“I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go.”
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
Dreaming up a hero
“Better than Bond!”
was easy enough.
“I didn’t actually write any drafts of that,” said director Philip Kaufman. “George Lucas and I sat down to write a story. I had the idea of the lost ark. George had the idea of the Indiana Jones character. We talked for about six weeks and then I got an offer to do another movie. About four years later, I got a call from George saying that he and Spielberg talked about the project on a beach in Hawaii, and would I mind if Steven did it? I said fine, and that's what happened.”
For George Lucas and Steven Spielberg as they built sandcastles together on an Hawaiian beach as Star Wars and Close Encounters transformed Hollywood in 1977. Finding Indy was not so easy - as Spielberg's final choice from 200 actors turned into a problem of Magnum proportions.
"George and Steven had seen every other actor in town," recalled Tom Selleck. "Finally, they got around to me. With a part I would have killed for... I'd already done the Magnum PI pilot and when they offered me Raiders, CBS picked up my option. The network tried to talk them into delaying it, but it didn't work."
Actually, Selleck could have made the film - and the TV series.
Due to Screen Actors/Writers Guild strikes, Magnum, PI eventually started shooting two weeks after Raiders wrapped. "I was sitting around in Hawaii waiting for the series to start while the film wrapped - I nearly committed suicide," commented Selleck. "I felt a sense of accomplishment in that I tested for the part and got it. I can't imagine anybody doing a better job than Ford. It's his movie, his accomplishment."
The man who was Magnum and so nearly Indy, finally played both by merging them in the eighth season and almost last (158th) episode, called Legend of the Lost Art, 1988, a parody complete with hat, whip, booby traps and an ancient scroll as the McGuffin that everyone is after: Magnum, one of his exes, a mysterious foreigner and a double agent (Margaret Colin, Kebir Bedi, Anthony Newley).
Indiana Jones . Spielberg always wanted Ford. Lucas was not so sure as Harrison had been in Star Wars - not to mention American Graffiti. George played safe with other suggestions… John Beck (who had already lost Superman), Jeff Bridges, John Shea, Peter Coyote, Nick Mancuso, Tim Matheson, Sam Neill (Steven called him back for the Jurassic Park movies), Nick Nolte. There were also more surprising suggestions: Chevy Chase, Steve Martin (who went straight in Pennies From Heaven, instead), Bill Murray (Saturday Night Live was in the way)_, , Jack Nicholson... and according to him in 2011, John Travolta.
And Spielberg could never land Gene Hackman Not for Jaws, not for Close Encounters, not for Indy.
Peter Coyote recalled attending a routine Spielberg video-casting session.
“Steven was sitting cross-legged on the couch.
I tried to walk in my sort of innately heroic fashion
- and tripped over a light! My test was absurd.
They said: ‘Put this hat on.’ So, I put the hat on.
They said something like: ‘Look cocky!’
So, I looked cocky.”
Then, Steven and I sat around and talked about... I don't know what, bikers or something. I was very impressed - Steven Spielberg, right? Sitting there giving 100% attention to a schmuck who'd just tripped over his lamp and destroyed his office!"
Coyote did the next one, instead, ET. "Not that Spielberg remembered me!"
Dr Rene Belloq . For Indy's archeologist rival, Spielberg naturally wanted a Frenchman. He went after Jacques Dutronc, singer-actor husband of singer Françoise Hardy, and the director's choice as "the best screen actor in the world," according to one magazine. (A French mag, bien sur). But the handsome singer-actor's Engleesh was not up to snuff. Italian Giancarlo Giannini's was no better. Jonathan Pryce turned down Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits while waiting for Spielbergian approval. Instead, Belloq became a career-making role for Paul Freeman and his (said Spielberg) striking eyes. The stage star was big news in the UK at the time due to his journalist investigating the July 1977 execution of an Arab princess, Mishaal bint Fahd bin Mohammed, and her adulterous lover, in the controversial docu-drama, Death of a Princess, TV, 1980. (Lucas invited him, back for two TV episodes of Lucas’ Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in the early 90s).
Marion Ravenwood . Spielberg saw Amy Irving (not difficult, they shared the same bed) and Debra Winger. Sean Young was Marion in tests of possible Indys. Karen Allen, the winner, tested - opposite Tim Matheson and John Shea. And she was invited back for Indy IV finale - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 2007.
Toht . "As much as I'd like to do a movie with Spielberg, the script is as moronically shitty as so many other flicks of this ilk," said Klaus Kinski, who took delight in turning down name directors (a term he hated) like Fellini and Spielberg. In this case, he preferred a bertter pay-day for Venom and starring (and many suggest, screwing for real) in a Franco-Japanese sex film, Fruits of Passion. Roman Polanski passed.
Because he reminded the director of Peter Lorre, UK actor Michael Sheard auditioned (and was given a tiny role of a U-boat skipper; he was promoted to Hitler for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 1988). Ronald Lacey was considering becoming an agent when suggested for the sadistic Nazi interrogator, with a mere 14 lines.. As with Freeman, the film saved his career, he completed a further 48 screen roles in the ten years up to his 1991 death.
Sallah . Spielberg wanted Danny DeVito - too busy with his Taxi seeries. He more or less played the role in his Indyesque movies with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner: Romancing The Stone, Jewel of the Nile, 1984/5). Sallah was a career-forming role for a third Indy Brit - John Rhys-Davies. Oh, the magic of working for Spielberg!