Seven little known facts about Raiders of the Lost Ark

IT’S been almost 35 years since the world first met Indiana Jones.

The fedora-wearing archaeologist, played by Harrison Ford, made his big screen debut in Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981.

Since then Indy has starred in three other movies, with the fifth film in the franchise set to be released in 2019.

To celebrate this iconic character, we thought we’d track down some little known facts about the first (and arguably the best) Indiana Jones movie:

HOW THE MOVIE CAME ABOUT

George Lucas likes to go on holidays when his new movies are released as he doesn’t like getting caught up in all the fanfare.

As Steven Spielberg revealed to Vanity Fair, it was on one of these holidays before the release of Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope that Lucas first pitched him the idea of an Indiana Jones movie.

“He had called me up and he said, ‘Do you want to come to Hawaii? I need to get away for the opening of Star Wars. Do you want to join me?’” Spielberg said.

“So I got on a plane, and joined him and his wife, and we were in Hawaii, and we were just waiting for the grosses ... I remember George got word that all the 10-o’clock-in-the-morning shows had sold out all across the country. And at that point George was the most giddy I had ever seen him in all the years prior to that that I had ever seen him. He was just beside himself, with relief more than anything else.

“He had been inward for a long time, waiting for those numbers, and then he turned to me, he said, ‘So what are you going to do next?’ And I told him that I wanted to, for the second time, approach [film producer] Cubby Broccoli, who had turned me down the first time, to see if he would change his mind and hire me to do a James Bond movie. And George said, ‘I’ve got something better than that. It’s called Raiders of the Lost Ark’.

“He pitched me the story, and I committed on the beach. We started a tradition of building lucky sandcastles. So we used to build sandcastles in Hawaii, and if the sandcastle withstood the first high tide, the film was a hit. If the high tide overran the sandcastle, we were going to have to struggle to make our money back. That was our superstition and that was our tradition.”

WHO WAS MEANT TO BE INDIANA JONES

Spielberg and Lucas originally offered the role of Indiana Jones to Tom Selleck but the actor couldn’t get out of a contract he’d recently signed.

“I’d done the pilot for Magnum [P.I.],” Selleck explained in an interview with David Letterman, “and they offered me a screen test, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas”.

“They called me a week later ... and they offered it to me and I said, ‘Well I’ve done this pilot,’ and they said, ‘Oh we’re not worried’.”

But they should have been worried, because the CBS Network didn’t want to let Selleck out of his Magnum P.I. contract.

“[Spielberg and Lucas] held the offer out for about a month,” Selleck said.

“The more they held out the offer and talked to the network the more the network said no … so I had to kind of move on.”

You can watch Selleck’s screen test here.

As Lucas explained, they weren’t left with too many options after Selleck fell through.

“We were running short of time and Steven said, ‘There’s always Harrison’,” Lucas said.

“I doubted he’d go for a three-picture deal — he didn’t want to on Star Wars. And we had three pictures. Steven said to try anyway. I went to Harrison and he read the script and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do a three-picture deal. I’d love to’.”

THE GUN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD

In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, Indiana Jones runs into a bad guy brandishing a huge sword in a crowded market place.

But instead of engaging the fella in a duel, Jones opts instead just to pull out his gun and shoot him.

Ford revealed in a Reddit AMA though that the scene wasn’t always meant to go that way.

“We were shooting in Tunisia, and the script had a scene in which I fight a swordsman, an expert swordsman, it was meant to be the ultimate duel between sword and whip,” Ford wrote.

“And I was suffering from dysentery, really, found it inconvenient to be out of my trailer for more than 10 minutes at a time.

“We’d done a brief rehearsal of the scene the night before we were meant to shoot it, and both Steve and I realised it would take two or three days to shoot this. And it was the last thing we were meant to shoot in Tunisia before we left to shoot in England. And the scene before this in the film included a whip fight against five bad guys that were trying to kidnap Marian, so I thought it was a bit redundant.

“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 a bitch and Steve said, ‘I was thinking that as well’. So he drew his sword, the poor guy was a wonderful British stuntman who had practised his sword skills for months in order to do this job, and was quite surprised by the idea that we would dispatch him in five minutes. But he flourished his sword, I pulled out my gun and shot him, and then we went back to England.”

SPIELBERG’S STRONG STOMACH

Pretty much every single crew member got food poisoning during filming in Tunisia, but not Spielberg.

Why? Because the director had a secret weapon.

“I never got sick there because I got the Sainsbury’s canned food,” he said.

“Spaghetti-O’s, pork and beans — whatever they had from Sainsbury’s in England, I just packed a steamer trunk of canned food.”

ON SET INJURY

Ford wanted to do as many of his own stunts as possible in the film and admitted that he suffered “lots of bumps and injuries along the way”.

But one injury was much worse than all of the others.

“I tore an ACL in one of my knees, can’t remember which knee, the scene in which I was fighting the big German mechanic on an aeroplane called a flying wing, I was run over by the landing gear and injured my knee, but I can’t remember which one it was,” Ford wrote on Reddit.

Unfortunately for Ford it wasn’t the last time he was seriously injured on set.

The actor’s leg was broken on the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens when a hydraulic metal door shut suddenly and pinned Ford to the ground.

SOUND EFFECTS

There’s a lot of punches thrown in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but they’re not actual punches you’re hearing according to sound designer Ben Burtt.

“We had a set up with a lot of baseball gloves, like catchers mitts and leather jackets and some football equipment and what we would do is — like for instance if you took a baseball bat, threw a catchers mitt in the air, and hit it with the baseball bat as hard as you could, you would get a good whack,” he explained.

“We took pumpkins, one of my favourites, if you take a croquet ball and you put it in a sock so that you have kind of a nun chuck sort of weapon, and you beat the pumpkin to death every so often, one of those hits out of the five or so is really good.”

MONKEY STUNTS

To refresh your memory, there’s a scene in the film where a cheeky monkey does a Hitler salute.

How on earth did they get a monkey to do that? Producer Frank Marshall explained.

“That was quite a day when Steven said, ‘Get the monkey to salute’. I said to the animal handler, ‘Show me the monkey saluting’. He went over, took a stick and tapped the monkey on the head. The monkey sort of protected himself with his arm and that was supposed to be saluting.

“We devised a process: put a grape on a fishing pole, hold the grape just out of his reach and he would reach. After about 50 takes it finally looked like he was doing his Heil Hitler.”

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