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Raiders of the Lost Ark
 
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Raiders of the Lost Ark

6. EMI ELSTREE STUDIOS, ENGLAND


6.1 IMAM'S HOUSE


Frank Marshall (Producer): We'd heard that the english crews are slower because they take tea breaks. Wrong. They don't stop for tea any more than an American crew stops for coffee.

Kathy Kennedy (Associate to Steven Spielberg): La Rochelle was scheduled for five days. Starting a film on location, with a new crew and all, you usually have to work all the bugs out. I think most everyone assumed that we'd get off to a rocky start and that we would probably go a little bit over and could make it up once we got to the stages. Instead we came in right on schedule. If you start out like that, the crew is pretty hyped up, and you come back to the studio ready to go right into shooting again. The momentum kept up. We had scheduled two days to do the first set, Iman's house, and we completed it in one day. That got things off to a nice start.


6.2 THE TEMPLE


 
 
 

Frank Marshall (Producer): It's funny how everyone thinks tarantulas are so dangerous, when in fact they're very fragile creatures. If they fall or you drop them they die. You have to be very careful with them. We did lose one of them one day when two got in a fight a battle to the death.

Steven Spielberg (Director): A director, essentially, is a collaborator: taking the best people around and trying to get them all to help make the movie the best that can be made. I troll for the best are ideas; I'm an audition man. I sit there and say, "Okay, who has the best idea? Let's see a show of hands"

Frank Marshall (Producer): Often with mechanical effects you just don't know what's going to happen. Most of them are tested, but until you have somebody run through it, you don't really know what it's going to look like, or if it's going to work.

Kathy Kennedy (Associate to Steven Spielberg): As Indy runs through the hall outside the sanctuary, after he's picked up the idol, he triggers arrows that come flying out of the walls. The first time we did this, the arrows went so fast that Steven was worried we wouldn't see them on film. But to our surprise, in dailies it looked great.

Frank Marshall (Producer): Sometimes things just look much better on the screen than they do to the naked eye. Somehow the camera changes things. Remember, when you're seeing a movie, you're really seeing only half of what happens: the shutter's closed the same amount of time that it's open. Maybe that has something to do with it.

A huge boulder comes crashing down through a chute and chases after Indy. We had to make it look like it rolled free, but we also had to be able to control it. The boulder was on this contraption like an arm; it was free-spinning and the arm was hidden. The boulder tumbled down the chute, then it had to be taken back if we wanted to do another take. But we couldn't do it again very quickly because we had to put in the stalactites that got broken off as it rolled out.


6.3 THE MAP ROOM


Frank Marshall (Producer): Norman Reynolds (Production Designer) has to jump around and have the sets ready when we get there. And if we get ahead at all, then he doesn't have time to finish things. And we were a little ahead. The Well of the Souls wasn't finished yet, but the map room set was. So we went to the map room.


6.4 THE WELL OF SOULS


 
 
 

 
 
 

Kathy Kennedy (Associate to Steven Spielberg): The Well of the Souls set was the most impressive set. It was really amazing to walk in there to see these huge jackals, with hands up. The tallest stage at Elstree is around 40 feet; so the jackals rose around 37 feet in the air. From above, looking down into the Well of the Souls, they were truly terrifying.

Norman Reynolds (Production Designer): Indy's actually on the jackal statue when it falls. We spoke to the stunt arranger and went through the routine that Indy would follow, and provided hand- holds to make it work, and safety pads and so on. And the same for the stunt of Marion hanging on the lower jaw of the jackal, and its teeth breaking away.

As far as the art department models were concerned, my way of working is to determine what the set should look like, then do a drawing or sketch and talk again to the director and confirm that that's what we both want to do; and then put it in three dimensions, making a model so that we can finally get the wheels turning. The moment the model is approved, then it's a matter of working with the draftsmen to prepare the working drawings. And the working drawings are then issued to the various departments and the set finally arrives.

Lawrence Kasdan (Screenplay): George [Lucas] has said that a big stunt is meaning- less if you don't care about the people. That's something that I've based all my work on you must care about the people or everything's meaningless. And that a good joke's worth a good stunt equal to and a lot cheaper and a lot easier.

A little piece of George Lucas's Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back is cleverly hidden in the dank, snake-filled Well of the Souls. Look very closely at the wall behind the Ark of the Covenant at the complex hieroglyphics inscribed by "the ancients." Right in the middle are the ever-popular droids Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio, shaking hands. Smaller renditions of them also run up and down the posts of the altar that houses the sacred Ark.

Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood): It was an enormous challenge to me because I've never done this type of film or this stylized type of acting. Anytime you put someone in with snakes and skeletons, ask her to fall down cliffs, all that sort of thing it's a whole new ballpark I'm working in.

Steven Spielberg (Director): Karen has never done an action picture before, so she came very prepared to play Marion, and very unprepared to fight the bad guys, ride the horses, beat back the snakes, to be dragged by the hair along the ground, to be run over by assorted vehicles, to be hanging from the jaw of a 37-foot jackal god. When she came to the set, she thought it was going to be acting for 10 weeks, and discovered it was a combination of acting and physical fitness. I said to Karen, "We're now moving you out of the Al Pacino school of drama into the Sam Peckinpah school of action"

Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood): I've never really been around snakes very much. I've grown fond of them except for the pythons, the ones that bite I'm not fond of those. It feels a little odd being so physically unprotected in all of those scenes. It works well for me, and, at the same time, it makes it worse. Harrison has his boots and gloves, and leather clothes, and I have naked arms and nothing on my legs and bare feet. In the beginning that was tougher than it is now because I just couldn't stand the snakes on my feet. But I've gotten used to them. Now I have to keep reminding myself that they're snakes.

Robert Watts (AssociateProducer): We bought them, and then we sold them again at the end or I hope they're sold.

Howard Kazanjian (Executive Producer): we originally ordered about 2,500 snakes, which were hatched for the production. But it takes a lot of snakes to fill a set wall-to-wall, so we had to order another 4,000. If they had all been poisonous, you wouldn't have been able to put your foot on the ground without being bitten.

Frank Marshall (Producer): I had to cure myself of a common phobia about snakes. But once you see other people, like a snake handler, not worried about it, then you touch one. Then I got to be real comfortable with them. Which was a good thing because I was elected to do the second camera shots of them. Steven would give me little drawings of the shots that he wanted and then I would spend two or three days trying to do it. Some of the shots were a real challenge. For example, snakes aren't afraid of any thing: they'd even go right into a fire. So we had to invent a way to get them to stay away from the fire. And then we had to get them coming in after the torch goes out. Well, the other thing is they're not real fast. And they don't ever go where you want them to go. So we had to devise ways to get them to cooperate. The hardest thing was to get them to strike. We had a lot of pythons, which aren't poisonous but do bite. So it was a question of getting them up into a position where they would strike at the camera or somebody's leg. I was dancing around with little handkerchiefs trying to get them to strike. If you got close enough to them then they would strike at your hand, but you had to get your hand out before it got bitten.


6.5 THE CATACOMBS



Frank Marshall (Producer): This poor guy was holding the snake through the back of the mummy. The snake's head stuck out of the mouth. And we were teasing it to get it to snap at the camera. Then you just hope you get your hand out in time so it's not in the picture.


6.6 THE RAVEN BAR


Frank Marshall (Producer): We did have real snow. We bought a snow-making machine, and later sold it to a snow cone factory that sold snow cones down in Piccadilly Circus. We also had some sort of styrofoam for snow: when you walked in it, it felt like snow - it crunched and everything. And it was highly flammable. But not enough of it caught on fire to cause a problem. Actually, I don't know how we survived that one

Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood): It's a wonderful establishing scene, a great introduction to the character, from the very first moment that you see Marion. She's queen of the Raven bar. She can drink all these men under the table, and throw out people she wants out - basically do whatever she wants to do.

Kathy Kennedy (Associate to Steven Spielberg): Karen really shines in the Raven scene. In terms of stunts alone, the scene is spectacular. All the fight scenes had to be carefully choreographed.

Howard Kazanjian (Executive Producer): Water is probably the most difficult thing to work with. Fire is the next. We had both.

Frank Marshall (Producer): Even when you have a controlled fire, things burn. And if the fire goes on too long, it gets out of hand. We had firemen there, and they were serious about their work this time, because it had gotten too hot up high. I looked up and the fire was licking at the top of the stage - the rafters had caught on fire.

Kathy Kennedy (Associate to Steven Spielberg): The bar was one of the few sets that had to be shot in continuity. We were going to burn all the area above the bar, and then move the camera and burn the back door; and then we had this curtain of fire come down and start the top of the staircase on fire. All of those things were carefully planned, so that when edited together, it would look as though the whole thing went up in flames. But the whole thing did go up in flames, and we couldn't always have the camera on the part that was burning. So we had to build back what had burned by mistake. When the overall effect you want is to have the entire thing burn down, it usually means that, at some point, the fire's going to get out of control. And it did.


6.7 THE BANTU WIND CABIN


Steven Spielberg (Director): I always envisioned the character of Indiana Jones as a real throwback movie hero: a lover and a cad and a two-fisted hellion. In the early sequences of the movie, while he's teaching a class, he looks the picture of a well-dressed professor. But the moment he puts on his fighting clothes-his leather jacket and his hat-he suddenly is dressed also with half an inch of dust, and dirt around the cheeks and under the nails. And, unlike James Bond, he doesn't win every fight he's in. He gets to the edge of the cliff, and sometimes he goes over the other side. He doesn't necessarily survive every cliffhanger unscathed. That was one of the things I was determined to do. I didn't want this man to get into this kind of action and come away with white teeth and washed hands. Instead he comes away cut and bruised and battered and wonderfully in pain.


6.8 BANTU WIND HOLD


Robert Watts (Associate Producer): We dealt with a company called Animal Actors. We'd ring them up and say, "I want fourteen grey rats".

Frank Marshall (Producer): The rats I hated the most. For some reason the snakes didn't bother me after a while. But seeing big rats-it was kind of creepy.

Kathy Kennedy (Associate to Steven Spielberg): We were doing some pick-up shots in the hold of the Bantu Wind, where the Ark is being carried. And the hold is full of rats. Richard Edlund (Photographic Effects Supervisor) had to do a special-effects shot because the swastika on the front of the crate holding the Ark melts. As the camera's dollying in to the Ark the rats scatter toward the Ark, but because of the hum that's coming from the Ark, they then turn and run away. The camera kept running over the tails of the rats. We'd have to stop because we'd hear "EEEEEEeeeee" Richard would yell, "Stop! Stop !" and we'd look under the camera and there'd be some little rat. We'd pull him out-they weren't hurt, just had their tails stepped on-and start all over again. We finally got the rats so they'd start to run toward the Ark; and most of them scattered to the corners, which were dark. And that was great. But there was this one rat that, all of a sudden, ran toward the Ark, and then stopped and started turning around in circles. It just kept turning in circles, which was perfect, because it looked like the hum from the Ark was hurting its ears. Richard and I were dying because we didn't know what was wrong with it-we thought it had the plague or something. We found out from Mike Culling (Animal Trainer) that he'd had the rat since it was a baby, and it was deaf and also had an equilibrium problem.


6.9 THE ALTAR



The square of vivid blue in the background of the dramatic shot of the bound Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) during the climax of the movie is called a blue screen. A unique matte photographic technique, the blue screen gives the filmmaker a great deal of creativity in setting a scene and adding special effects. When the blue color is removed from the picture negative, the background disappears and forms a frame around the figures in the foreground. A new background, which might include special effects or a different time of day or location, can then be added to the scene. The result in this particular shot is a dark starry night filled with strange and evil creatures who have escaped from the Ark and threaten Indy and Marion.

Steven Spielberg (Director): Harrison is a very original leading man. There's not been anyone like him for 30 or 40 years, and he does carry the movie wonderfully. Harrison was more than just an actor playing a role, he was a collaborator and really was involved in a lot of decision making about the movie. And this wasn't be contract, it was because I sensed a very good story mind and a real smart person and called on him time and again.


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