3. ON LOCATION
Filming of Last Crusade took place in Almeria, Spain; Venice,
Italy; Jordan and at George Lucas's adopted home base in England,
Principal photography for "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"
began in Almeria, Spain on May 16, 1988, after many months
of pre- production. The art department had begun operations
in late 1987, following the opening of the production office,
which was co- ordinating the colossal organizational demands
of the enterprise. Location selections, costume and set designing,
and the rendering of storyboards were some of the preliminary
efforts of the filmmakers. With the beginning of filming,
transporting equipment and the large staff of production personnel
became-as described by production supervisor Patricia Carr-"like
an army maneuver."
"With 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' we set a pattern for what
these movies were going to be: action, adventure, comedy,
and giant globe-trotting locations," adds Frank Marshall.
"For this film we were faced with the problem of recreating
almost every form of transportation that was available in
1938: trains, planes, boats, a Zeppelin, horses, camels,"
Robert Watts says.
"The storyboards give one time to fully plan how to achieve
certain effects," says director of photography Douglas Slocombe,
who is renowned for his use of lighting to emphasize important
story elements in each frame of film, so that "one sees right
away what is happening without any extraneous image."
3.1 THE TANK CHASE
"There was not much written on the chase in the script. It
was a lot like what they had in the old Lawrence of Arabia
script, 'And then they took Aqaba', without any description
of how. We had one page written on the sequence, but I wanted
it to be seven to ten pages long. I wanted it to be the centerpiece
of the movie. So rather than writing it, I sat down with my
two sketch artists, David Jonas and Ed Verreaux and I just
sort of made the whole chase up on paper from frame 1 to frame
405. That was a great couple of weeks. I think I had more
fun creating the chase on paper than I did shooting it in
Inspired by a sequence in the original Chris Columbus script,
Spielberg and his artists designed the tank chase to equal
the impact of the truck chase in Raiders. "No action sequence
that I will ever shoot will be as good as the truck chase
in the first film - so I was not even trying to best that
one. The truck chase is still my favorite. But the tank chase
was different because it had more story to it. There is action
inside the tank and outside the tank - and there is also humor.
And within the chase itself certain characters evolve. Henry
becomes strong in that scene for the first time in the movie.
Indy becomes weak in that scene for the first time in the
movie. Aside from the story elements, another difference between
this and the truck chase was that the truck went really fast,
or at least we made it appear to be going fast, but we could
not do that with the tank because it was a lumbering mass
of steel and it could only go about eighteen miles per hour.
As a result, the pacing had to be different and shooting the
sequence took a lot of time. It was still fun, but it was
The 'lumbering mass of steel' was a fully functional replica
of a German 1917 International Mark 7 army tank used in World
War I, designed and built by George Gibbs. According to Gibbs
building this tank was the most difficult task of the film.
These tanks were thirty-six feet long and weighed twenty-eight
tons and only seven or eight of them were built for the First
World War. The only one left in the world is located in the
Tank Museum in Bovington Camp, England. Since both Spielberg
and Lucas wanted the tank to look as realistic as possible,
Gibbs built one on the chassis of an old excavator that also
weighed twenty-eight tons. The tracks alone weighed seven
tons and were driven by two Range Rover V-8 engines, which
in turn powered two automatic hydraulic pumps - one to drive
each of the two tracks. It also had big bulldozer motors in
the back to power the whole tank and guns that actually fired
blank charges. Overall, the tank was quite accurate. The only
real difference between this tank and an actual World War
I model was that the First World War tanks had extra eyeball
guns on each side and they did not have a turret that turned
For the construction of the tank Gibbs chose to use actual
steel and not prefabricated materials such as aluminum or
fiberglass. His goal was not only to enhance the tank visually,
but also to help it withstand the abuse it would take during
the intensive weeks of principal photography. "World War I
tanks did not have suspension, so we build ours without suspension
also. Because of that, I knew the vibration inside that tank
would be absolutely tremendous and would shake a mockup vehicle
to pieces. For that reason, I decided to build the tank from
steel. Also, if any of it ever broke apart we could quickly
weld it back together. As it turned out, the tank went down
the sides of mountains and over really hard, rocky surfaces
without any damage at all-and I knew then that I had made
the right decision."
The tank was built in four months and then flown to Almeria,
in southern Spain, aboard a British Belfast plane - one of
the largest aircraft in the world. To transport the monster
tank from location to location, it was placed on the back
of a low loader truck. "We were lucky," said Gibbs. "Shooting
went smoothly and the tank only let us down twice. The first
time was because the rotor arm in the distributor broke and
it took us a day to get a new one from Madrid. The second
time, it was so hot that the solder in the oil coolers actually
melted and flowed around with the oil into the valves, shattering
two of them to pieces. So we had to change one of the engines
and that also took one day. I think everyone expected to lose
a lot more time, but the tank worked really well." Driving
the tank was effects technician Brian Lince, who had to weather
the extreme heat and the torturous terrain. "Brian did an
excellent job. Being in that tank was like being in an oven,
and he was in there every day for nearly eight weeks. We had
ten industrial electric fans inside to try and keep Brian
cool, the engine cool and the hydraulic oil cool. Not only
was it hot in there, but since the tank had no suspension,
Brian got rattled around so much that when he came out and
tried to take a cup of tea, he would spill it before he could
get it to his lips."
To accommodate an elaborate fight scene on top of the tank,
Gibbs duplicated the upper portion of the lumbering vehicle
and mounted it on an ex-army searchlight trailer towed by
a four-wheel drive truck. The eight-ton partial tank was identical
in detail to its full-size counterpart except that it was
constructed from lightweight aluminum and had tracks made
out of rubber so the actors and stuntmen could fall on them
without being injured. It also featured 'people catchers'
on either end in the event anyone accidentally fell off. In
total it took two weeks to film the ten minutes shot at a
cost of $200.000 per day.
Ford, as in the previous films, did a certain amount of his
own stunts. He was extremely active and willing to take greater
risks with his own physical well being than the production
could quite honestly allow him to do. "I know in making these
movies I'm going to get dirty, bruised, and bumped around
a lot," Ford admitted. "Bumps and bruises go wth the territory.
It's what distinguishes an Indiana Jones movie from any other
adventure film. You sit there in the theater and know I'm
Once again Vic Armstrong doubled for Ford and served as the
film's stunt coordinator. He staged all the stunts the most
dangerous of which was a heart stopping fourteen feet leap
from a galloping horse on to the moving tank. "I had to travel
ten or 11 feet sideways from a galloping horse, moving head
first and landing on the back of the tank," said Armstrong.
Though this was one stunt Ford didn't even bother to attempt,
he did almost everything else, including hanging off a side
canon as the vehicle ploughed through a rocky gorge. Armstrong
did confessed that his "toughest stunt on any movie with Harrison
Ford was talking Harrison out of doing it!"
For another scene, Ford wanted to jump from a sixteen-foot
ledge, knock a villain from a horse, take the reins, and gallop
off. According to Vic Armstrong, "The only way I could
dissuade him was with a little white lie. I dragged him to
one side and hissed that if he did stunts he would do me out
of money. Harrison was horrified and said, 'Sorry, Vic. I
just didn't realize. Of course, I'll shut up.' "
"Harrison's participation in the stunts is what makes them
so exciting and enjoyable to moviegoers," Armstrong says.
"It enables characterization in the context of the stunt.
In some action films stunts and acting never come together."
"Some of the best character nuances of Indy's personality
come during an action sequence-an expression after a punch,
a shrug after a gag-it's part of the same panache," Steven
The filmmakers did their work the hard way for the best results,
filming stunts primarily without the blue screen process or
traveling mattes. "It was like putting the clock back," Douglas
Slocombe observed during the filming of a scene set on the
top of a train, "but it brings something extra to the movie."
"Stunts are an integral part of the Indiana Jones movies,"
Frank Marshall observes. "A great deal of the action derives
from the stunts, so we take a lot of time to storyboard and
plan them. The trick is to have them look dangerous and incredibly
hard-how did they do that?-but actually they're very safe.
They're quite simple to do - they just require a lot of hard
Ford maintained that the stunts he did perform were so well
planned that he was not courting any real danger: "Bumps
and bruises go with the territory. It's what distinguishes
an Indiana Jones movie from another adventure film. You sit
there in the thaeter and know I'm doing it."
Unfortunately, stuntmen couldn't help poor John Rhys-Davies
who at the time of filming suffered from acute sciatica. "Literally
about three days before we started, I felt this slight pain
down my leg. And I spent my entire damn film taking pain pills
or finding some way to get rid of this damn sciatica. And
riding a horse through that is not to be recommended. It's
all right when you're actually up on these stirrups and you've
in full gallop. It's the intervening. But the show goes on
and we do it," aid Davies and continued, "The two that I've
done with Spielberg, he must think I'm a terrible wimp. I've
been terribly sick on both of them. On the one in Tunisia,
we all went down with this damned bug that we had there. My
God it was terrible!"
With the tank scene completed, the production moved to Majorca,
where, on a long-abandoned airfield, scenes involving Nazi
fighter planes were completed. Then it was on to Granada,
where the railway sequences were shot at Gaudix Station, transformed
into a replica of the Middle Eastern town of Iskendrun, complete
with complete with camels, goats, market sellers, beggars,
and women with yashmaks. A mosque had been built in the backyard
for additional atmosphere rather than added later as a matte
painting effects shot. The actual town of Iskenderun was part
of a small sultanate that existed during the period of the
film. It's a place located somewhere south of Turkey and north
After three weeks in Spain, Spielberg moved his crew to England
for an additional ten weeks on the soundstages at Elstree,
where various interiors were completed.
3.2 THE BOAT CHASE
Right after escaping death in the inflamed catacombs Indy
and Elsa are being pursued in the streets of Venice. In their
efforts to get rid of their pursuers the couple employs a
speedboat and the chase is carried on water. The filming of
the scene was at the Tilbury Docks in Essex, near London and
ultimately involved two major stunts. In the first, Elsa successfully
pilots their craft in between two large ships that are being
slowly pushed together by a tugboat. One of the pursuit boats
following them is crushed and explodes violently toward camera.
"Cuing the two big ships was very difficult," Marshall recollected.
"They were really hard to move around, and we had to cable
them off so they would be safe. When the speedboats were going
in between the ships, they did not actually get crushed, of
course, but we did have the ships as close together as possible.
At one point, one of the speedboats was actually rubbing the
sides of the two ships, and we had to make sure that between
the time we rolled the camera and the time the boats went
through, the ships did not drift in any closer and squish
the boats. We had a floating platform in between the two ships
and we used that to launch a ghost hull, some dummies and
the fire and smoke. Before the shot started you could actually
see the platform between the ships, but the instant the explosion
went off the platform was obscured by smoke and the blast.
We put the main camera on a floating platform about a hundred
yards out into the harbor. We had to do the shot twice because
on the first take the boat shell landed too short of the camera.
When we repeated the stunt the next day everything worked
great -the ghost hull exploded out so far that it actually
blew past the camera a hundred feet away."
After the boat explosion, Indy and Elsa are still pursued
by one remaining speedboat. To make matters worse, their own
craft is crippled by gunfire and begins to move slowly toward
the stern of a large freighter whose spinning propeller protrudes
out of the water. Indy jumps onto the enemy boat and as he
and the driver engage in fisticuffs, the vessel drifts closer
to the propeller until it is actually being chewed up in the
huge steel blades. Filmed in a tank at Elstree, the scene
made use of specially built speedboats constructed with rear
sections made out of balsa wood and laced with explosives
to simulate the boat's destruction by the ship's propeller.
Additional filming in England was made at Stowe School in
Buckinghamshire, which doubled as Indy's college.
On August 7, the production moved to Venice for establishing
shots of the boat chase in the vicinity of St. Mark's Square
and the Doges palace. Watts, "Having shoot in Venice in August
wasn't that easy, because it was the tourist season and it
was extremely crowded. There was no way I could move it in
the schedule, so I had to specify to the local people that,
for the square we needed to shoot in, I had to have something
we could control in August. That obviously knocks out certain
places! All in all, we had very good cooperation and did manage
to close of a section of the Grand Canal for a period. That
was good, because the film as set in 1938 so, obviously, everything
you see in front of the camera has to be pit in by us, so
it's correct for the period." Filming in Venice was one of
Alison Doody's most intense memories. "We did a lot of our
own jumping about and running around. There was some stunt
stuff that was tricky. Running around in high heels and Harrison
Ford pulling you along might not seem to de [dangerous], but
I was at such speed that they had three men standing there
so I could crash into them. Because we were running around
up and down these steps and things, and I was just running
so fast with Harrison and it's very slippery - when we went
past camera, that would be it, cut, we couldn't go any further.
So, I had three men standing there so I could just go bowling
into them and they could literally grab me. I was flying."
Later that week, cast and crew flew to Jordan and shot scenes
in the ancient city of Petra, which served as the Holy Grail's
resting place. "Petra is a gorge," explained Elliot Scott,
who first scouted the location with Robert Watts. "You reach
it by going through a narrow corridor in a mountain of rock.
This corridor is about a mile long and just wide enough to
fit a small truck - although most people go through on horseback
or on foot. When you emerge, you enter a little hidden valley,
which is mountain-locked. Petra was a perfect location for
us, in part because of its rich sense of history. It was famous
around the time of Christ for being the only way through those
mountains, and traders bringing back silk from China to Europe
often traveled through there. Back then, the people of Petra
charged a fee-and of course became quite rich. The valley
is a mile long, and more than thirty temples line the canyon
sides. The temple we used was right opposite the narrow opening.
Many of these temples or tombs go back to about 600 B.C.,
but I think the particular one we used was built around the
time of Christ. Nobody knows for sure what it was used for.
Behind the temple face are a few small, square rooms, which
are completely empty. Whatever they held was stolen long ago.
It's quite an incredible place - like a tenth wonder of the
The production crew filmed outside the remote temple site
for three days. "The cooperation in Jordan was fantastic,"
Spielberg recalled. "Queen Noor, who is American and the queen
to King Hussein, was with us every day. As a matter of fact,
she drove me to the set every day from the hotel with her
children in the back seat. We would get to the set and shoot,
and she and the kids would stay all day and watch. They had
a wonderful time. They opened up their country to us and made
us feel very welcome, and I am sure we'll go back there to
make another movie someday."
The first scene to appear on film was actually filmed last
and it was the one with River Phoenix as Young Indy. In this
scene young Indiana Jones discovers a group of treasure-hunters
unearthing a 16th century cross. The treasure-hunters are
lead by a man who wears a fedora and leather jacket. Fedora,
as Boam named the character, would inspire the adult Indy's
appearance and was played by actor Richard Young. Realizing
its significance, Indy grabs the cross and flees on his horse.
The thieves pursue him in cars and Indy mounts a circus train
and he finds himself being chased from boxcar roof to boxcar
roof. In his effort to avoid being caught Indy comes across
many representatives of the animal kingdom, some of which
will mark him for the rest of his life.
Originally, the sequence was to have been shot in the prehistoric
cliff dwelling ruins of Mesa Verde National Park in neighboring
Colorado, but when local Indian representatives cited religious
objections to using the site in such a fashion, the production
agreed to look elsewhere. Finally it was filmed in Arches
National Park in Utah. A tourist conveyance plying a narrow
gauge run between Antonita, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico
served as a circus train for young Indy's first escapade.
Working with the narrow gauge locomotive proved to be an adventure
in itself. "You can't just stop a train," noted Michael Lantieri,
supervisor of the stateside mechanical effects team. "If it
misses its mark, it takes blocks and blocks to stop it and
back up. We had to take a lot of safety precautions to make
sure that people were aware of when the train was going to
move or stop so that no one would try to board or step off
at the wrong time. Since actors and stunt people were running
on top of the cars and jumping between them, we made platforms
to fit between the cars. These rode down below and served
as a catch so that if someone slipped, they would not fall
into the coupling and wheels. Also because the tops of the
train cars were very smooth, we had to hide handles for people
to grab onto during scenes where they had to leap from car
to car." In addition to rigging the train, Lantieri and his
crew were tasked with preparing two vintage cars for the sequence
-a 1912 Model A and a 1914 Saxon. Each of the automobiles
was retrofitted with a Pinto V-6 engine. To create a dustier
desert environment, the physical effects crew hung sacks of
dust under the cars so they would spew out as the vehicles
Though the New Mexico location served well for exterior shots
of the circus train interiors were filmed on a soundstage
at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Lantieri rigged train
cars that featured wild sides and ceilings constructed on
makeshift gimbals made from inner tubes that could be inflated
and deflated rapidly to create a rocking motion. The first
train car Young Indy stumbles into is filled with snakes.
He tries to get through the car by traversing a catwalk above;
but when the catwalk gives way, he falls into a pen filled
with slithering serpents, a traumatic incident that establishes
and motivates his later fear of snakes. "We had a few thousand
real snakes and also some rubber ones for River to fall on,"
Lantieri commented. "There were five different types of snakes,
including one huge boa constrictor that took three people
to carry in. The snakes were in old wooden crates piled on
top of one another, and some of the smaller snakes started
sneaking out of the cracks once they arrived on the set -which
freaked out some of the crew. At the end of the day, we had
to dig through the sawdust on the floor to make sure we had
all the snakes back in their crates so they could be put away
for the night."
Leaving the boxcar with the snakes behind him Indy comes
face to face with two irritable lions. "The lions did fine,"
Lantieri recalled, "although they were a little nervous the
first day. After all, we were shaking the car and dust was
falling. We also had lights rigged to flicker through the
cracks in the walls of the car, so there was a lot going on
that the lions had to get used to. Some of the shots called
for River to be in the car with the lions; but for any dangerous
scenes, like when a lion goes for his leg and he uses his
whip to pull himself to safety, we used a stunt double." The
bullwhip is established as Indy's weapon of choice when he
spots one on the wall and uses it to keep the fearsome cats
at bay. In his inexperience, however, he cracks the whip and
it snaps him in the face, causing a gash on his chin that
corresponds with Harrison Ford's familiar scar.
Young Indy gets pulled out of the lions' car by Fedora and
for one moment stands to face his pursuer. He quickly slips
away, however, and ducks inside 'Dr. Fantasy's Magic Caboose'
- a tongue-in-cheek nod to co-executive producer Frank Marshall
who for years has performed amateur magic shows using that
pseudonym. Inside the caboose is a horde of magic paraphernalia.
With Fedora on his heels, Indy steps into a box on the floor
and closes the lid. Fedora enters a moment later and opens
the box to find the youngster gone. Unlike the other interior
shots, this disappearing trick was filmed on the real train
and was suggested in part by production designer Elliot Scott.
"I suggested to Steven that he do it in one shot," Scott remarked.
"The idea was to see the boy run in and climb into the box.
With the camera still rolling, the man comes in behind him,
collapses the box and realizes the boy has disappeared. Then
the camera pans up and through the back door and you see the
boy running away behind the train. We did that by putting
a trough under the boxcar so the boy could fall through, and
then we had another boy on the tracks further back." With
the shot of the resourceful Indy running off into the distance,
the action-packed opening of the film concludes.
Ford was present for the duration of the Young Indy filming
scenes and helped Phoenix understand the character better.
Phoenix from his side found his days as Young Indy very entertaining,
"I love the Indiana Jones films and being part of one was
a lot of fun for me. It's all non-stop action: running and
jumping, twisting and turning, fumbling, finding, keeping
from the bad guys. It's only a small part - only ten minutes
at the movie's beginning but I really enjoyed it," said Phoenix.
"It's exciting to see how a dramatic and dangerous situation
unfolds -- it's fun to witness it in a movie theatre and it's
fun to make. I did a lot of the stunts because I felt so much
of the character and what he had to do was physical. It would
have been lying to have someone else do the stunts. I would
just look at Harrison. He would do stuff and I would not mimic
it but interpret it younger. Mimicking is a terrible mistake
that many people do when they play someone younger, or with
an age difference. Mimicking doesn't interpret true, because
you can't just edit around."