Indiana Jones: 25 Rare Facts and Surprising Pieces of Trivia
Indiana Jones is one of the greatest adventurers in movie history. Harrison Ford's archaeologist alter-ego charms his way through grand adventures with a cocky grin, improvisational moxie, and a willingness to keep fighting, no matter how bad the odds against him might be. Indy's four movies are some of our most-rewatched films, well, ever.
INDIANA JONES 5 will arrive in theatres on July 29, 2022. This will be the first movie in the series without Steven Spielberg in the director's chair. James Mangold (LOGAN, FORD V FERRARI) has been in talks to take over directing duties. We don't know the story of the new movie, but it will have almost 40 years of history to draw on. Indiana Jones first cracked a whip in 1981's RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and returned for three more sequels, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984), INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989), and INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008).
Here are 25 pieces of essential trivia and little-known facts about the Indiana Jones movie series.
1. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was born when George Lucas and Steven Spielberg went to Hawaii just prior to the opening of STAR WARS in 1977. They talked about old adventure movie serials and developed the story that became RAIDERS.
2. Tom Selleck was originally cast as Indiana Jones. Steven Spielberg wanted Harrison Ford, but George Lucas balked at the idea because Ford had already been in Lucas's two previous movies, STAR WARS and AMERICAN GRAFITTI. Selleck dropped out to do the TV show "Magnum P.I." (which became his star-making hit) and after multiple other actors turned down the role, Lucas circled back to Harrison Ford.
3. Spielberg and Lucas dropped several STAR WARS references into INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, including the name of the nightclub in the opening sequence (Club Obi-Wan) and repurposed sounds originally created for lightsabers and the Millennium Falcon.
4. Indiana Jones and Chewbacca were both inspired by Indiana, the Alaskan malamute dog owned by George Lucas.
5. In the pre-CGI age, the floating ghosts which emerge from the Ark of the Covenant were created by suspending puppets draped in silk into a water tank.
6. When Steven Spielberg was casting INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, Short Round actor Ke Huy Quan was discovered when he accompanied his older brother to the audition, where he began directing his sibling through the scene.
7. Playwright Tom Stoppard ("Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," BRAZIL, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE) was brought in to ghostwrite the dialogue between Indiana Jones and his father Henry.
8. The RAIDERS set was also the point of creation for another Steven Spielberg hit. The director told the story outline of E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL to Harrison Ford's then-wife Melissa Mathison while she visited set, and she quickly scripted the sci-fi blockbuster.
9. Multiple sequences in TEMPLE OF DOOM — the mine cart chase, the raft sequence, and portions of the opening battle — were originally written for RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, but cut from the first movie before shooting.
10. Indiana Jones isn't the only character named after a dog. His young friend Short Round in TEMPLE OF DOOM was named for the dog owned by writer Willard Hyuck, who in turn had named the animal after a young orphan in Sam Fuller's 1951 Korean War movie THE STEEL HELMET. And Willie Scott was also named after a dog: Steven Spielberg's Cocker Spaniel, Willie.
11. Dan Aykroyd (GHOSTBUSTERS) cameos as a man who escorts Indy, Short Round and Willie Scott to a plane in TEMPLE OF DOOM.
12. Steven Spielberg spent months working on the script for RAIN MAN with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise and planned to direct, but had to walk away from the movie because he had committed to do THE LAST CRUSADE with George Lucas. RAIN MAN went on to win four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Spielberg made HOOK with Dustin Hoffman in 1991, and MINORITY REPORT and WAR OF THE WORLDS with Tom Cruise in 2002 and 2005.
13. In RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, Indy's guide Satipo is played by Alfred Molina, making his big-screen debut. Molina has gone on to appear in dozens of movies, including Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN 2, in which he played Doctor Octopus.
14. The hulking German mechanic Indy fights near a twin-prop plane in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is played by British wrestler Pat Roach. The actor also plays one of the men who fight Indiana Jones in Marion Ravenwood's bar. He went on to play heavy roles in both TEMPLE OF DOOM and LAST CRUSADE. He passed away in 2004, so he was unable to appear in KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.
15. One of the most well-known pieces of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK trivia is that Indiana Jones dispatching a showy Arab swordsman with a shrugged-off pistol shot was an unscripted moment shot because Ford was too ill to act out a planned fight scene. Less well known is the fact that Terry Richards, who played the swordsman, appears in THE EMPIRE STRIKES back as a giant furry Wampa which attacks the Rebel base on Hoth, in scenes cut from the movie's original release.
16. Ronald Lacey, who memorably played the sweaty and evil Nazi henchman Toht in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, also appears in LAST CRUSADE as an agent of the Gestapo.
17. TEMPLE OF DOOM is one of a few PG-rated Spielberg productions, along with GREMLINS and POLTERGEIST, which drew criticism for being too intense for young viewers. Spielberg suggested the creation of a new PG-13 rating as a midpoint between the PG and R ratings. In 1984, RED DAWN was the first movie to arrive in theatres bearing the PG-13 rating.
18. Sean Connery was asked to return for KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL but turned down the offer, saying "Retirement is just too damned much fun."
19. ABC aired three seasons of "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" from 1992 to 1994. One story idea planned for the third season, which ultimately went unused, featured Indy meeting a young Belloq as his future rival steals a crystal skull.
20. When Lucas and Spielberg originally discussed the RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK story in Hawaii, Spielberg told his friend he planned to pitch himself as director for a James Bond movie. Lucas said, "I’ve got something better than that. It’s called RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK." 20 years later, when making LAST CRUSADE, Spielberg assembled the first Bond actor (Sean Connery), a former Bond Girl (Alison Doody) and six other actors who were all Bond movie veterans.
21. Spielberg ultimately also criticized TEMPLE OF DOOM. In 1989 he said "I wasn't happy with the second film at all," he said while promoting LAST CRUSADE, because "it was too dark, too subterranean, and much too horrific." George Lucas later said "I was going through a divorce, Steven had just broken up and we were not in a good mood, so we decided on something a little more edgy. It ended up darker than we thought it would be."
22. TEMPLE OF DOOM was inspired by the 1939 movie GUNGA DIN, in which Cary Grant stars as one of a trio of British soldiers who battle the violent Thuggee cult in India.
23. In RAIDERS, Belloq's force carries the Ark of the Covenant through a canyon, where Indy threatens to blow up the artifact. George Lucas had been to that spot before, as it's the same canyon where R2-D2 is disabled by Jawas in STAR WARS.
24. Indy's whip is part of his trademark kit, but there wasn't just one whip used for the series. The character's main whip is a 10-foot bullwhip, but a range of different whips ranging in length from 6 to 16 feet were used in the four movies.
25. Harrison Ford suffered back problems while making TEMPLE OF DOOM and had to be away from the production for six weeks. Speilberg kept the movie going by shooting much of the mine cart and conveyor belt fight with Ford's stunt double, Vic Armstrong, acting in any shot where Indy's face wasn't seen. When Ford returned, close-ups were shot to fill in the scenes. The end result is virtually seamless.
Want to know more trivia? Check out some of James Bond's big secrets.
All images courtesy of Paramount Pictures.