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Raiders of the Lost Ark
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Opening of the Ark


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Raiders of the Lost Ark




Lawrence Kasdan (Screenwriter): I had an original screenplay called Continental Divide and one of the people who was in on the bidding for it was Steven. And when he first read it, he told my agent, "I'm doing a movie with George Lucas and I think this guy would be great to write it. Would it be all right if I showed George Continental Divide?" And we of course agreed. Then I came in and met George, he had read the script and liked it and that first meeting, George hired me to write Raiders.

Frank Marshall (Producer): It was over at Universal Studios. I came in and met George, and Steven came in about a half an hour later and then Larry Kasdan came in none of us had ever met Larry, except for Steven and we all shook hands right there. Larry was going to write Raiders, I was going to produce it and Steven was going to direct it. It all happened so fast.

Lawrence Kasdan: George and Steven and I sat for a week of meetings about the story, really outlined the thing into a tape recorder. It was a constant process of an idea coming out and another person saying, yah, that's pretty good but it doesn't quite fit. Let's try this. And the third person saying, how about this for a capper? We wound up with about a hundred- page transcript of the story outline. I left those meetings feeling I was in pretty good shape and then realized, Uh-oh, this is gonna be hard.

Steven Spielberg (Director): Larry didn't stick with our story outline a hundred per cent. A lot of this movie is on Larry's own original ideas, his own characters. George provided the initial vision, the story and the structure of the movie. Then George and I together provided key scenes throughout the film. And Larry essentially did all the characters and tied the story together, made the story work from just a bare outline, and gave it color and some direction.

Lawrence Kasdan: I made up all the names except Indiana, he's named after George's dog. The names I used are significant in that they're romantic in certain ways, or evocative of certain kinds of characters. Marion I thought that was a pretty name, it was my wife's grandmother's name. Ravenwood I was talking about the movie with my wife as we drove up Beverly Glen and there's a street there called Ravenwood Court. I wanted the names to be romantic and old-timey.

The reason, I think, that George and Steven and I worked well together is that we share a lot of likes about movies, a certain love for the kinds of things that can only happen in movies. And Raiders is very much about things that can only happen in movies.

Steven Spielberg: The movie works only if the script works. You can do anything to a movie you can change dialogue, you can change the feelings the characters have about each other but if the story and the basics of the script don't work, the movie doesn't work. If you have a very very good movie, then most of the reason is that the script was excellent.

The Raiders of the Lost Ark script went through five revisions before the final story emerged in April 1980. And there were still more changes made as the actual filming of the movie demanded practical revisions of the story


Steven Spielberg (Director): It's the hardest cement wall for a director to break through: finding out in 15 minutes who an actor is or even a sneak preview of his personality. So we decided to have all the casting sessions in the kitchen at Lucasfilm. It disarmed everyone: actors who were normally shy came out of themselves. All the actors who came in from nine to one helped cook; and all the actors who came in from two to seven helped eat. Everything was baked from scratch, from Charlotte au chocolat to homemade pumpkin bread. The word spread Army Archerd and a few of the other columnists were carrying the story in the papers, so the actors were calling their agents saying, "I only want to come after two" Everybody wanted to eat; nobody wanted to work.

We were looking for a leading man for over six months. We wanted an unknown originally a total unknown. Conceitedly, George and I wanted to make a star of Johnny the construction worker from Malibu. We couldn't find a construction worker in Malibu, so we began looking at more substantial people in the film industry. We were stuck; we had three weeks left to cast the part of Indiana Jones, and there was nobody close. Then I saw The Empire Strikes Back and I said Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones. I called George Lucas and said, "He's right under our noses" George said,"I know who you're going to say." I said, "Who?" and he said "Harrison Ford" "Right" "Let's get him,' he said. And we did.

Karen was the most professional actress to come into our readings. She was polished, and she came prepared. After that, we just kept saying, "Not as good as Karen"

Harrison Ford was the only person George and I saw playing Indiana Jones. He is a remarkable combination of Errol Flynn from The Adventures of Don Juan and Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of Sierra Madre. He can be villainous and romantic all at once.



Artists and designers are essential to the making of any film. They translate the ideas and imagination of the filmmaker to the film crew and ultimately to the audience. In Raiders of the Lost Ark director Steven Spielberg did a rough sketch of each shot. Artists took these drawings and, using their own imaginations, turned the drawings into storyboards - polished illustrations that visually present the action of the script. Other artists worked on production paintings and costume sketches that helped guide the search for locations, direct the building of sets, and determine what props and other elements were needed to make the movie.

Steven Spielberg (Director): I did all the rough sketches myself. I just began at the beginning of the script and worked my way to the end. I had three artists working with me. I had Ed Verreaux, Dave Negron, and Roy Carnon, and I had Michael Lloyd who did 20-inch oil paintings for us. I would always sketch the composition and the action with my stick figures. And then I'd turn that over to the artists and we'd talk about it. I'd say, "Now, this is a man" And he would often say, "I thought that was the wall" I'd say, "No, that's a man, and that's a car" And he would say, "I thought that was a dog" And I would say, "No, it's not an animal. It's a car" I would interpret my own crude renderings, and they would carry them a step further and complete the continuity. Usually the continuity was completed in black and white. Ed Verreaux occasionally did it in color pencil, so we had a little more depth in the different sketches. And then I'd put those together in a shooting continuity; and that became the arrangement of scenes. The order was dictated by the location and by the shooting schedule.

I never did my homework for arithmetic or biology in school. But I love doing the homework for movies. I really love to stay up late at night with the little desk light hot and the rest of the lights in the room off, drawing sketches, and planning this and that, and thinking about how the characters should say the dialogue they have to say. I imagine the movie over and over again and then take those scenes to the set and try to get the actors to imagine them as I did. That's the trick; and that takes being very well prepared. And, of course, there are days I'm not prepared at all. And sometimes I've done the best scene in the movie when I just made it up as I went along. Sometimes the spontaneity is better than pacing in my office at midnight, trying to make plans.



Robert Watts (Associate Producer): Norman Reynolds (Production Designer), Bill Welsh (Construction Manager) and I left London for New York on a Saturday with tickets to take us either to Puerto Rico or to Honolulu. Frank Marshall was to ring me at my hotel from Puerto Rico at a prearranged time to say "Tomorrow morning come to Puerto Rico" or "Go to Honolulu" so at 6 p.m. Frank called, and instead of saying, "Come to Puerto Rico, ' or "Go to Honolulu, ' he said, "We're going to Mexico" Early Sunday morning at Kennedy Airport we met Frank, who came in from Puerto Rico, and we all jumped on a flight to Mexico City. In Mexico City we got ourselves on the first flight that we could get to a place called Villa Hermosa, down toward the Guatemala border, where we spent the night. At the crack of dawn the next morning we set off in two rented cars for a place called Palenque, to look at an existing jungle temple for the South America sequence. My car had a faulty gas gauge, so I ran out of gas. Frank managed to find some. When we got to Palenque, we had two breakfasts because we were so hungry, and then went up to the ruins. In one hour we realized it was not for us, because it was far too manicured and we would have had enormous work to put it back to a state that looked like nobody had found it before.

By the way, we hadn't been able to call the States and tell them where we were, because the phones didn't work down in Villa Hermosa, so we were desperately trying to phone. We got back to Mexico City where we would get the next flight out to L.A. We had left London early Saturday, it was now Monday. We got to L.A. at 5 a.m. Tuesday and had two hours sleep, then took a flight to Honolulu and then on to Lihue, Kauai, where we arrived just after lunch. On Wednesday Doug Slocombe (Director of Photography) arrived, and we checked locations on Kauai. Thursday morning we flew from Lihue to Honolulu, spent most of the day there doing business about the construction that was required. We then took a night flight out from Honolulu, which got us into L.A. again at about 5 o'clock in the morning. This was Friday now. We had a meeting with Steven on Friday afternoon and we then booked a flight back to London Friday evening. So we were back in London Saturday morning; that was a week after we left. We'd spent three nights on airplanes.

When I heard that this picture was set in Egypt, I asked three questions: do we see the Sphinx, do we see the Pyramids, do we see the Nile? And when the answer was no, I said, "Well, then, we don't have to go to Egypt."

We used one of the Tunisian locations we had used on Star Wars the canyon -but basically we were looking for quite different locations. We required Arab streets; we required an archaeological dig site, as well as mountain roads for a mountain road chase which we then changed to an oasis chase.

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