Today’s Lockdown Rewatch is pure cinematic joy – Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Released in the US today in 1981, it was the brainchild of George Lucas who conceptualised the story, scripted by Lawrence Kasdan (of The Empire Strikes Back fame) and directed at the height of his powers by Steven Spielberg. The trio managed to bring back the serialised pulp films of the ’30s and ’40s that Lucas enjoyed as a child and recontextualised them for a modern audience. Raiders was released to universal acclaim, grossed $389 million worldwide, and was nominated for eight Academy Awards (including Best Picture) – winning four technical awards as well as a Special Achievement Award for Sound Effects Editing going to Ben Burtt and Richard L. Anderson.
But did you know…
1) The film started life as “The Adventures of Indiana Smith” but stalled for a long time, with Lucas moving on to Star Wars. When that movie was about to be released Lucas went to Hawaii with Spielberg to get away from the anxiety of the impending (and perceived to be disastrous) opening weekend. Spielberg said he wanted to direct a James Bond film, and Lucas said he had something better: Indiana Smith. Spielberg suggested a name change from ‘Smith’ to ‘Jones’ and the deal was done.
2) Tom Selleck signed on to play the lead role, but CBS was unwilling to release him from his Magnum P.I. contract. Spielberg suggested Harrison Ford, who Lucas was hesitant to cast as he’d just appeared in Star Wars (and prior to that, American Graffiti) and wasn’t keen on the two being pigeonholed together, but eventually relented and Ford got the role.
3) The famous scene of an assailant flourishing his sword before a fed up Indy nonchalantly shoots him was not scripted. There was supposed to be a long and intricate fight scene, sword versus whip, shot over three days, but the intense heat in Tunisia mixed with Ford having an upset stomach caused a rethink. As Ford remembers it, “I was puzzling how to get out of this three days of shooting, so when I got to set I proposed to Steven that we just shoot the son of a bitch and Steve said, ‘I was thinking that as well’”.
This clip offers a behind-the-scenes look at the wrap of Raiders of the Lost Ark.