Film writer Vince Leo dives into some little known factoids about how Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark came to be, including who might've been tapped to play Harrison Ford's iconic role early on.
Publish Date: Feb 16, 2021
conceived of this as an original story in the early 19 seventies. Back then, the main character he had in mind was called Indiana Smith, kind of as an homage to the character called Nevada Smith. Like Steve McQueen, he had this in mind around the same time that he was also constructing ideas for his Star Wars universe. So it's really kind of in the core of what he wanted to bring to life. Lucas. If it had been working on the project with director Philip Kaufman, who was actually going to direct this back in the day in the mid seventies between hand coffin, they really ended up tying in the archaeologists and adventure that they had in mind with the Ark of the Covenant that they ended up basing on this book that they had read that had been published not long before by Trevor Ravenscroft about you know, these lost relics. Uh, in fact, the Ravenswood name in this film, like Abner Ravenwood and Marry and his daughter, can be seen as an homage to Trevor Ravenscroft. In that way, however, as we get into the mid to late seventies, Star Wars became all consuming for George Lucas. So he ended up having to hand over the project up to that point to his colleagues, Steven Spielberg, who was also a fan of the old serial adventures that inspired Lucas to come up with the idea. The story ideas that Lucas had grew into. The screenplay was written by Lawrence Casden, who Spielberg ended up contacting due to his collaboration with him on a movie that he was producing at the time called Continental Divide. The John Belushi film that came out the same year as Raiders that, by the way, was the first film by Steven Spielberg's production house, Amblin Entertainment. Now George Lucas was impressed by Lawrence Kasdan's work enough to trust him into the process after reading his take on Continental Divide. He liked the characterizations he was bringing into it, and he would grow toe like casting skills so much in characterization that he temporarily took him off of Indiana Jones to rework the screenplay for the Empire Strikes back famously Now. In the interim, Spielberg wisely suggested the name of Indiana Smith that George Lucas had in mind to be changed to Indiana Jones because he felt Smith was too common it really lacks, um, possess. Although Jones is a fairly common name, just thought that it had a better ring to it wisely. They didn't change the Indiana that was the name of George Lucas's E guess childhood dog on Alaskan malamute that also inspired George Lucas to create Chewbacca because he used to ride in the front seat kind of shotgun, just like Chewbacca does in the Millennium Falcon Now. Once the script was complete, Lucas and Spielberg used their considerable muscle that they had garnered from being the hottest filmmakers in Hollywood to this massively lucrative contract for Raiders of the Lost Ark, in which they would receive Million's upfront and then an unusually large share of the profits not only from the box office but also rentals, all the rentals that would come out later and all merchandise related to the film, as well as getting that tied into the next four Sequels should they be made Paramount ended up being the only studio that really dared to take them up on this offer, with all of the other studios thinking it was absurd. Kind of told them no, and they were especially not going to take the risk, given that Steven Spielberg had kind of a lack of success in its most recent motion picture, Ah, film called 1940 one that had many studio heads wondering if he was just a flash in the pan. You round out a lot of the colossal talent brought on board. John Williams would write Thief Forever. Memorable Score arguably, could be considered one of his best. Maybe even his best score, although there were so many great ones that I don't even want to venture into trying to rank them. He had worked with both men in all of their more recent work before Raiders. So what kind of a natural fit there? As far as the casting goes, it's really hard to imagine that anyone other than Harrison Ford would be in that role. There were others that were rumored to have been considered, although they wanted a relative unknown for the role so they could keep costs down and also to ensure that they would end up signing up for a three picture deal. I think the most prominent person you would see attached to this prior to Harrison Ford is Tom Selleck. He actually ended up being the top choice. They offered him the role of Indiana Jones. However, he had just gotten secured into a contract for the television show Magnum P I, which would make him a star as well, although on television instead of films he was not able to get out and do the film under that contract. The studio he was working for did not want him to do that. Nick Nolte is also a prominent names. Sometimes you get mentioned. I mean, I've heard Steve Martin and Chevy Chase and Bill Murray and these names that always get trotted out. I don't know the validity of any of those things, but you know, whether it's Celik or Nulty or whoever else that you talk about are fine actors. The casting of Harrison Ford, I would say who was actually cast not long before principal photography was set to begin after Spielberg had ended up just watching him in the Empire Strikes back. That proved to be a godsend. He saw him there, and he said, I know who are Indiana Jones is gonna be. Lucas was already ahead of him and thought, Yes, you're going to say Harrison Ford aren't you? And they did, of course. And even though the character of Indiana Jones has a larger than life quality to him, it's in Harrison Ford's subtle and introspective in his vulnerable delivery that the character becomes much more than just this guy in the hat and whip in a leather jacket. He's capable of getting bruised. His ribs could get busted, his heart could get broken and at once the kind of brave hero that we all grew up wishing we could be while also not completely fearless in his pursuits, for instance, he hates snakes. We learned early on just one of his many vulnerabilities assed faras. The rest of the cast Spielberg mulled over, casting his day.