In 1981, movie-goers were introduced to one of the most iconic action heroes ever to grace the big screen: Indiana Jones. Raiders of the Lost Ark was released in June 1981 with Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair and Harrison Ford in the leading role. George Lucas wrote the story, which ultimately consisted of an archaeologist being hired to find the Ark of the Covenant.
Indiana Jones quickly became one of the greatest action heroes that the world has ever seen, a character who spawned a successful franchise. Raiders of the Lost Ark is often regarded as the best movie in the series, and fans have watched and re-watched it countless times. It's still got lots of secrets and surprises up its sleeve, though. Let's take a look at some of them!
One of the most iconic scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark is when Indiana Jones steals the Golden Idol and triggers booby-traps in the temple. One of these traps was a giant boulder, which Indiana Jones barely escapes. While you would think they would have used a stunt-double here, it was actually Ford himself who had to outrun the prop, which weighed over 300 pounds!
Actually, due to different filming angles and such, he had to outrun the boulder ten times! Spielberg later admitted, “He won ten times and beat the odds. He was lucky, and I was an idiot for letting him try.”
Indiana Jones might travel all around the world for ancient artifacts, but the character was created in Hawaii. George Lucas went on a vacation with his friend Steven Spielberg when Star Wars was released and Spielberg revealed that he had always wanted to make a 007 movie.
Lucas talked about how he had written a story about a character named Indiana Smith back in 1973 and the two began to brainstorm ideas for what would eventually become Indiana Jones. The name Indiana was also the name of Lucas’ Alaskan Malamute, the same dog that inspired Chewbacca from Star Wars.
One of the most memorable moments from Raiders of the Lost Ark is when Indiana Jones is in Cairo and comes across a swordsman looking to fight him. Instead of engaging the enemy, he simply pulls out his gun and effortlessly shoots him. However, that’s not the way the scene was originally supposed to go down.
The script featured an elaborate scene involving the goon chasing Jones through the streets of Cairo, but since almost all of the crew members had gotten food poisoning, Ford suggested he just shoot the guy instead. The actor playing the swordsman had apparently practiced for months for the scene, but unfortunately for him, he was killed off in a matter of seconds.
It isn’t uncommon for older movies to use miniature models and sets to pull off complex action sequences. Lucas did this numerous times in the original Star Wars trilogy since CGI was still being fully developed, but the same thing was done for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Several miniature sets were built. Not really to film scenes, but to expedite filming.
Instead of going into a location blind, the crew built miniature sets of the filming locations so that when they were finally on set, they could film things as efficiently as possible. After all, in show business, time is money.
Raiders of the Lost Ark features a lot of supernatural moments towards the end of the film, but one of the most chilling scenes comes in the very beginning when Indy is searching for the Golden Idol. Indiana Jones tells Satipo (Alfred Molina) to turn around and his entire back is covered with tarantulas scurrying about.
That being said, when they first tried to film the scene, none of the spiders moved when they were put on Molina’s back. This was because all of the spiders were male. After they added a female to the mix, however, the spiders got very animated and the shot was achieved.
When George Lucas made Star Wars, he had no idea how much of an international hit he had on his hands. It quickly became apparent that Star Wars was going to make him a lot of money so by the time they were making Raiders of the Lost Ark, it was at some point decided to give R2-D2 and C-3PO a cameo in the film.
The two characters can be seen on a pillar when Indiana Jones and Sallah remove a stone from the top of the Ark. The two characters can again be seen on a wall as hieroglyphs, only this time Leia appears too and is handing them the plans to the Death Star.
Most people couldn’t imagine anybody playing Indiana Jones except for Harrison Ford. Ford has even said he never wants to be replaced as Indiana Jones and nobody else wants that either. That being said, Tom Selleck was super close to playing the famous archeologist. Actors such as Tim Matheson, Peter Coyote, John Shea auditioned for the role, but Selleck was offered the position.
Selleck ended up turning down the role due to CBS picking up Magnum PI, but the show was delayed due to an actor's strike. Since Raiders of the Lost Ark filmed in different parts of the world, Selleck could have played Indiana Jones, but by that point, Ford was already cast in the role instead.
As world-renowned as the Indiana Jones series has become, it’s a bit shocking to find out that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg originally had trouble pitching the idea to movie studios. George Lucas once revealed to Empire that pretty much every studio turned down Raiders of the Lost Ark.
First of all, Lucas needed a $20 million budget, wanted most of the control of the film, licensing, and sequel rights. Studios also didn’t want Spielberg to direct because of his flop 1941 starring John Belushi.
While Harrison Ford got sick while filming in Tunisia, he also tore his ACL on set. In the scene where Ford was fighting a large, muscular foe around the plane, the landing gear of the plane rolled over his knee and tore his ACL.
He’s lucky the plane didn’t break his entire knee. Supposedly, it was so hot that the tires of the plane had become softer, resulting in Ford just tearing his ACL rather than breaking his knee.
Raiders of the Lost Ark begins with a giant action scene of Indy trying to escape a temple that housed the Golden Idol. Indiana Jones almost gets crushed by rocks, trapped in the temple, has to outrun a giant boulder, and then runs for his life from the angry locals. Indy runs to a seaplane and they fly off, but things only got worse from there in real-life.
When the plane went out of frame, it actually crashed. Since the pilot wasn’t able to close the cockpit door, this made it impossible to use the rudder. Thankfully, the plane wasn’t too far off the ground, so Ford and the pilot weren’t hurt too badly.