same time. Remembering his old love for history and anthropology that led to the creation of Indiana Jones he came up with the idea of presenting historical events by using the popular appeal of Indiana Jones to attract audience. The project was named A Walk Through 20th Century: History with Indiana Jones and as it kept evolving it became a TV series entitled The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.

click to enlarge
George Lucas

"It started out of a love of an idea. I have an educational foundation working with interactive projects, and I got this idea to get kids involved in history through the Young Indiana Jones character," said Lucas about the inspiration that led to the creation of the series. "The turn of the century is my favorite part of history because it has so much to do with the emergence of the modern age we live in today. It seemed like such a great idea and such an interesting adventure that I just got lured into it by the creative potential. I took it to the network and said, ‘Would you be interested in this? It’s a little bit esoteric for television,’ but they said, ‘Great! They’ve been very cooperative and we’ve been off making this adventure ever since… and it has been a true adventure."

Hitting two birds with one stone was a way of life for George Lucas who decided to use some new techniques in his new venture. "I was eager to experiment with a few production techniques that I had always wanted to incorporate in making the features, but I’ve never really been in a situation where I could afford to it," explained Lucas. "In a feature, when a mistake is made, it costs you huge amounts of money. Because The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles is not very expensive to produce, they’re moderately priced hour adventure shows, I really wanted to see if I could successfully use feature-production techniques in the context of a TV series. So part of it was a production experiment, and part of it was trying to deal with this creative idea that’s sort of esoteric."

The series would not deal with Indiana Jones globetrotting to unearth lost artifacts and battling bad guys but it would reveal the events that shaped Indiana Jones into the hero everybody loved in the feature films. Actually, the series would show Indy in two different periods in his life. The first period would take place from 1908 to 1910 and the second from 1916 to 1920 while the series would also show Indiana Jones at the age of 93 recalling his youthful adventures. Although, this last phase would not be thoroughly explored it would introduce and close each episode.

"That’s something that some people weren’t too happy to have me do, but I really wanted to tell about those two periods in time. Both are very interesting periods, and I didn’t want to do one, and then if the series went well, do the other. I really wanted to deal with both periods and mix it up," Lucas and continued, "The network and the studio were afraid, because television has its rules and its little formulas that they go by. They want one strong identifiable figure. Television is a character-driven medium, so they’re very focused on making sure that they basically have one marketable figure or actor. We actually have three different actors playing Indiana Jones. And there’s a possibility, if it goes another year, that Indy will range from five-year-old all the way up to a twenty-two-year-old. It’s all the Indiana Jones character personified by Harrison Ford in his mid thirties, but in these other time periods you can’t use Harrison, so I think it’s perfectly natural that different actors play those characters. The show explores how Indiana Jones got to be the way he is. How, like in the features, did he learn to speak so many languages? Where did he pick that up? How did he decide to become an archaeologist? There are so many fascinating things about the character that you can’t deal with in the features because they move along so fast on an action level. I thought it would be interesting to understand how that happened and to build up, mainly for the teenage audience, a character who likes to learn. He’s not a nerd; he’s not a jerk, but he loves learning and what the result of that learning gets him in the end. It doesn’t make him rich or famous, but it definitely puts him in good stead in terms of his walking through life."

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Lucas with his two
young Indy actors.

The back story created by Lucas for the entire series started with five-year-old Indy and his early years at Princeton. Then at the age of eight he went on a world tour with his mother and father, who was a professor of medieval studies and was giving guest lectures at universities around the world. Following his return to the States two years later the story continues with his mother’s untimely death, when Indy was thirteen-years old and he was left in the care of his authoritative father, who neglected him. With the bridge, his mother, between father and son, ruined, the two drifted apart. After high school Indy got involved in the Mexican revolution and ended up in the trenches of World War I. Seeing in the battle field the cruelty and the insanity of war he became a spy and at the war’s end he returned to the States to study archaeology at the university of Chicago, where he met professor Abner Ravenwood, father of Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark. During his travels Indy would meet many new cultures, places and important people from the early 20th century. He meets people like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, Winston Churchill as a young lieutenant, Emperor Karl of Austria, Pablo Picasso, Norman Rockwell, Theodore Roosevelt and others. "As a whole piece, it’s a lot of fun because you can follow his life, and that’s very interesting," said Lucas. "This is the true life story of the man that the character was based on in the features. It’s about somebody who’s very interested in learning about things, somebody who’s had some incredible adventures in his life that really revolve more around learning and exploring various ideas than getting involved in action/adventure things."

Lucas, as in the feature films, would serve as executive producer and story consultant. For the head of production Lucas turned to Robert Watts with whom he had worked with on all three Indy films. Watts didn’t want to get involved with the Chronicles because he wanted to pursue his own projects so he introduced to Lucas Rick McCallum, a London-based producer who had worked in television and film for years and had produced such projects as the award-winning BBC series The Singing Detective, Track 29, Strapless, Dreamchild, Castaway, Pennies from Heaven and a dozen British films.

Lucas met McCallum in March 1990 and explained his plans for the series and he was immediately interested. After a few more chats McCallum accepted the offer and started to work on the show immediately.

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Rick McCallum

Once aboard, McCallum began his search for the people who would bring Young Indy’s adventures to life. Lucas didn’t want the Chronicles to be just another sitcom, each episode to be the same as the last one but he wanted to be different in theme and pace. To achieve that he decided that he should hire more than one writer and more than one director. So, McCallum began a search to assemble two groups of artists. From March to July he looked for scriptwriters and from July to September he looked for directors. During these months McCallum met around sixty or seventy writers from both the United States and England and almost every director working in England.

When he managed to narrow down the candidate writers to a considerable number McCallum arranged some meetings for Lucas to meet them. Finally, Lucas settled with a group of renowned writers that came from different backgrounds and expertise.

Rosemary Ann Sisson was a British novelist who had been a dramatist for many years. She had written many episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs, as well as Manions of America, she had written plays, movies and had more credits than anyone else on the show.

Jonathan Hales, another British, had written a few things including the Hercule Poirot movie, Death on the Nile.
Jonathan Hensleigh was a Wall Street lawyer up until a year and a half before the show’s creation, who got sick of what he was doing and decided to be a scriptwriter. He came to Hollywood, got a three-picture deal with Disney and ended up working in the Lucas camp.
Reg Gadney was a novel writer and had written a few adventure novels, he was also an artist.
Frank Darabont, who had turned from production assistant to scriptwriter, had co-written A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, The Blob remake and The Fly II. He had also worked uncredited on several films such as The Rocketeer and had made his directorial debut with the USA Cable Network movie Buried Alive. Other writing credits included Tales from the Crypt and the Two-Fisted Tales.
Matthew Jacobs, British, had written a couple of feature films and many TV movies before getting involved in the Young Indy Chronicles. According to Darabont’s description Jacobs was the most stream-of-consciousness of them all. "He’s delightful. It’s always a pleasure to follow his train of thought, or try to, anyway."
Gavin Scott was born in Hull, Yorkshire in 1950 and lived there until his family immigrated to New Zealand in 1961. Scott had lived an adventurous life already before he began working for BBC in mid-seventies. At 17 he spent a year as a volunteer teacher in the jungles of Borneo, working with the children of head-hunters, after which he studied history and political science at Victoria University of Wellington and journalism at the Wellington Polytechnic. He returned to Britain overland across Asia in 1973 and worked for Shelter, the housing charity, before joining the Times Educational Supplement, from which base he also wrote features for The Times. In 1975 he became a reporter with BBC Radio and in 1990 he decided to become a full-time screenwriter.
Last but not least, Carrie Fisher, the former Princess Leia of Star Wars who had begun a writing career. Her semi biographical Postcards from the Edge were very successful and it was adapted into a movie staring Meryl Streep and Shirley McClain.
click to enlarge
Lucas and McCallum with the writing group.
Darabont and Carrie Fisher not included.

"This is an incredible talented group," Darabont asserted, "from all walks of life, all different perspectives and point-of-view. We all, of course, have strengths and weaknesses, but we manage to complement one another. For example, there’s nobody better at writing a sentimental, hearts-and-flowers kind of show than Rosemary. I couldn’t write that kind of stuff nearly as well as she does, but then again, I write a pretty damn good battle scene. It all evens out."

As with the series’ writers, a group of highly acclaimed directors from all over the world were brought aboard to helm each episode. Among them were Jim O’Brien, Terry Jones of Monty Python, Nicholas Roeg, Bille August winner of Palme D’ Or in 1991, René Manzour, Deepa Mehta, Carl Schultz, Simon Wincer and Vic Armstrong, the former stunt double of Harrison Ford in many films.

In September 1990 all of the writers were invited at Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch for a story conference that lasted a whole month. During that month all the writers lived together under the same roof working from seven-thirty in the morning until seven-thirty at night. Every day was spent to plot out an episode and the next morning rewriting that episode. Following Lucas’ schedule they managed to write fifteen episodes in thirty days.

Most of the writers had never before worked in a group and they enjoyed the whole experience. "It’s been inspiring," said Matthew Jacobs. "Personally, I’ve never done this before, working in a group. But when you’re working that way, you don’t know who in the group is going to write which screenplay. So we all go through the process, caring about every story, because we might have to write that one. We write out a little list of our favorites. We don’t know… maybe we’re not going to get the ones that our favorites. This is the way I’d like to work on other projects. I think it’s a shame that writers can’t talk more to each other and may be able to exchange ideas."

At the end of the month each writer was assigned to write two episodes and from those basic outlines, which were very structured, McCallum went off to scout for locations and get the necessary permissions. Naturally, different episodes appealed to different writers for different reasons: some liked romance more, others liked action, and still others liked such serious topics as the horrors of war, or the differences in world religions and so.

Jonathan Hensleigh who wrote the India 1908 episode defended his episode of choice and explained its educational value. "This episode is an explanation of the world’s religions. Benares is the most holy city in India, and all the religions are kind of featured there prominently, you know, there’s an enormous Islamic mosque, there’s a Buddhist temple, there’s an Episcpalian church, there’s all kinds of Hindu temples. The India episode will actually be the most controversial of any, I think, because any studio executive will tell you that you can’t show anything that has to do with religion on American television. And this one hour is a comparative study of the world’s religions, basically, with Indiana Jones."

Matthew Jacobs chose Kenya 1909 and Vienna 1908. "I particularly wanted the Kenya episode, because the idea of doing an ecological adventure story was very strong. Teddy Roosevelt is a great character, and the relationship between Indy and the Maasai boy was something that I knew I could write well, and I knew would be great. Also, it’s interesting this story is about language as well. Whenever Indy travels, he tries to learn the language, and so you’re talking about communication between two boys from totally different cultures."

Rosemary Sisson opted for two very different stories, China 1910 and London 1916. Although the first required extensive research on the Chinese culture, the other, was taking her back to the familiar time period she wrote about in the British series Upstairs, Downstairs. "I think the England episode is very simply a statement that a woman can have a career," said Sisson. "It’s set in its own time, because it’s not such a new message for today, but it is looking back at a time when a woman’s principal objective was to marry and have children. If she couldn’t marry and have children, as many women after the Great War couldn’t because their fiancés were killed, then in a way she was a failure." The other subject Sisson explored in that episode was the age-old concept of timing in love. "I think the charm of the England episode is that, in a way, Indy is the right man at the wrong time, which is something else that happens. His love, Vicky, admits she’ll probably never love anyone as much. They were simply at the wrong time and place."

Frank Darabont could not be present at the first writers’ meeting at the Ranch because he was busy in Los Angeles doing rewrites on The Rocketeer. But even though he got the left-over episodes he said he really lucked out. Darabont’s first episode, which was initially supposed to be a single episode, got expanded into two parts because the source material provided by the research was so vast and rich. The episode begins in December of 1916, in German East African. The Belgian and the British forces were pushing the Germans east to try to get them out of Africa. Indiana Jones and a group of fellow soldiers were given the assignment to trek across Africa and pick up a shipment of weapons and bring them back, which in 1916, was not an easy task because helicopters had not yet been invented then. In fact, in 1916, the only way to get across Africa was by train, boat, or walking. But the real problem in 1916 Africa was not so much battle casualties but disease.


Writer Frank Darabont.

"There are certain serious episodes, but we’re seeing many interesting things," stated Darabont. "And this is one of the reasons George Lucas decided to invent this show. He’s truly a history buff, and is disturbed by the fact that history isn’t very well taught in this country. We tend to forget anything that happened prior to last year. All the writers on the show share that sentiment, which is probably why we’re there. We’re all history buffs; this brings the past to life in a very fresh and interesting way."

"The interesting thing about the approach George has taken," Darabont pointed out, "is that the people Indy meets aren’t the obvious people in the obvious period of time, nor the obvious events. For example, there’s an episode that takes place during the Russian Revolution-but it’s not the October Revolution; it’s the false Revolution that took place earlier in the year, when everyone thought, ‘Aha! Here’s the Revolution,’ but they got slaughtered by the Cossacks. When we meet T.E. Lawrence, he’s not yet Lawrence of Arabia; he’s this young man bicycling around Egypt looking at pyramids because he’s a student in archaeology. We meet Albert Schweitzer when he’s a young man, off in the jungle, doing his humanitarian work with the natives, but working in virtual obscurity."

As for Indiana Jones himself, "he’s a bright kid, a little goofy, somewhat precocious, interested in things and definitely has some mischief in him; he’s really an American boy. Reflecting the character, as we know him from the films, Indy just can’t say no to a puzzle or a challenge. He has a bit of a strained relationship with his father, while his mother is supportive.

One of the themes of this character’s life, as a rule, is his constant learning of things. He’s very bright; he knows something like a dozen languages; every time we tune in, he’s trying to learn another one. He’s not the ‘Ugly American’ who thinks the entire world should be speaking English or ‘Amurrican’.

I think, in a way, that George probably equates adventures and learning as being part and parcel of the same thing, as being part of the same experience," the writer continues. "Indy, mind you, does chafe a bit-especially when he’s younger, at having to sit down and learn from books. He has a tutor, a very proper British lady named Helen, traveling with the family, who believes that proper schooling must come from books. But being a nine-year-old, Indy’s not having a good time studying. They’re in fascinating places, for God’s sake. They’re in China, they’re in Russia; he would rather get out and see things. But as he goes along, Indy does definitely develop an appreciation for book learning as well. Don’t expect the whip, the battered hat and the leather jacket. Bear in mind that this is a young man, a young man who has been swept up in a historical event - the First World War - that is enormous. I don’t think that people can really relate anymore to what that war was. By the time the dust settled there were 10 million people dead; it went on for years and years. Indy is a soldier, fighting in the trenches. He’s sent to Africa, joins French intelligence and works as a spy toward the war’s end. It would be a little arch-and a little silly, I think, to have Indy traipsing around with his Indy accouterments as we know them. We’re taking the show very seriously; we’re doing a very straightforward kind of thing, although some of the shows will be wildly funny, some will be quite satirical. We’re not doing anything, I believe, at the character’s expense. George is only being semi-facetious when he says, ‘This is Masterpiece Theater for the masses.’ We will, however, get our share of trains blowing up and Indy swinging from chandeliers and stuff."

click to enlarge
Sean Patrick Flanery
as Indiana Jones.

Darabont continued his description on the character and didn’t hesitate to make parallels to its creator, "In a way my theory is that Young Indy is definitely Young George Lucas, and he’s getting to act out physically now by sending Indy all over the world. I think Young Indy is visiting all the people and places that George visited in books when he was a kid."

As for the fantasy that formed such a strong element of all three features, Darabont admits that "the series doesn’t do so much, although there will be episodes in which that come into play, but it’s not something George has decided to hang his hat on. He’s really going for a different approach."

The writers were given a two months period per episode to come up with their first draft. At the end of the fourth month, they met and they spent three weeks in a room together again and each person had to defend their script against the others, everybody got to read everybody’s scripts. Then there were rewrites again in order to get the scripts closer to what Lucas wanted.

From the beginning McCallum had cleared out that the scripts had to be finished by the time preproduction would start, so that they wouldn’t go through the madness of rewriting up to the last minute and incurring huge production costs because things weren’t available. The minute they locked into the scripts McCallum started official preproduction. McCallum had wisely set up the foundations of working in whatever country they’ll be shooting in already by sending all the department heads out to the locations.

The production team McCallum set up would include David Tattersall as the director of photography, Louise Rubacky and Edgar Burcksen as the series’ editors and Gavin Bocquet as production designer.

Charlotte Holdich would be costume designer, assigned with the task of creating the costumes for the series. "In England we’re lucky because we have a lot of costumers that specialize in this," said Holdich when talked to journalist Dan Madsen. "And so I use the real thing whenever possible because you do get an authentic feel… But one of the problems, particularly with Sean’s episodes, is that there are a lot of stunts and things, so you have to have five or six outfits that are the same. I choose a style, try them on Sean, photograph him, and send the photos to George. He makes his comments and lets me get on with it because we think along the same lines. I then get a fabric that has a period feel to it. I get enough of it to make five or six outfits. Often it has to be dyed and made up by a tailor. Shirts and ties must be made, too. Then it’s sent off to be broken down so the whole thing doesn’t look brand new. It’s crumpled up and made to look authentic. That’s a very specialized job."

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Corey Carrier as Indy.

Although Holdich had to research hundreds of photos of the historical figures she had to dress she was much freer with the character of Indy. "The idea with Corey’s Indy is that we meet him first in Princeton and you see his life-style there. He looks like a nice young eight-year-old boy. I’ve got him in a sort of soft-colored brown suit and such things as spotted bow ties, a sort of informal look. Then he goes to England and meets his very strict governess and immediately she comments on his clothes and the way he stands. As soon as he’s under her tutelage, he’s changed his look and he’s in stiff Eaton collars, and a Norfolk suit, a heavy gray fabric that looks scratchy and uncomfortable, and indeed it is. He’s also wearing these thick black stockings and laced-up boots. That’s his image then. When he travels abroad to Egypt and wherever, he’s wearing a similar suit made in a lightweight fabric, but again with this high collar, which is typical of young boys of that period. The governess tries to keep him looking as smart as possible. But being a young boy, he tends to get himself a bit grubby. George is very keen that whatever happens, he still looks like a young boy and tends to get grubby fingers and his clothes a bit messed up in his adventures."

Since the majority of the show’s episodes were about sixteen-year-old Indy Holdich had the opportunity to create many different costumes for the character, still she was presented with the same challenge every time. Indy’s brown fedora. "In all our episodes, if he’s not in uniform, he’s wearing his hat. I sort of have to incorporate this hat with all the various disguises and jobs that he does. I have to get the hat in there so it doesn’t look too odd with a smart suit! It’s a bit challenging."

click to enlarge
Lucas with Old Indy
actor George Hall.

For Old Indy’s appearance Lucas was more precise. At the age of ninety-three Indy still wears his trademark brown fedora, he is dressed in tweed suits and has traded his leather bullwhip for a walking stick with a brass handle shaped like an eagle’s head. But Lucas did a step further and inspired by the famous Western director John Ford’s look made Old Indy wear an eye patch and a pair of glasses over it. The reason for the patch was a scar on Indy’s forehead that continued down his cheek and off to the side suggesting his eye had been damaged. Though, Lucas never gave a story for that scar.

Next: Casting >>

 

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