Spielberg & Harrison Ford Talk ‘Indiana Jones 5′, CGI & More

Published 4 years ago by , Updated September 13th, 2011 at 7:46 pm,

indiana jones seven wonders abc Spielberg & Harrison Ford Talk Indiana Jones 5, CGI & More

Last night at at a theatre in downtown Los Angeles (sprinkled with the likes of Damon Lindelof and Simon Pegg) the LA Times Hero Complex hosted a thirtieth anniversary screening of director Steven Spielberg’s beloved homage to the adventure serials of the 1930s – Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The director was on hand for a conversation with Geoff Boucher following the screening, in which he looked back at the creation of what has become one of our culture’s most iconic characters — Indiana Jones. Mid-talk, the two were joined by none other than Indy himself, Harrison Ford, who offered his own insights about Raiders as well as what may be in store for the future of the franchise.

Suffice is to say that both Spielberg and Ford have said they are “hopeful” about an Indy 5, though Ford did give the caveat that he will, “not be going to Mars.”

Details of the conversation will follow below, but first it feels appropriate to reflect that I am probably not alone in being struck by how a film that was (in many ways) born of a sense of nostalgia has now taken a place of not just nostalgic longing, but reverence within the entertainment community.

Many long for, and emulate, the Spielberg films of the late 1970s and early 1980s. This summer alone we have seen several films that were either openly touted as “Spielbergesque” or contained subtle (or in some cases not-so-subtle) references to his films. J.J Abrams’ Super 8 was as direct an homage to Spielberg’s early sci-fi films as Raiders was to the serials it drew from; and Captain America was, in many respects, the Super-Hero version of an Indiana Jones film (not so much in the character, but the construction of the story, and tone of the film).

 Spielberg & Harrison Ford Talk Indiana Jones 5, CGI & More

I must confess that Raiders is just as entertaining, just as much fun to watch today as it was when I was a little girl who insisted on being given her very own bullwhip with which to rangel wayward helpers on the hunt for artifacts. One of the joys of the screening was the untouched quality of the film print, which allowed us to embrace the event for what it was — an opportunity to revisit something from our pasts as it truly was, and/or introduce the film to a new generation without the loss of what it had been. Raiders has been restored, of course, but one of the first points that Spielberg stressed was that he had worked from the original negative and had neither removed nor added anything via the use of CGI.

This naturally led to a discussion about the recent (and not so recent) changes that have been made to the original Star Wars series by the man Spielberg calls his best friend, George Lucas. Spielberg initially forestalled giving his thoughts on the alterations calling it a “hot topic.” He then said that he felt that Lucas was a great director, and noted that if it weren’t for him the we wouldn’t have Star Wars or Indiana Jones. He had already joked that after his (fairly unsuccessful) offering, 1941, the only person who would hire him was his friend, Lucas, for Raiders. Spielberg’s take is that Lucas is entitled to do whatever he wants to with his films, but that his own experiment with remastering had left somewhat of a sour taste in his mouth:

“I tried this once and lived to regret it. Not because of fan outrage, but because I was disappointed in myself. I got overly sensitive to [some of the reaction -- including parents who had been less than pleased with the guns in the film] to “E.T.,” and I thought if technology evolved, [I might go in and change some things]…it was OK for a while, but I realized what I had done was I had robbed people who loved “E.T.” of their memories of E.T.”

Henry Thomas E.T. The Extra Terrestrial Spielberg & Harrison Ford Talk Indiana Jones 5, CGI & More

The director then took a survey of the audience to see who would like to see the original 1982 E.T. released on Blu-ray, sans the inclusion of the digitally remastered version. When the overwhelming response was in favor of reverting to the film we knew from our collective childhoods (puppet warts and all), Spielberg said simply, “Okay, done.”

As far as indelible cinematic memories are concerned, it is hard to imagine anyone other than Harrison Ford playing Indiana Jones, but the truth is that the part originally belonged to Tom Selleck, who had to bow-out due to his commitment to the television series Magnum P.I. During the time that Spielberg was searching for his lead, he was invited to an early, rough-cut screening of The Empire Strikes Back where, as he tells it, he realized he already had his Indy.

“After [the screening of The Empire Strikes Back] was over, I said, ‘We’ve found our Indiana Jones.’ And George said, ‘Who?’ I said, ‘That guy right there, Han Solo.’ And George said, ‘yeah, he’s a great actor, but he’s identified as this character now in Star Wars.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but he’s an actor! He’s supposed to identify with different characters.’ George had never thought about that, but then he said, ‘yeah, that’d be great’.”

It was more than great. In a time when we often bestow far more significance on childhood properties than they perhaps carry, we can honestly say that Harrison Ford and Steven Speilberg co-created a character that lives in the hearts of a generation, and changed what we wanted to see from our cinematic Heroes.

When the possibility of revisiting Indy via a fifth installment in the franchise was broached, and one enthused fan whooped from the audience, Spielberg (with a tongue-in-cheek understanding of his fan base) quipped “I think that’s the one we didn’t alienate with the fourth” to which Boucher responded (in essence) “I think that’s Shia.”

In truth, the director does seem interested in revisiting the character, and Ford, who eventually said it is a simple and absolute pleasure to play this role and work with Spielberg, seemed more than open to the possibility – though he did say:

“Maybe a fifth, but I ain’t going to Mars. Next time we get a script for Indiana Jones, I’d be delighted to play the character. Each time we meet him, we wanted to advance the audience’s understanding of the character, not just by putting him in adventures, but by learning something about him…that’s what led to the meeting of his father [in The Last Crusade], played by Sean Connery, and his son [in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull], played by Shia, and bringing Marion back.”

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Spielberg & Harrison Ford Talk Indiana Jones 5, CGI & More

As much as Ford expressed an unabashed affection for Jones, he did joke that Spielberg only hires him to play Indy, even though he is an actor. To which Spielberg returned:

“You know who I offered Jurassic Park to? This guy. Alan Grant, Jurassic Park, right here.”

As to a Blu-ray release of the Indiana Jones series, the director said only that it would be coming up, and that as soon as Lucas is done with Star Wars, Indy should be next on the docket.

During the course of their talk, Ford and Spielberg touched on topics ranging from who was truly responsible for the famous “just shoot the swordsman” gag; the connection between Raiders and Spielberg’s upcoming CGI adventure film Tintin (which he refers to as being, “thirty years in development”); Ford’s insistence that Indy feel and express fear (a choice that helped define our concept of a fully-developed Hero); and the state of the industry today — which Ford calls in some ways “soulless.”

The Los Angeles Times will be releasing videos from the event in the coming days, which we will be linking to here, so stay tuned for more from this entertaining and revealing conversation.

A special thanks to Geek Tyrant for the quote transcriptions.

Follow me on twitter @JrothC

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  1. I believe Jeff Bridges was also offered the roll before Lucas gave into Ford.

    • I have footage of Tom Selleck screen testing for the role. He could not commit to it because of scheduling conflicts with Magnum.

      • You both are right. Tom was signed on but his
        Magnum contract prevented him from doing it.
        Jeff Bridges revealed in a recent interview he
        was offered the role which I was unaware of.

        What is not clear is when. I had the sense
        it was very early, before Tom Selleck, but
        maybe it was after and before Harrison.

  2. This was a great read. I can’t wait for Indy to be released in Blu-ray and I hope when it comes that it’s as loaded with extras as Star Wars is. As far is doing another I hope not. I hate being another person who says Crystal Skull sucked but it really did. As a matter of fact I fell a sleep during it. I have seen the whole film once since and have no desire to watch it again. But the 1st 3 I have seen countless times and the 5 times I went to see Last Crusade in the theater is my personal record.

  3. Another indy movie would be great!!

  4. Definitely would love to see another Indy film. The Crystal Skull had some flaws, mostly due to CGI, but I still enjoyed it.

    • Agreed. It was not overly terrible like people make it out to be. I enjoy watching crystal skull above temple of doom any day. With crystal skull, people condemn it for a 30 second scene of cgi monkeys, rather than enjoy the film as a whole. As for the surviving a nuclear bomb test by hiding in a refrigerator, let’s not forget the scene from temple of doom where they survive a very high fall by getting onto an inflatable life raft.

      • or surviving the wrath of God by closing their eyes. James Rolfe listed it as #1 on his list of Top Ten Sequels that aren’t as bad as people think. He rightly points out that people aren’t looking at the big picture in regards to that film.

        • I think the reason people hated the last Indy film was because of the UFO and alien element. I was one of those people. I pretend the last Indy film doesn’t even exist because I was just so flatly disappointed by how it finally culminated into a CGI fest coupled with alien creatures. That’s not the Indiana Jones adventure I was looking for. Now if the story were more grounded in human history like the previous movies along with the mystical stories and superstitions that Indiana Jones usually investigates I’m sure people would have embraced Kingdom of the Crystal Skull more wholeheartedly. The whole alien element took me out of the fantasy that I have grown up knowing Indiana Jones for (i.e. buried long lost treasures, mystical or religious artifacts, historical mystery). The next Indy film needs to go back to his roots and that means keeping Indy firmly planted on Terra Firma and not including ET’s ancestors.

          • see, not seeing the big big picture. It takes place in the fifties when ufos were all the rage (and the movie points out that they aren’t aliens, they are inter-dimensional beings). And that is a big part of the mythology that surrounds crystal skulls: people think they came from other worlds. Giving the following of the “ancient aliens” crock, how were they supposed to ignore that?

  5. Harrison as Dr. Grant would have been too much like Indy on Dinosaur Island. As much as I love Harrison Ford, Sam Neil was a phenomenal choice as Alan Grant.

    Count me in for Indy 5. As many flaws that Indy 4 had, it was still awesome seeing the Indy on the big screen again.

    • Yup.

  6. Thanks for that article, I enjoyed reading it. I love Spielberg. I think he definitely understands his fans.

    I didn’t know Harrison Ford was offered the role in Jurassic Park, was that a joke?

    • Sam Neil was amazing, but can you Imagine? Jurrasic Park is already a favorite, but simply by staring Harrison it would be placed upon another level.

      He was also offered ‘The Patriot’ before Gibson, but turned it down stating “i don’t think the revolutionary war should be boiled down to the story of one man seeking vengeance” or something to that effect.

  7. I too enjoyed Crystal Skull despite it’s flaws. I felt like it had enough of the Indy spirit to me (come and get me fanboys!). Being a fan of the first three, Indy might be the movie that finally compels me to get a Blue Ray player!

  8. If we do get a 5th Indy… PLEASE do not bring in the kid. To me, he was worse than any nuclear bomb escape, CGI monkeys, or Crystal Skulls. Mutt did to Indy what Lois’ son did for Superman Returns.

  9. why? is this the one where
    Shia’s character takes over
    and Indy passes the torch then
    he neither dies in action or him
    and Marion retire somewhere where
    no one where find them and make
    little Indiana Jones while Shia’s
    character begins his own adventures,
    just a thought .long live Indy:)…..

    • dumbest idea ever — why not just take a band and replace all of the members and call it the same name

  10. Great read, Roth, and I agree with every sentiment you expressed.
    Raiders is one of my all time favorite films and for me too it was
    a formative influence and Harrison Ford was just the coolest
    guy and for the longest time he was my favorite actor.

    The magic of Raiders was not quite matched in the
    first two sequels but close enough, it is hard
    to beat the freshness of the introduction.

    The recent Indy 4 missed the mark and
    only increased the nostalgia for the original.
    If Spielberg and crew could not do it then who?

    I was pleasantly surprised with Captain America
    which I loved and took me back to the fun of Raiders.
    Johnson proved proved the classic formula still can work.

    I wonder if there are plans to screen Raiders in New York.
    A limited release of sorts I think would be in order but
    even it was only one showing I will be there.
    And I still have my Indiana Jone fedora.

  11. Indiana Jones raids the arc one last time.
    Wow I think he may have invented a new Internet dearth for film criticism, “They robbed me of my E.T. memories” way to go Spielberg. Notice no real discussion of the McGuffin problem. Trip to Mars? Hey they’re getting too close to my spec script I think they’re trying to rip me off usin brain wave reading crystal skulls… ;)

  12. Totally for an Indy 5 as long as shia isn’t involved. I agree with another comment he was the worst thing about Indy 4. Can’t stand shia as an actor.

  13. Lovely article, and it sounds like the screening and discussion was a fun event. Personally I could do without another Indy movie, especially if they mess things up like they did with Crystal Skull. I like the first 3 Indy movies but I just can’t see where they can go with another one because we’ve had Indy and his dad and now Indy and his son and to me that should be it, anymore and it could end up rehashing what has already been done. But heck if they made another one I would be there watching it.

  14. Raiders is as close to a perfect movie as there is. Spielberg is a true master. I hope they somehow include the remake those kids made as a homage as an extra for the blu ray release but I doubt it.

  15. Great article Roth, keep us updated.

  16. “…but I realized what I had done was I had robbed people who loved “E.T.” of their memories of E.T.”

    Well ain’t that just some funny stuff coming from a “best-friend” of the best memory robber out there – Mr. Lucas. Have they not spoken on this subject? Best Friends my butt.

    “George had never thought about that, but then he said, ‘yeah, that’d be great’.”

    George Lucas had never thought an actor could play a different role? Well blow me down, no wonder he miscast Jules from Pulp Fiction as a Jedi.

    Let’s not even mention the horrible horrible horrible actor Hayden Christensen.

  17. I’d say that the search for the Lost City Of Atlantis would be a great choice for IJ5 and its one of the few places he could look for that would not be a step down from what he searched for in the last films.

    I’ve been curious as to one thing about Crystal SKull that maybe someone hear knows the answer to. Why did they kill off his dad? It did not seem to help the movie or plot in any way so why even mention it especially since the actor (Sean Connery) wasn’t dead?


  19. If they’re not properly restoring the original neg and rescanning at least 4K like Ridley Scott did with Blade Runner, then I won’t be purchasing these Indy blurays. The Star Wars blurays are not worth paying 90 dollars.

  20. I didnt hate Cystal Skull like everyone else, I enjoyed it for actually being able to watch an Indiana Jones film on the big screen and I actually enjoyed it alot more than Temple of Doom

  21. I liked Crystal Skull as well.

  22. Awesome article, Roth. I enjoyed it very much.

  23. It’s eerie that this has come such a topic now because just last week my boyfriend and I were wondering what would the pervious three films of Indiana JOnes look like on blu-ray. Now it looks we may find out sooner than we thought. Plus it is just an added bonus for me that ET is coming out soon as well. A few years ago I got the Special Edition I think for Chrismtas or something from my dad before this I hadn’t seen the movie since I was a kid and it brought back memories seeing it again.

  24. Read my take on Spielberg’s redemption, Lucas’s failure to redeem himself and more at: http://filmsnork.blogspot.com/2011/09/spielbergs-fixes-et-at-same-time-makes.html

  25. I would rather have another crappy Indy movie than none at all. At least they’re trying!

  26. Raiders movies, imo, are the opposite of Trek movies: odd numbers are good and evens are bad. Looking fwd to 5!
    Where will he go? Not too many Western or Near-Eastern culture-areas Indy hasn’t been to at this point.
    China and Japan? Ironically, that would stir echoes of Tom Selleck’s “High Road to China” (done, probably, as a shadow of “Raiders”, itself). China has a lot of potential, tho it wasn’t Indy’s specialty.
    North America is too close to Indy 4′s S.Amer tale, and “National Treasure” movies cover those, anyway.
    Nordic romps are probably out due to their recent use by Cptn America (tho this could allow him to revisit thrashing Nazis, perhaps avoiding old traps they left).
    Too, what character development is left for our intrepid Indy? Old Indy was in I4, so what lies in store for even older Indy?
    Hope they make this movie!

  27. I watched Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Crystal Skull last night and it wasn’t bad for what it was but it still did not compare to the other three films.

  28. I would love a 5th Indy, I think after the fourth Spielberg really understands what needs to be done to do it right, and honestly, I think the first step is to not include Shia, he just doesn’t belong, I don’t think he’s necessary to continue at all

  29. The Legend of the Crystal Skulls is more fact based then the Arc and other artifacts Indy chased after! The Crystal Skulls are real and are in the hands of Man even now where the arc was just legend that no man alive has ever seen! How is it that stories from the Bible are more beleavable then fact based accounts we have proof about? Am I the only person to know about the Crystal Skulls?

    • actually to say that no one has ever seen the ark is a lie.. and a false assumption. when actually, after it disappeared no one has ever seen it..
      when it is most likely in Jerusalem in the Jeremiahs grotto under the Crucifixion site.. but people have seen it and a few people died from touching it.. and there is proof of most of the bible stories.. but the
      ” chrystal skulls ” are not really important there are just things people made up for some odd reason they dont have no powers, and no secret recipe.
      but i reckon they are interesting

    • I agree with the sentiment. I wasn’t sure why some people felt that the religious storylines were more believable than trans-dimensional beings, as maybe they are the “angels” men speak of? some said that four was over the top. did they see the first three? of course it’s over the top but it’s fun, and well acted and well structured. I enjoyed Crystal Skull a lot, and I did not know of the crystal skulls though I knew bits and pieces of other stuff mentioned in the movie. I’ve always loved the marriage between history and fiction that exist in these movies. Who is to say that what we believe to be fact isn’t in fact fiction, and what we read today is only part of real events perhaps toned down? I just can’t imagine anyone who sees the scene where u see the shadow of indy on the car putting his hat on who does’t get chills when they see it. We love Indy, and after Ford is done. I say it’s done.