There’s a transcription of a pre-production story meeting for the first Indiana Jones film that is fascinating. The Raiders of the Lost Ark story meeting is between George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Lawrence Kasdan and if you read it, you literally are a witness to the birth of Indiana Jones.
Not only do you get to see how they work out the story and characters, you get to see things that were nuggets that were used in Temple of Doom and there’s some shades of Last Crusade. The biggest highlight from this transcription is the weirdo request by Lucas to have Indiana Jones bang a twelve year old Marion in his past.
George Lucas: I was thinking that this old guy could have been his mentor. He could have known this little girl when she was just a kid. Had an affair with her when she was eleven.
Lawrence Kasdan: And he was forty-two.
George Lucas: He hasn’t seen her in twelve years. Now she’s twenty-two. It’s a real strange relationship.
Steven Spielberg: She had better be older than twenty-two.
George Lucas: He’s thirty-five, and he knew her ten years ago when he was twenty-five and she was only twelve. It would be amusing to make her slightly young at the time.
Steven Spielberg: And promiscuous. She came onto him.
George Lucas: Fifteen is right on the edge. I know it’s an outrageous idea, but it is interesting. Once she’s sixteen or seventeen it’s not interesting anymore. But if she was fifteen and he was twenty-five and they actually had an affair the last time they met. And she was madly in love with him and he…
Egad! A sexual relationship between a twenty five year old and a sixteen or seventeen year old is not interesting? I realize that age differences like this weren’t as big of a deal in the ’30s, but it’s strange how Mr. Lucas is focused on this. What makes this more creepy is the huge age difference found in the Star Wars prequels.
Now the ages probably were 25 and 16, judging by Harrison Ford’s and Karen Allen’s age during the filming of the movie (they’re exactly 9 years apart), if that’s anything to go by. Still, the original idea of a 42 year old banging a 12 year old is fucking creeptastic.
You can get the story meeting transcript here. I’ve started reading the rest and it’s pretty interesting stuff.
Other highlights in the transcript include:
Who is Indiana Jones?:
Lucas: “He is an archeologist and an anthropologist. A Ph.D. He’s a doctor, he’s a college professor. …he’s also a sort of rough and tumble guy. But he got involved in going in and getting antiquities… He really started being a grave robber, for hire, is what it really came down to.”
On the whip:
Lawrence Kasdan says: “Except there has to be that moment when he’s alone with a can of beer and he just whips it to him.”
On Indy’s Fears:
Spielberg: What’s he afraid of? He’s got to be afraid of something.
Lucas: If we don’t make him vulnerable, he’s got no problems. We’ll shut that idea for now.
(Spoiler: They went with snakes)
I found this exchange funny:
Lucas: I think also, you’ve been describing this to people as a science fiction film, which is good.
Spielberg: I have not.
Lucas: It’s in Rolling Stone.
George Lucas on the race of Indy’s Rival:
Lucas: He could be French or Italian. No. Italians are too crazy. He could be an Arab. One of those weasel-faced. thin-moustached Arab professors
Ahh… this explains a lot of the racist Star Wars prequel aliens…
Lucas was bringing up flying saucers from the beginning (re: the powers of the Ark):
Lucas: Our idea was that there must actually be some kind of super high-powered radio from one of Erick Von Daniken’s flying saucers.
Spielberg hones his comedic chops (note that they’re planning a scene that actually took place in Temple of Doom):
Spielberg: On top of a mountain he jumps out. The plane hits the mountain and there’s a big fire ball. He’s on the raft holding onto the ropes, coming down the mountain. And for comic relief he should go right through some sort of village, with a fiesta or something happening, with llamas. He knocks a llama over.
On our hero’s name:
Kasdan: Do you have a name for this person?
Lucas: I do for our leader.
Spielberg: I hate this, but go ahead.
Lucas: Indiana Smith. It has to be unique. It’s a character. Very Americana square. He was born in Indiana.
Kasdan: What does she call him, Indy?
Lucas: That’s what I was thinking. Or Jones. Then people can call him Jones.
The (almost) birth of the evil monkey:
Spielberg: He’s laced everything with poison, for both of them. He brings it in and sets it down, and they’re wrapped up in conversation, but the food is always there with this implied threat. At one point our hero would take the chicken and just start gesturing with it. He’s too caught up to eat it. He’s not paying attention and this cat jumps up on the table and nibbles on the food. The cat freaks, just goes crazy and jumps up. climbs up the walls. He says. “I’m not going to eat this.” What if it’s an animal we hate, an animal the audience can’t stand. It’s always after our hero and doesn’t like him very much, like a mongoose.
Lucas: A monkey is a perfect thing.
Spielberg: What animal don’t people like?
Lucas: A rat.
Spielberg: A pet rat.
Lucas: It doesn’t have to be a pet.
Lucas: He’s looking the other way, the rat comes up.
Spielberg: That’s a pretty brave rat.
Kasdan: The minute they hit Cairo we can assume they’re being followed. Maybe this Arab operative is the one who has the monkey. It’s a villian monkey. The Arab can make him do things, and he sends him in there to steal the piece
Lucas: He’s like a little spy. It has to happen real quick because it’s very short until the time we want to kill him. He kills the monkey spy.
Spielberg: Can it wear a turban? It should be dressed up.
Lucas: Yes. In these three scenes, because the fourth scene is where he dies, we have to establish that he’s spying on them.
Spielberg: What is the monkey trying to get?
Lucas: Information, pieces of paper and things.
Kasdan: Before we kill this monkey, I want to really make him a villain. What if he is along when they’re headed out to the friends. The ambush takes place and as Indy is fighting them off”, the girl jumps into a basket to hide and the monkey leads the Arabs to the girl. That’s how they get her.
Lucas: That’s good.
Spielberg: Also, there’s this sleeping cat that the monkey knocks in the face. Something you really hate the monkey for.
Lucas: That can be over the dinner table. I like the cat coming up and starting to eat the food and the monkey whacks it and takes the food away from it.
Kasdan: He charms his way into their confidence.
Spielberg: The monkey should be dressed up as a little Arab.
Why do we hate the monkey? It’s a traitor, it kills a cat, and it’s dressed like a little Arab.
What should happen to Marion while she’s captured?
Lucas: We can tell parallel stories. We cut back to the girl, and the villains come back. This will be the first time we actually see the French guy and the Nazis. This is the first time we see the real villains. We have, a scene with the villains torturing the girl a little bit, rape her, talk about the fact that they’re not finding the Ark.
Spielberg: She should be screaming his name, she’s so pissed off. He had to tie her up, otherwise they would know that he was around. At the same time, there are people raping and torturing her.
Lucas: I was using that facetiously.
It takes them a very long time to even mention a snake. This part comes when they are debating on what should happen when Indiana Jones gets trapped in the temple. Fill it with water (dumb), fill it with sand, and have him fight lions and tigers are all on the table:
Lucas: The only problem with the water is it’s going to be hard to do, and it’s going to be hard to rationalize it. We can’t. We can call it the temple of life and establish that it has a lot of water in it. But, at the same time, it’s like the sand. Plus it’s such a classic thing.
Spielberg: What about snakes? All these snakes come out.
Lucas: People hate snakes. Possibly when he gets down there in the first place.
Kasdan: Asps? They’re too small.
Spielberg: It’s like hundreds of thousands of snakes.
Finally, they get to Indy’s #1 fear!
Spielberg: It would be funny if, somewhere early in the movie he somehow implied that he was not afraid of snakes. Later you realize that that is one of his big fears.
Lucas: Maybe it’s better if you see early, maybe in the beginning that he’s afraid, “Oh God, I hate those snakes.” It should be slightly amusing that he hates snakes, and then he opens this up, “I can’t go down in there. Why did there have to be snakes. Anything but snakes.” You can play it for comedy. The one thing that could happen is that he gets trapped with all these snakes.
And how do we see this “Indiana Jones” we are making up:
Kasdan: How do you see this guy?
Lucas: Someone like Harrison Ford, Paul LeMatt. A young Steve McQueen. It would ideal if we could find some stuntman that could act.
Spielberg: Burt Reynolds. Baryshnikov.
Interesting how they were going to originally cast Tom Selleck as Indy, despite the fact that Harrison Ford was the first person he names here.
While discussing the ending of the film, they come up with one of the major sequences in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
Spielberg: We want that speed boat chase.
Lucas: Right. That’s where that came from.
Spielberg: We lost the speed boat chase.
Lucas: Well, we were talking generally. If it went anywhere, it would go here. The only thing I wanted to do with that, and it’s going to be hard to do, is that he gets chased and they’re firing at each other. He gets into a harbor where all these big boats are, and he races down in between two boats just as they’re starting to close. And the other boat races down and goes… there’s no easy way to get out of that one. I think it would be better if we let the villains get scrunched and that’s how he gets away from them. We could put that at the end.
And another one from Temple of Doom:
Lucas: I like the idea on these conditions. If we put him on a little mine train, he pulls the thing onto it and jumps on, they’re racing through these tunnels, and the Germans are shooting at them, the clock has started ticking and we cut to flames getting closer to destruction.
Spielberg: A mine train chase with bullets ricochetting off rocks.
And that’s about it. The transcript essentially ends with Indiana escaping on a train car with Marion and the whole place blowing up. Glad they changed that one.
Note: This is an old post that I completely revised and updated.