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
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
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.