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

9. ELSTREE STUDIOS, ENGLAND


After filming in Sri Lanka, the production moved to EMI Elstree Studios outside London to shoot the remaining half of the film's footage. Early plans to film in Australia were scrapped due to lack of studio space, construction materials and technically skilled engineers.

EMI, aka "Lucas East," had made available every soundstage, including the monolithic Stage 6, which served the Star Wars crew perfectly. Actually, there were about 9 stages and in some cases they had stages that converted to other sets. Much of the budget was spent on the sets and on the ILM special effects, which outnumbered what they had in Raiders. This time they had roughly between 150 and 160 effects shots, which is nothing compared to Return of the Jedi, but still a lot for this kind of picture. Elliot Scott erected the Palace of Pankot in its entire exotic splendor, using enough raw materials to supply a small country. Equally elaborate sets included mines and a stone quarry. Crews had built, dismantled and rebuilt with the choreographed precision of a Marine drill unit. As testimony to Scott's talent, new sets appeared almost overnight, ready for filming the next day. It was a vast business to create this many sets. At one point they had about sixty plasterers alone at work.

PATRICIA CARR Production Manager: "It's an exercise in pure logistics. The Production Designer, Art Directors, Set Dressers and Construction Manager have to coordinate their management of carpenters, plasterers, painters, riggers and stage hands. There is a whole separate set of decisions to be made as to what gets done first. The riggers will start putting tube up, the carpenters clad it in wood, the plasterers come in and transform it into some wonderful cave or temple interior, the painters come in and age it down again. . . you'll see a prime example of that in the Temple of Doom itself, which is a wonderful set. Meanwhile, the modellers will have been working in polystyrene and plaster making, say, various gargoyles or Kali sculptures which are erected at some point late in that building schedule. Finally, the Set Dresser goes in to dress it, to finish it, after which that area would be roped off, ready for shooting the following day. If any one of these processes falls out of sync, it can hold up the whole operation and ruin the allocation of work forces on the various sets under construction."

ELLIOT SCOTT Production Designer: "At Elstree we constructed a whole series of sets. The interior of the palace, reception halls with various rooms and corridors, an entire underground scenic railway with working cars for the Thuggee mine scenes, a vast water complex meant to drive crushers and belts to carry the ore around, exterior palace shots in a courtyard on the outside lot, and, of course, the Temple of Doom set itself It's a vast business to create this many sets. At one point I think we had sixty plasterers alone at work."

Shooting was going well under schedule when something unpleasant came up. Mounting the elephants for many hours of shooting in Sri Lanka exhausted Ford bringing in the surface an old back problem and by the time the crew stepped in London he was in such a pain that made Spielberg sent him in the United States for urgent attention. He was taken to the Centimella Hospital in L.A. that is specialized in sport injuries, and there doctors immediately diagnosed a ruptured disc. Doctors in order to avoid the painful operation treatment tried a revolutionary new technique. According to this technique an enzyme coming from Papaya fruit would eat way at the disc. The results were very impressive, although Ford was ordered to rest - which resulted in an insurance bill in excess of $1 million.

Howard Becker visited him in the hospital and described the actor's concentrated efforts to hasten recuperation: "After the operation, he used a relatively tenacious and disciplined rehabilitation-stretching, a type of yoga, if you will. He was working his muscles very hard. I was worried, I kept telling him to slow down. As a former athlete, I had a track scholarship at college; I know that strong people can sometimes come back too fast. But he healed completely, and did it faster than the doctors expected. He's a very strong-willed person."

Despite Spielberg's innovations the production shut down for three weeks. During that period they went to the US and did some second unit work. When Ford returned, they returned to England and shot for a further three weeks. Completing their work in London they went back to the US for two more weeks.


9.1 CLUB OBI-WAN


 
 
 

The week following Ford's return on the set started the filming of the Club Obi Wan sequence. Spielberg shot the opening sequence for three days, assembling the action, as usual, to a mental plan. By this time, the script was beginning to crumble from repeated changes, many of them dictated by Ford's back. Spielberg stopped shooting a number of times, called for a typewriter and wrote new lines on the spot. At night he was on the phone to friend John Milius, who dictated dialogue from L.A.


9.2 MINE CAR


 
 
 

With Ford's back not fully recovered all his work fell on Vic Armstrong, his stunt double. Armstrong had worked with him several times before and a friendship had grown between the two men. Armstrong's uncanny resemblance with Ford helped the production a lot. Ford once said jokingly: "We could go home to the wrong wives and they wouldn't notice!" Even Spielberg used to get the pair muddled up on the set of Raiders. Vic Armstrong shared the same sentiments with Ford, "We really are spitting images. Harrison's a really super guy. The man you see on screen is the man you see in real life. He's an absolute perfectionist." Ford acknowledged that he could never have done Indy II with out Armstrong.

Despite his ability to continue filming action scenes, it was clear to everybody that Ford was in significant pain. He made some of the needed scenes, like the fight with the Palace's chief guard, played by Pat Roach, in great pain and he forced himself to continue like this without complaining just for once. Still, he to being a bit nervous about resuming the intense physical demands of his role: "At one point, the guard throws me into a mine car, and since I had just come back from back surgery, I had second thoughts about being the throwee!" The crew watching Ford's dedication to do his job, no matter how he felt, decided to make him lighten up and overcome his distress.

PAT ROACH: "There was a whipping scene where Harrison's tied up to a rock. Barbra Streisand came in, dressed in black leather, and while Harrison was chained up to the rock, she took my whip off me and whipped him! She said, 'That's for Hanover Street, the worst movie I ever saw!' and then she whipped him for doing Star Wars and earning all that money. Then Carrie Fisher ran in-she was dressed up, too-and she threw herself across Harrison, and shouted, 'No, no, no!' And then Irvin Kershner ran in and said, 'Steven, is this the way you run your movies? I would never let this happen on one of my sets!' Then, Steven said to Kersh, 'Get off my set!' They filmed it, and I think they sent it back to Hollywood. It was hilarious."

Next for filming was another danger-laden episode that occurs at the film's climax, in a mine beneath the Temple of Doom, as the daring adventurer must narrowly avoid death in a manner never before seen on film. The mining car action has him in peril up to the brim of his rumpled fedora. Actually, Elliot Scott had built a roller coaster where someone could take rides in it. One circular track on three levels with a total running distance of five or six hundred feet. The center was all-open so the camera crew could get in there to shoot and light it. Each mine cars had independent electric motors in it and was very controllable. Real mine cars were bought and George Gibbs' department placed an electric motor and batteries controlled by a hidden motorcycle-type twist grip to each car. They also installed disc brakes, plus the electric motors had their own built-in braking system. Eventually, they rigged up four cars, which could carry four people each. Gibbs had to visit a lot of specialist companies for help designing and building an asymmetrical track plus installing steel flanges behind the wheels to keep the cars on the track around curves. To film the action Spielberg used master shots with run-bys, or the camera in the car, running next to the car with the actors. Before shooting Spielberg made a steady test and discovered that he couldn't get the camera steady. The photography on the first day was unusable because the camera shook too much when it was in the mine car. Spielberg found that absolutely realistic and filmed the entire scene this way. For certain shots he even loosen the mounts of the camera to register more vibration. While the actors were going around in the mine car only at ten miles per hours, Spielberg adjusted his camera to shoot in lower speed in order to show them running twice as fast. But the complete round of the soundstage was made in just twenty-five seconds and he wanted his scene to last at least seven minutes. So, with the help of Douglas Slocombe, he shot every trip the mine car made from a different angle and with different lighting, creating the illusion that each shot was taken from a completely different section of the mine-tunnel. The scene would be completed in post-production with the use of miniatures.

GEORGE GIBBS Mechanical Effects Supervisor: "Steven Spielberg wanted the full size mine car circuit at Elstree to be just like a scenic railway. We hired in and bought some real mine cars and then had to decide how to power them. I settled for an electric motor and batteries controlled by a hidden motorcycle-type twist grip. We also installed disc brakes on each car, plus the electric motors had their own built-in braking system.

"We had a lot of teething problems, which one would expect. No one had ever built electrically l powered mine cars before. But eventually we riggred us four cars which could carry four people each. And they could really travel, especially coming down inclines eighteen or twenty feet high into a zigzag! Of course, I had to visit a lot of specialist companies for help designing and building an asymmetrical track plus installing steel flanges behind the wheels to keep the cars on the track around the curves . . . "


9.3 THE TUNNEL



One of Temple's most suspenseful scenes was the spike chamber sequence. Inspired by the classic B-movie tradition of hair-raising traps and split-second escapes, a secret tunnel had been added to the plot as Indy's deus ex machina.

Indy and Shorty wandering the tunnels under the palace come to a subterranean cavern to confront the dreaded room with deadly spikes bristling from the floor and ceiling. Indy stumbles in a fallible moment, setting the trap in motion. As the room closes in, similar to the garbage scow room in Star Wars, Indy and Shorty turn to Willie for aid. In order to provide the needed assistance Willie has to face hordes of bugs. Repeating the great horror scene of the Well of the Souls, Lucas and Spielberg came up with chamber infested with a million of live and crawling insects. Poor Capshaw had to go through mental exercise every day to withstand the fact that she had to be covered with the insects.

FRANK MARSHALL Executive Producer: "The bugs were much harder to work with than the snakes we used on Raiders of the Lost Ark. You can 'arrange' a pile of snakes - add one here or there. That's impossible with insects. Believe me, we had a couple of terrible days at Elstree due to bugs; days when we'd grind film all day and get nothing useable. They hate bright light, so the minute you dump them in front of the camera, they run. If you don't get everyone's hands out of the way the minute you put them in the shot is ruined. "Mike Culling, the animal handler, would come on the set and I'd say, 'We need more bugs! Not enough bugs!' He'd groan, 'I just put two thousand down there!'

"I found, too, that people were much more scared by the insects than they were by snakes. Every once in a while I'd hear this shriek because one of the bugs had crawled through from the bug tunnel to the tap dance rehearsal stage next door. Of course, this was a bad place for any bug to be -32 girls tapdancing away - so both the insects and the girls would run like hell. Mutual fear!"


9.4 CAMP FIRE



For the campfire scene, taking place in the jungle, a menagerie of wild animals including owls, elephants, snakes and an infant chimpanzee were imported from around the world, and housed on the British set. A bull elephant borrowed from the London Zoo settled in a mobile trailer used to swaying until the entire van heaves on its frame!

ROBERT WATTS Producer: "The best animal we used in this movie was Oscar the Owl. Oscar had belonged to his handler since it was an egg, so he tended to identify with humans rather than with other owls. We did about six takes with Oscar. He always flew in and landed exactly on cue. The best animal I ever worked with . . . better than a lot of humans ! "


9.5 THE AIRPORT



After spending three weeks in Elstree, "blue screen" shots were made in the United States at Lucasfilm's facility, at Marin County, while additional sequences were completed at other northern California locations. The interior of the Duesenberg, in which Indy and Willie escape from the nightclub was done in California at the UK shooting's end, several months after the exteriors, as part of the post-production. At the same time, they did the Shanghai airport scene at the dressed-up Hamilton Air Force Base just north of San Francisco. That was actually the last day of principal photography. This little scene was filled with cameos from comic actor Dan Akroyd, as Weber the official dispatcher at Shanghai airport, Frank Marshall playing a coolie pulling a rickshaw, while Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Anthony Powell and Sid Ganis appeared as missionaries waiting for the airplane.

Principal photography completed on September 8, 1983 after eighty-five days of filming and five days under schedule with 18 weeks of shooting and only four weeks on location. An additional week's shooting with Ford took place in March 1984 for completion of special effects. At the same time Lucasfilm's Vice President of Marketing, Sid Ganis, was present at the 42nd World Science Fiction convention to tantalize fans with slides taken at the Sri Lanka locations and some studio interiors. Presentations at World Cons and other conventions around the US had become standard operating procedure for Lucasfilm, a policy initiated by the filmmakers in part of a thank-you for the loyal support of Lucas' fans, in addition to piquing interest and word-of-mouth about a film. In such conventions Marshall showed a 9-minute featurette on the making of the film, which was later expanded into an hour length for network broadcast. Lucas visited the set only for a while because he was involved in the post-production of Return of the Jedi. So he wasn't around as much as he was on the Raiders set. In total Lucas visited the set of Temple once in Sri Lanka, a couple of times in London and during the shooting in California.


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