Cannes Festivals

Countdown to Indy 4

Today sees the world premiere in Cannes of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

It is one of the most eagerly awaited releases of the summer and likely to be the highest grossing film at the box office this year.

I thought I’d post a few things in anticipation of the opening, ranging from images, videos and snippets of information related to the series.


George Lucas created the character of Indiana Jones as a homage to the 1930 serials and pulp magazines he used to watch as a kid, such as those by Republic Pictures and the Doc Savage series.

The serial of Zorro Rides Again was a particular touchstone:

But the movie started to become a reality when, in 1977, Lucas was on holiday in Hawaii with his friend Steven Spielberg. The director of Jaws told him that wanted to make a Bond film, but Cubby Broccoli (then producer of the franchise) had turned him down twice.

Lucas said that he had his own concept for a hero (then called ‘Indiana Smith’) along similar lines – an archaeologist and adventurer inspired by the serials and comics he – and Spielberg – had enjoyed as children.

The visual look of Indiana Jones was created by comic book artist Jim Steranko. Lucas suggested the flight jacket, the fedora (a nod to Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) and a whip (reminiscent of Zorro’s weapon of choice).

The costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis admitted that Indy’s look was inspired by Charlton Heston’s character in the 1954 film Secret of the Incas:

Lawrence Kasdan was recruited to write the script on notes from Lucas and Philip Kaufman.

Indiana Jones was born, but who would play the role?

Harrison Ford had worked with Lucas on American Graffiti (1973) and Star Wars (1977) but the original choice for the role was actually Tom Selleck, who had recently been cast in the TV series Magnum, PI.

However, Selleck couldn’t get out of his contract with Universal television and had to pass on the role.

Ford was then cast just three weeks before production began on Raiders of the Lost Ark in the summer of 1980.


The first film saw Indiana Jones searching for the Ark of the Covenant in 1936. In his search he discovers the Nazis are also keen to find and harness the Ark for their own ends.

Assisted by an old girlfriend named Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) he ends up in Egypt, where a rival archealogist named Belloq (Paul Freeman) is helping the Nazis.

Production was based at Elstree Studios just outside of London and also shot in various locations around the world including La Rochelle (for the Nazi submarine base), Tunisia (for Egypt section ), Hawaii (for the opening jungle sequence) and the United States from June to September of 1980.

The film was a huge hit when it was released in June 1981 and became the biggest film of that year, eventually grossing $384 million worldwide.

It was also nominated for 8 Oscars (including Best Picture) and ended up winning for Sound, Editing, Art Direction and Visual Effects.

Here are some quick facts about Raiders:

  • The name Indiana Jones was inspired by the name of George Lucas’ dog Indiana and Steve McQueen’s eponymous character in the 1966 film Nevada Smith.
  • The opening shot of a mountain peak in the jungle is a reference to the the Paramount Pictures logo. Similar shots open the following two films.
  • Alfred Molina has a small role in the opening scene (‘throw me the idol!’) and it was his screen debut. On his first day of filming he was covered with tarantulas – it was not the last time he had trouble with spiders as many years later in 2004, he would star as Dr Octopus in Spider-Man 2.
  • The airplane Indy escapes on in the opening sequence has the number ‘OB-CPO’, which is a reference to Obi-Wan Kenobi and C-3PO from Star Wars.
  • Toht, the sadistic Nazi interrogator (‘Good evening Frauline!’), was played by British actor Ronald Lacey. He also played the character of Harris in the TV series Porridge. There are two strange  coincidences involving Lacey and the film: he played The Bishop of Bath and Wells in an episode of Blackadder II in 1985 – a character who threatens people with a red hot poker. In Raiders, his character threatens Marion with a red hot poker in the opening scene. Also, Lacey starred in an episode of Magnum, PI in 1984 (The Case of the Red-Faced Thespian) – the very series that prevented Tom Selleck from starring as Indiana Jones.
  • The scene where Indy shoots a swordsman in the Cairo marketplace was scripted as a long fight, but Harrison Ford was suffering diarrhea at the time, and asked if it could be shortened. Spielberg joked that they could only do that if Indy pulled out his gun and just shot the guy. The scene worked so well that they kept it in.
  • An amateur shot-for-shot remake of Raiders was made by Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb, who were children in Mississippi. Filmed over 7 years (1982-1989) it was known as Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, it was rediscovered in 2003 and even acclaimed by  Spielberg himself, who said he was impressed with the “very loving and detailed tribute” and “appreciated the vast amounts of imagination and originality” of the film.


Given the huge success of the first film, a sequel was an inevitability. In 1982 Spielberg made E.T., which even outstripped Raiders to become the biggest grossing film of all time.

When he unveiled E.T. at Cannes that year he was interviewed by Wim Wenders about the future of cinema:

Despite the financial pressures on studios and filmmakers in the early 80s, Spielberg had already established himself as the most successful filmmaker of his generation.

Anticipation for his next film was huge and all the more so because it would be the follow up to Raiders, entitled Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

The film was technically a prequel as it is set in 1935, a year before the action in Raiders begins.

It opens with Indy in a Shanghai nightclub attempting to trade artifacts with a local gangster, only for it to go wrong. Indy escapes with the club’s singer, Wilhelmina “Willie” Scott (Kate Capshaw), with the help of a  young sidekick called Short Round.

They get on a cargo plane and after it crashes in the Himalayan mountains they bail out and end up in a village in India ravaged by evil forces nearby. The villagers persuade Indy to retrieve the Sankara Stone and the kidnapped children of the village who are held captive at nearby Pankot Palace.

The production was again based at Elstree Studios and location shooting was done in Sri Lanka. However filming was disrupted when Harrison Ford injured his back. Despite this setback, Spielberg found a way to shoot around it, with stuntman Vic Armstrong as a stand in.

Here is the original theatrical trailer:

It was released in May 1984 amidst a blizzard of hype and expectation as this report from Ted Koppel’s Nightline shows:

Although it was the third highest grossing film of that year (behind Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop), some were taken aback by the darkness of the story, which included human sacrifice and a distateful dinner table sequence.

Although it was rated PG, the violence on display led to the creation of the new PG-13 rating as the MPAA came up with a category that covered the area between the PG and R ratings.

Some facts about the Temple of Doom:

  • The title was originally Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death
  • This was the first sequel Spielberg had ever made – outside the Indy series, the only other sequel he directed was the Jurassic Park follow up, The Lost World.
  • The club at the beginning is called ‘Club Obi Wan’, another reference to Star Wars character Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • The scenes involving Indiana hiding behind a giant rolling gong, the mine cart chase sequence, and leaping out of an aeroplane in a rubber dinghy were in an early draft of Raiders and revisited for this film.
  • Indy’s associate in the opening night club scene is played by David Yip – best known to UK audiences for his role in the TV series The Chinese Detective.
  • Kate Capshaw would eventually become Steven Spielberg’s wife.
  • The footage of the giant bats in the jungle on they journey to Pankot Palace is footage from David Lean‘s The Bridge on the River Kwai (Spielberg is a huge fan of Lean)
  • When the two swordsmen attack Indy on the cliff and he reaches for his gun, the music references a similar scene from Raiders.


After the second Indiana Jones film, Spielberg ventured into more serious and literary subject matter, directing The Color Purple (1985) and Empire of the Sun (1987).

However in 1989 he reunited with Lucas and Ford for what everone expected to be the final chapter of the trilogy with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Spielberg, Lucas and screenwriter Jeffrey Boam came up with a more humourous film that featured an extended prologue of the young Indy (played by River Phoenix), a story that saw him hunt down the Holy Grail and Sean Connery cast as his father.

It was shot in a variety of locations including Spain, London, Germany, Jordan, Venice and the US.

When it opened in May 1989 it broke box office records by grossing $50 million in a single week and was the second highest grossing film that year behind Tim Burton’s Batman.

Here is the original theatrical trailer:

Here are some facts about The Last Crusade:

  • The opening prologue with River Phoenix as the young Indy hiding in a circus train, shows how he learned to use a whip, scarred his chin and why he has a fear of snakes.
  • After the criticisms of Temple of Doom, Spielberg reportedly said he wanted to complete the trilogy for George and ‘to apologize for the second one’.
  • Tom Stoppard did an uncredited script polish and wrote the scenes in which Indy complains to his father about having abandoned him as a boy to go off on his own adventures.
  • Spielberg turned down Rain Man and Big to make this film.
  • There are many Bond connections in this film: the original James Bond (Sean Connery), a former Bond ally (John Rhys-Davies), a former Bond girl (Alison Doody), two former Bond commanding officers (Michael Byrne and Billy J. Mitchell), a former Bond nightclub owner (Vernon Dobtcheff), and three former Bond villains (Julian Glover, Stefan Kalipha and Pat Roach ).
  • The actor who plays Hitler in the book burning sequence is Michael Sheard. He also had a role as the U-boat Captain in Raiders and originally auditioned for the role of Gestapo agent Toht. He is known to UK audiences for playing the role of Mr Bronson in the TV series Grange Hill.
  • Even though he plays his father, Sean Connery is actually only 12 years older than Harrison Ford.
  • Michael Byrne played a Nazi opposite Harrison Ford in Force 10 from Navarone (1978) and in this film. Curiously, in both movies his character ends up in a vehicle falling off a cliff.

After the film’s release Spielberg reportedly said in an interview:

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.

However, rumours of another Indiana Jones film would surface from time to time over the next 15 years.


During the 90s Spielberg made some of his most successful (Jurassic Park) and personal (Schindler’s List) films, winning his first Oscar for the latter.

He also made Amistad, Saving Private Ryan (for which he won another Oscar), Artificial Intelligence: AI, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, War of the Worlds and Munich.

Reports of another Indy movie persisted through the 90s but despite several attempts, none of the principals could agree on a script or story idea.

Amonsgst the roster of screenwriters hired to take a crack at a script were M. Night Shyamalan, Stephen Gaghan, Tom Stoppard and Frank Darabont.

Darabont had written several episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles tv series and between 2002 and 2004 wrote a script set in the 1950s, with surviving Nazis pursuing Jones.

Lucas rejected the draft despite Spielberg reportedly liking it. Jeff Nathanson was then hired in late 2004 to write a new draft, which was then passed over to David Koepp who is the credited writer for the new film (Lucas and Nathanson have story credit).

Finally in January 2007, Lucas and Spielberg announced that the fourth installment of Indiana Jones would definitely begin production that summer.

Shooting finally began on Indy 4 in New Mexico in June 2007 and the first image of Ford (taken by Spielberg) was officially released:

Footage of the first day’s filming in New Mexico was also released:

Shooting was mostly done in the US with some scenes shot in New Haven, Connecticut:

During Paramount Pictures’ presentation at Comic-Con in July, the audience got a special live video greeting from Hawaii as Steven Spielberg – along with Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf and Ray Winston – announced Karen Allen would be back as Marion Ravenwood:

Shooting then continued and on September 9th, Shia LaBeouf revealed (at the MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas) that the title would be:

Principal photography finished in October 2007 and this was the first trailer:

Yesterday in Cannes, the stars and Spielberg did a full day’s press at the Carlton Hotel and in the evening threw a small press cocktail party where the actors mingled with journalists.

According to Anne Thompson of Variety, producer Kathleen Kennedy explained why Spielberg wanted to do all the press before they had seen the film:

He really wants to try to preserve the experience for the audience, so they don’t know everything before they see the movie, like it was on the first three Raiders pics.

“If you learn everything, no one can get surprised anymore,” said Kennedy. “You can’t discover this movie until we let them discover it.”

Today, the film will get a world premiere at Cannes and on Thursday will be released worldwide.

> Official site for Indiana Jones
> Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at the IMDb
> The – a terrific Indy fansite
> Indy 4 reports in Cannes from Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere and Anne Thompson of Variety

One reply on “Countdown to Indy 4”

Charlton Heston is the greatest influence on Indiana Jones movies. Heston was geared up like Dr. Jones in Spielberg’s favourite movie as a kid, THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, and Heston as Harry Steele in SECRET OF THE INCAS is the obvious template for the style, look and character of Indy. INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL has a great red ants scene – a refernce to another terrific Heston movie THE NUKED JUNGLE.

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