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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
 
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  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

8. ON LOCATION


April 18, 1983 found cast and crew on the tropical island of Sri Lanka, formerly the British colony of Ceylon, drinking champagne and wishing good luck to each other.


8.1 The Village


 
 
 

FRANK MARSHALL Executive Producer: "When we arrived in Sri Lanka, it was like a great reunion; we had almost all the same crew there. The same production people, transportation people, same caterer, those sorts of things. We also had Indiana Jones again, so we were starting out on a completely different level than before. We all knew what kind of a movie it was what the atmosphere and spirit should be, who the character was. So it seemed like we were starting on the first day of Temple of Doom where we'd left off on Raiders."

KATE CAPSHAW Actress: "There I was very far away from any place I had ever known, with people who all knew each other and seemed to really know what they were doing. I really felt they were checking me out that I was on approval and had to prove myself to them. After the second week, Frank Marshal and Steven took me aside and explained everything, made sure I felt like one of the gang. They're really just very wonderful people."

ELLIOT SCOTT Production Designer: "We chose a post way up in the mountains, near Kandy. Working from models and drawings I had done in England after our reconnaissance trip, a Sri Lankan Art Director used local labor to construct the village set. We had chosen a site in an old tea plantation on very hilly terrain and they did a first class job constructing this village, which consisted of about twenty clay houses including a great water wheel. Clay cracks wonderfully when it dries and the effect was excellent.

"Our problem was that in the movie, Indiana Jones arrives at the village when it is desolate and by returning the magic stone transforms it back to health at the end of the story. We solved this by shooting events chronologically backwards. So we filmed the scenes at the end first, when all the tea bushes were green and fresh, and then grubbed out the bushes to create a dead coca later "

ROBERT WATTS Producer: "The rivers in Sri Lanka, which were the one thing I'd figured would be terrific, in actual fact proved to be a problem. When I'd first been there they were fine. In fact, I had been swimming in them myself. But when we took samples on the final scouting trip they proved to be inacceptable. There had been a drought and the water levels had dropped considerably. For the scene where Willie falls off an elephant into the river, we had to create a pool and fill it with fresh water ferried up in tankers to ensure Kate (Capshaw) wouldn't get sick."

KATHLEEN KENNEDY Associate Producer: "We were pretty lucky with the weather in Sri Lanka. Theoretically we had timed our arrival to coincide with a period between two regular monsoons. But the first monsoon hadn't hit by the time shooting began and we only experienced one serious tropical thunderstorm. We were up in the mountains at the "village" attempting a night shot, standing around waiting for the sun to set, waiting for the twilight. The caterers were just serving out chicken and baked beans when it hit. A cloud descended over the hill from nowhere and broke into a deluge like nothing I'd ever seen. The lightning was spectacular, the thunder deafening. Everyone scattered to their cars for shelter and to get out of the mountains before the roads became impassable. I recall Robert Watts waving at us shouting: 'Wait a minute, just a minute 'til this shower is over and we'll get on with the shot . . . ' but we were already half way back to Kandy!"

ROBERT WATTS Producer: "It's common in Sri Lanka to see people stopping at the little white road temples. I'd heard that it was for good luck, so whenever we were approaching Kandy I would make the local driver stop and give an offering. When you're in a place like Sri Lanka, you've got to hedge your bets just a little."

FRANK MARSHALL Executive Producer: "In the credits you'll see: 'Physical Conditioning for Mr. Ford by Body by Jake, Inc. ' That's Jake Steinfeld, whom you may have seen in People magazine. He specializes in training entertainment personnel and worked with Harrison Ford before and during the movie, keeping him in shape. He was also working out Steven (Spielberg) every day. Jake used to double for the Incredible Hulk and every once in a while in Sri Lanka you'd hear this voice bellowing, 'Okay! Drop and give me fifty, ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR. ' Amazingly enough, there was an old YMCA in Kandy, so he and Harrison would go down there to work out two or three times a week. It was the most primitive weight room I've ever seen, with very old weights and ancient benches. Incredible."

There was a small part in the script for a child who has escaped from the mines of Kali and gotten back to the village. It's the arrival of this child that persuades Indiana Jones to visit the Palace of Pankot. Spielberg wanted to cast this part with a local child, so eventually they brought up three kids from Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, who's had some experience in acting. While they were testing them on the set, they noticed a boy sitting on the wall, watching, taking everything in and looking very keen. They asked him down to try out too. He turned out to be the best of all. He was the son of a local woman who picked tea on the plantation. A kid who lived in a mud hut. He proved to be absolutely amazing; he hit his mark every time and even had a couple of lines.


8.2 THE ROPE BRIDGE


 
 
 

 
 
 

FRANK MARSHALL Executive Producer: "The site for the rope bridge was a lucky find, just north of Kandy. We needed a deep gorge we could string the bridge across and Robert Watts and Elliot Scott located one close by a huge dam construction project. The dam had been under construction for three or four years by a British company, which meant that there were engineers available and plenty of machinery close by. We used their surveyors and people who seem to be able to just hang from sheer rock faces and ended up with a a great bridge which was totally safe and built to exacting specifications. "I'll admit I was apprehensive while we were shooting around the rope bridge. It was a precarious location and while we had every safety precaution, specila harnesses, lines and ropes, still people will be people. For the first couple of days they're cautious. But once they get used to being there and their minds are on the making of the movie, they tend to get a little careless. It was a sheer drop, hundreds of feet down. For five or six days I was extremely nervous, and found myself constantly reminding people, 'Hey mind the edge,' 'Walk slowly at all times!' and so on. And of course nobody wants to stay in a safety harness when it's hot and humid.

"We finally cut the bridge for a spectacular scene towards the end of the movie. We only had one shot at it, since once the bridge was cut, the cost and time involved in putting it back together would have been prohibitive. It had to be right the first time or we were sunk. Naturally, it was one of those difficult days with intermittent sun and cloud. We needed to shoot with direct sunlight, so we had to roll our nine cameras, get them all up to speed and go at just the right moment. If the sun had gone behind the clouds at that point, we would have lost the shot. When the bridge parted we had articulated, motorized dummies activated that kicked and jerked their arms as they fell. It looked very real, spectacular.

"That wasn't the only bridge we built. We created another smaller bridge in Sri Lanka, this time only fifteen feet off the ground for certain shots that would have been just too dangerous on the real thing, plus another on the studio lot in England which we positioned so that all you could see was sky behind it. There was even a cliff face hanging bridge set in England which itself was sixty feet high. We had to do all this because we couldn't lower the cameras and equipment into the gorge in Sri Lanka."

DOUGLAS SLOCOMBE Director of Photography: "There were logistical problems with the rope bridge scene in Sri Lanka. We had to shoot from both sides and below the bridge, perched on slippery ledges and rock faces. In addition, it was difficult to get equipment from one side to the other quicky. At first, we thought that none of us except the stunt boys would set foot on it, but within ten minutes of Steven Spielberg arriving he had crossed it - tru to form. After that, everybody wanted to cross it. But equipment was another matter and that had to be trucked all the way around the valley which could take several hours. The right equipment had to be in the right place at the right time. Equally important, when we were shooting from one side of the bridge, we had to ensure that no equipment was visible on the far side which was no easy task as arc lights and so on would take a considerable amount of effort to put in position.

ELLIOT SCOTT Production Designer: "We knew we wouldn't find an existing bridge and that we'd have to build it. We wanted one three hundred feet long, infinitely longer than any real rope bridge. We needed a structure that was (a) long and dangerous looking, (b) absolutely safe and (c) capable of being cut quickly. Also, it had to support the weight of twenty people working it. Eventually it was constructed of steel cords and faced with old rattan ropes."

GEORGE GIBBS Mechanical Effects Supervisor: "I had to devise a way to cut the steel cables on the rope bridge without any sound and without any smoke from explosions because the plot calls for Indiana Jones to cut the bridge with a sword. When you look back, you always think: 'Why was there a problem? It was all so easy. ' But that's always afterwards. At the time I'm thinking: 'This might be one of the biggest effects I'll ever be responsible for. Now, how do I do it?'

"The steel cables were 90 millimeters thick, the same cables that the construction company, Balfour Beatty Nuttall, were using on their cranes on the Victoria Dam project nearby. I eventually located a firm just outside Marseilles, France who make explosively activated metronactuators which are used for blowing and releasing hatches on spaceflights. They manufactured special cable cutters for me. And on the day they cut through ninety millimeter cables without any smoke or noise at all, not even a snap. They were only the size of a tea cup. Their power was just unbelievable."


8.3 LOCAL WILDLIFE


 
 
 

FRANK MARSHALL Executive Producer: "The elephants were interesting because they posed problems we don't normally have to deal with on location. Like getting from A to B. Only the baby elephant could go on the truck. The others would have to walk to the shoot and it could take several hours for them to reach there. Unfortunately, we only had one set of elephants and so logistical problems cropped up when we had to shoot in two different locations. They would have to go home some nights and other times they would just sleep by the roadside with their mahouts. There aren't a whole lot of Elephant Hotels, even in Sri Lanka."

ROBERT WATTS Producer: "Elephants have a sort of inbuilt Union Organizer in their heads. You are governed by the speed that they can walk from place to place. And they don't work after certain hours of the day. They are working animals and they know when it's time to knock off. They just stop working and that's it. After working hours they go to the river to bathe and relax and they become a little cross if they're deprived of their recreation time. And a cross elephant could prove both expensive and dangerous on a movie set. "

PATRICIA CARR Production Manager: "One night, in the hotel, the following day's location was changed at short notice. Because of the problems with moving elephants about, we went in search of their mahouts to give them plenty of warning of the change. There were three elephants we were using, a baby one, a medium sized one and a big tusker. The big ones we located fairly easily but when we reached the truck where the baby elephant was housed we found his mahout blind drunk under the truck being fiercely defended by his animal. Well, we did finally manage to get all the elephants where they were meant to be the next day, but it's terrifying when you know a whole day's shooting may rest on a drunk mahout and a baby elephant."

HARRISON FORD: "Riding an elephant is very uncomfortable, so I developed a little antipathy toward elephant riding. "

"You ride with your legs in a hyperextended position to accommodate the girth of the animal right over its shoulders. First one leg then the other is pulled forward, which tends to spread you apart - like being stretched on a medieval rack, I imagine. I'm not surprised the mahouts generally walk next to their animals."

PATRICIA CARR Production Manager: "The Sri Lankans aren't very partial to snakes, funnily enough. So we booked the pythons Mike Culling, our animal handler, had brought over from England into their own hotel room adjacent to his under the name of Mr. and Mrs. Longfellow . . . "

MIKE CULLING Animal Handier: "I took three snakes out to Sri Lanka from Britain; three fifteen foot pythons. This was for a scene in which a snake slithers out of a tree, into a pool where Kate Capshaw is bathing and wraps itself around her. Problem was, the rains were late and the pools and rivers were stagnant; plus Kate Capshaw wasn't too keen on having a large snake chasing her around in the water. So we didn't use the pythons that trip.

"But the journey was productive in other ways. I had the opportunity while in Sri Lanka to get into the jungle and collect insects. I knew we were going to need literally thousands of them for scenes to be shot at Elstree, back in England. I spent two or three weeks just collecting, which is work that I love."

FRANK MARSHALL Executive Producer: "The bats were strange, ugly creatures; giant fruit bats who lived in the trees in Kandy. They would sleep all day, folded up in the trees, looking like some weird foliage. We couldn't get too close to them because of the danger of rabies - although they are fruit bats, they're big and they'll bite anything in self defense. To get a good shot of a swarm of them we'd let off a firecracker. The trees would be barren as they came swooping around, real unhappy at being disturbed!"

Shooting on Sri Lanka lasted three weeks filming mostly exterior shots. Although the conditions were much better than those in Tunisia were, the production crew followed a very exhausting schedule working from 7:30 a.m. till sunset for six days every week. Shooting schedules had been changed to comply with child labor laws, which meant that Quan must have an onset tutor, and may only work three-and-a-half hours a day. Young Quan had been taken under Ford's wing during filming, personally coaching him and even teaching the youngster swimming and how to use the whip.


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