RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK Los Angeles Screening Recap With Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford; Updates on INDY 5 and More

     September 13, 2011

Raiders of the Lost Ark, make no mistake, is a film that trades on nostalgia – mostly for the action sci-fi serials of the 30s, which in turn were escapist entertainments extolling herculean dashing do-gooders, loyal dames, a time when no matter what happened or obstacle faced, everything was going to be just fine. Times, people and places that never were. A nostalgia for nostalgia. What a strange and appropriate fate then that Raiders itself becomes a very token of the nostalgia it glorifies. How many times has one heard/said/thought ‘They just don’t make ‘em like Raiders anymore.’ Or ‘remember when action films were good – like Raiders.’ Or ‘I remember the first time I saw Raiders…’ A nostalgia for nostalgia for nostalgia. Re-watching the film again up on the big screen for the very first time (as part of The LA Times Hero Complex 30th Anniversary Screening), I’m struck not by just how good the film is (because it is the seminal action adventure film), but more so by how sometimes the past really is just as rose tinted as you imagined/remember. Raiders of the Lost Ark is filmic proof.

After the screening, Steven Spielberg appeared for a Q&A with a surprise mystery guest (Harrison Ford).  They talked about making the film, will they do Indiana Jones 5, “fixing” E.T. , and a lot more.  For the bullet point highlights of Q&A, hit the jump.

steven-spielberg-image-1Bullet Point Highlights From the Post-Screening Q&A with Steven Spielberg.

Enter Spielberg to standing ovation.

¨       Spielberg exclaims that the screening is the best he’s ever seen Raiders look. Talking about the restoration process, Spielberg states he worked from an original negative correcting the print without removing anything or adding any CGI. Raiders is exactly as it was when released in 1981.

¨       On the difference between his career pre Raiders vs. post Raiders, Spielberg jokes that he didn’t have much of career before having suffered from the colossal failure of 1941 (Aside: still a vastly underrated, if admittedly schizophrenic film). “After 1941, I needed a job… and only my friend George was willing to hire me.”

¨       Spielberg speaks about the famous origin of his and Lucas’s partnership on Raiders: In Hawaii, Lucas went into hiding, afraid of what the public reaction to Star Wars might be. He asked Spielberg to accompany him and build “good luck sand castles”. Star Wars, of course, became a massive success. Lucas, relieved, pitched Spielberg a serialized adventure film starring an archeologist. Indiana Jones was born.

¨       On whether or not Spielberg now texts or emails Lucas, Spielberg offers that Lucas doesn’t text or email. All conversations between Lucas and Spielberg either occur by phone or in person. Conversations with Lucas, Spielberg confides, generally can take up an entire morning and/or afternoon. The only other person Spielberg has ever spent as much time talking to in a single conversation: Stanley Kubrick.

¨       The elephant in the room: Will there be a 5th Indiana Jones film? Spielberg gives a noncommittal committal – He is quote unquote ‘hopeful for a 5th film.’

¨       On the origin of the famous ‘Just shoot the swordsman’ gag: Originally there was a three-page whip vs. sword battle, but the day of shooting – Ford, feeling ill from some food the night before, told Spielberg that he could only last about an hour or so on set and… —- Spielberg’s answer is cut off by a growl like whisper offstage. “That’s not what happened.” – the voice offers.

Enter surprise guest Harrison Ford to standing ovation

¨       Ford corrects that they had already shot a fight scene with Indy disarming a group of baddies with his whip. Lest the film get repetitive with all this whip fighting, Ford offered up ‘Why don’t we just shoot the son of a bitch.’

¨       But what of the swordsman? Ford reminisces that the poor guy had spent months training just for this fight scene only to be told on the day of that instead of a three page whip-sword battle to the death, he’s just gonna get shot. Spielberg adds that the swordsman– to make up for the lost screen time – staged the most elaborate death scene on the first take. After being shot, he backed up, then forwards, waving right to left, falling to his knees, then flopping down, crawling forward, finally still. On the second take, before Spielberg called action, Ford just fired the prop gun – startling the swordsman to such an extent he just fell straight down – the take which would be used for the final film.

¨       Spielberg raves about the great cinematographer Douglas Slocambe: “[For Raiders} I was looking for something bright… but not to be flatly lit. The characters needed to stand out from the background… Dougie’s work already exemplified this. He’s the only cinematographer I ever used that didn’t work with a light meter. He would look at the shadow on the base palm of his hand and immediately know… he was always right.”

raiders_of_the_lost_ark_movie_image_indiana_jones¨       Spielberg tells a story Dougie (as he affectionately calls him) told him once: Dougie, who had divorced his first wife two years prior, went to a pub and had a couple too many. Stumbling his way home, he couldn’t get the keys to work for his house. Going to a second set, he finally unlocks the door, goes up to his bedroom – only to find his first wife in bed with her new husband. He had returned to the wrong house, the wrong wife. This story, Spielberg stated, perfectly encapsulates the genius savant cinematographer.

¨       On casting Ford as Indy, Spielberg watched a rough cut of Empire Strikes Back and immediately told Lucas that Ford’s the guy. Lucas was skeptical stating that Ford was already so well known for the iconic Han Solo role and worried that Solo would cloud Indy’s aura. Spielberg offered back  “But he’s an actor… he can play multiple roles.” And so Ford was cast.

¨       Elephant in the Room Part Two: Ford, on whether he would be interested in revisiting Indy again in the future, offered a noncommittal committal joking as long as it’s not set on Mars, he’d be up for it.

¨       The connection between Tintin and Indy: When Spielberg was reading French reviews of Raiders, he saw that a lot of them kept mentioning something called Tintin and the parallels between the two. Spielberg who had never read the comics, immediately sought out Remi’s work and after reading through, immediately wanted to adapt Tintin to the big screen. Tintin, he asserted has been “30 years in development.”

¨       Ford on what makes Indy an interesting character, even after all these years: “Let the hero be afraid” he remarks. By allowing Indy to show weakness, it immediately makes the character real and thus more relatable.

raiders_of_the_lost_ark_movie_image_indiana_jones¨       Spielberg, to the relief of the audience, states he has no interest in going back and tinkering/changing his older films. He regrets going back and “fixing” E.T. Says he got a little sensitive about criticisms he had received from the parents’ councils upon E.T’s initial release – so he excised the “penis breath line” and the g-men’s guns; but after doing so he realized that all he’d done was “rob the people who love E.T. of their memory of the film.” He is not keen on ever repeating this mistake.

¨       Spielberg on the lasting impression of Raiders reveals “that it’s the only film I’ve ever made that I can bear to watch all the way through and just get lost in, [as if] I’m only an audience member.”

There are no set dates for the inevitable Blu-ray release of the Jones series – but Spielberg offered that once Lucas is done with the Star Wars Blu-rays, Indy will soon be next.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was released June 12th, 1981. You’ve more than likely already seen it, probably more than once and inevitably will again.

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  • Garrison

    I hope that they don’t make another Indiana Jones film. All of the people involved should move onto more promising projects. The original trilogy were all classics and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a good tribute to them even though Kate Capshaw, John Rhys-Davies, Jonathan Ke Quan and Sean Connery should have been included. It would be best that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull concludes the series. I have my doubts if they try to reboot it as Harrison Ford defined the role.

  • El Alto

    I’m glad that Spielberg realizes why changing films from the original is basically tinkering with peoples memories.

    It’s not that the Star Wars re-releases are bad (well, some are worse than others), they just deviate from the reason we liked them to being with.

  • JLC

    You mean if you just clean the film up and present it otherwise unchanged, people will still give you a standing ovation? Fancy that.

  • Shawn Meunier

    All we need is a good enough story. I like to think that if they can reinvent James Bond, they can reinvent Indy. No actor is bigger than their work. Indiana Jones deserves to evolve and be explored.

  • Jeff

    I know this is probably blasphemy, as long as Harrison Ford is alive, but why not create more pre-WWII Indy movies with a new actor, ala James Bond? Harrison Ford is awesome. No question. But if they can create good stories, why not create more Indy movies?

    • M&M



    • ccraw13

      While I am not sure if it blasphemy or not, I have had the same thought and interest as well.
      The new Indiana Jones?
      John Hamm. I think he looks the part and could def act the part.

    • Brandon

      Jeff, your real name wouldn’t happen to be George Lucas, would it? HaHa.

  • Robb

    I really hope, when the Blu-Ray is ready, that they do a limited theatrical run for Raiders. (Like they did with the Extended Edition LOTR Blu-Ray release.) Much as I love seeing it in my living room, Raiders is a BIG SCREEN movie and I would dearly LOVE to see again in all its glory!

  • please

    1941 isn’t underrated. It blows

    • Tommy

      Wrong – 1941 features some wonderful set-pieces and if the film isn’t quite the sum of its parts or gets a little too big/sprawling for its own good, then so be it. It’s a go-for-broke, throw everything and the kitchen sink type film and certainly deserves more than a pithy “it blows” – thus making it “underrated”.

      It deserves some level of respect if only for the Treat Williams dance-fight scene or the Jaws spoof opening or the riot scene…

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  • Richard

    Biggest elephant in the room? What they thought of Shia dissing Crystal Skull.

    • mike

      Shia is a moron…see even his name is idiotic…

      And Crystal Skull was every bit as good as the first three…problem is that many fanboyz can’t look PAST their nostalgia…NO new Indy movie would have satisfied them…

      Imagine this…Temple of Doom was the first Indy film, followed by Crusade and Skull…then twenty years later, Raiders is made…it would be bashed EVERY BIT AS MUCH as Skull is today…no doubt of that.

      • Tarek

        Hum…I’m not convinced by your reasoning.

        Nice try anyway. ^^

        When a movie stinks, it stinks. whether it is the first or the last one.

        Just look at the example or Alien, followed by the splendid sequel Aliens. some people prefer it to the original one. ( I love both for different reasons. The first is a classical Sci-Fi horror movie, the second is a Sci-Fi horror/action movie)

        Or the case of Terminator and its near-perfect sequel Terminator 2.

        No. It’s not about nostalgia, but about a good script made by a good director with a good cast.

  • IllusionOfLife

    Indiana Jones is too damaged after Crystal Skull to come back. I understand the desire to end the series on a high note, but short of completely ignoring everything that happened in Crystal Skull, Indy 5 will have to deal with carrying on the legacy of a film that should have never seen the light of day.

    Indiana Jones has always been my hero, I love the original films deeply, Spielberg is one of my favorite directors, and Harrison Ford is my favorite actor, but I don’t ever want to see a fifth Indiana Jones movie. In my opinion Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the worst film ever made, not in the sense that it’s incompetent or lazy (there are plenty of other films that are much much worse), but in the sense that it takes one of the most beloved icons of film and completely, utterly, and irreparably destroys it. In my view they’re worse than anything Lucas has ever done with Star Wars.

    But that brings me to the fact that, even though he directed such an awful movie, Spielberg remains one of my favorite directors because he can acknowledge where he’s gone wrong, apologize, and be better in the future. He doesn’t have to defend his failings in order to stroke his ego but yet, he also doesn’t obsess over things he’s unhappy with to the point of ruining his work. He acknowledges his mistakes and moves on. The bit about E.T. is very classy, and exemplifies perfectly my point.

  • Vegasorbust74

    I was at the screening last night of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the film never looked better. It is a digital copy of the film and could easily be shown in any theater with a digital projector. This film was made to be seen on the BIG screen. Why not give this movie a limited run one more time? I saw this movie only one other time on the big screen and it was at USC. The film looked horrible, scratches, frames missing….but this copy is perfect!

  • Lori

    Blasphemous as it might be, I also agree with the comments on here about finding a younger actor to replace Harrison Ford. I’m a huge Indy and Harrison Ford fan, and if they hadn’t waited 20 years to give us Crystal Skull, we might’ve seen more (and better) Ford/Indy flicks.

    But, Joe Johnston’s Captain America movie reminded me of what a great cinematic foil the Nazis are, and how I’d love to see the character of Indiana Jones go back to basics. Crystal Skull had some fun moments, and was a decent homage to the sci-fi movies of the 50′s. But at its heart, Indiana Jones was and always will be a nod to classic 30′s serials.

    Let the series rediscover its roots, a la James Bond. I’m really not interested in following a cantankerous 70 year old Professor Jones yelling at dope smoking hippies in the 1960′s, while Shia muddles his way through another weak James Dean impersonation that more closely resembles Jimmy Dean the sausage maker.

    • Tommy

      As a replacement Indiana Jones – how ’bout Sean Patrick Flanery……. oh wait…

      • MiNeAlOnE

        or River Phoenix… RIP

  • Mr Katanga

    Blasphemy indeed! Harrison Ford is INDY! This is not James Bond were talking about here! We had the young Indy tv show and while some episodes were decent, it just was not Indy. Anyone suggesting Ford gets replaced is either too young to know what respect is, or is of the same mindset that Lucas was in when he thought tinkering was a neat idea!

    Indy 4 was (mostly) an abomination. It did have its merits, and the first 3rd of the film i liked. Its 2nd and particularly 3rd act wre where it went to shit.

    That said, I am all up for Indy 5. Infact, i think we NEED an Indy-5. But it must really deliver the goods, and has to try double hard as its main job is to wash away Indy4.

    Maybe set it in China after some sword or something of this earth. Get short round back, as an adult sidekick. Bring in a decent villain, and a gory death scene. And get rid of 99% of the cgi crap, and the horrible digital lens filter that made even the real shots in part 4 look like cgi. My biggest gripe of Indy-4 is that the camera work looked like i was watching Sky captain or 300.

    I could go on!

    • BOFFIN

      QFT! On all counts. Glad you brought up the cinematography, it did feel unreal. Had a weird sepia filter or something. Looked ugly and cgi. Even some of the real sets and models that in the making of that were real, I thought were CG.

      Though on paper, the story for indy 4 was actually pretty decent I thought. Just excecuted badly.

    • Brandon

      Perfectly said, Mr. Katanga. I think needs to be a 5th just to make up for the 4th.

      Hopefully they leave out scenes like the one with Shia Labeouf swinging through the f***ing trees with monkeys.

  • migz13

    I don’y know what to think about them making another Indy J. flick. I know deep in my heart I’ve always wanted to see him in more movies but in doing so kinda stretches him to the point where it already feels like they’re OVERmilking the cow. I hope they can get a fresh start, that’s all I’m asking.

  • TheManWithNoName

    If they do a reboot with a different actor how about Nathan Fillion as Indy

  • FILMfan

    The Macguffin in Indy 5 should be something George Lucas wouldn’t normally consider. Something different, something awesome…….like a good script.

  • Northern Star

    A FIFTH Indiana Jones film? There shouldn’t have been a second, third, or fourth, ‘Raiders…’ was utter perfection, had a cracking script (an action-adventure where the hero actually loses in the end!), inspired casting, and an airtight running time with absolutely not a line, scene, or shot wasted or unnecessary, plus after you’ve used the Ark of the Covenant as the McGuffin, glowing stones, a wooden cup, and trans-dimensional alien skulls (what was Luca$ thinking?) just don’t have the same mystique or dramatic impact…

    • Tarek

      The second one was pretty funny and a decent sequel, while not in the same mood.
      The third was hard for me to swallow. Even if Sean Connery added a lot to the movie.

      the fourth was an insult for Harrison Ford and his fans. He shouldn’t have accepted to make a new one after all this time. He looked so old. so stretched. So “not funny”.


    Half of those photos are from Temple of Doom…..C’mon Collider get your shit straight!

  • cc

    I love all their work. Make another one please. Raiders of the Lost Ark is an amazing film. I love the Indiana Jones series!

  • FJ Bartling

    Indiana Jones to me has always meant action!
    But,indeed,like the James Bond fims,Indiana Jones
    needs a new actor,Harrison Ford,I fear,is too old
    for the part now,alas……….

  • Tarek

    I’m afraid they will go someday with a movie like : Indiana Jones Vs Lara Croft. Just like they did with Predator and alien. ^^

    Until we will get rid of Luca$ from the equation, I’m afraid there will be no good coming from a fifth Indy.

  • Luckystrike

    I think they could easily reboot the series with a younger actor and go back to the 1930′s and start the series from scratch. Look at the latest Star Trek movie for example, I never thought the Shatner could be replaced as Captain Kirk but Chris Pine did an awesome job in my opinion. I know most people are tired of origin stories but the opening sequence of Last Crusade was the the only real insight into Indy when he was younger. There are tons of ideas they could go with here.

  • Sean Connery

    Blashphemy my son!! The quest for the Holy Grail is not about Archeology, it’s a race against evil, if it’s found by the Nazis, the armies of darkness will amrch across the face of the Earth, please understand!!!!!

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  • saw see

    —Still more franchise slum retreads and tech and EUGENICS
    worship from Steven Spielberg.

    MEANWHILE, as men women and children shiver for their
    very lives in prison camps from Tibet to Manchuria to North
    Korea —Hollywood AGAIN ‘overlooks’ the 60th Anniversary
    of ther awesomely relevant, RED China Halocaust ‘unfriendly’

    ——————————KOREAN WAR———————————

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