Raiders of the Lost Ark is considered as one of the most iconic movies in the history of filmmaking, and despite being the first movie in the Indiana Jones series, many fans regard Raiders of the Lost Ark as the best one out of all four films. While many people may have probably watched this film in theaters or at home, most of them probably don’t know what happened behind the scenes when making or producing the movie. To fill you in on some Raiders of the Lost Ark trivia, here are a few interesting facts about the first Indiana Jones movie directed by Steven Spielberg in 1981.
Harrison Ford Wasn’t the First Choice to Play as Indy
Harrison Ford is an astounding actor that has appeared in countless movies, but one of his few iconic roles is Indiana Jones. However, he was actually not the first choice to play the treasure hunter, as the first choice was Tom Selleck. Selleck was already set to play the character, but when CBS found out that the star of their popular show Magnum P.I., was going to star in a movie, they didn’t allow Selleck to appear in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Already knowing about the great acting skills of Harrison Ford, Spielberg suggested to George Lucas, the writer of the film’s story, that they should hire Ford to play as Indiana Jones. Lucas was reluctant at first to cast Ford, as he has already played the popular character Han Solo in another iconic film series called Star Wars, which is also created by Lucas. Thankfully, Lucas realized what Ford could bring in Raider of the Lost Ark and decided to cast him two weeks before the principal photography for the film started.
The First Scene of the Movie is Based on Spielberg’s Childhood
When Spielberg was a kid, he created a fictional film studio called “Play-Mount Pictures,” which is supposed to be a play on Paramount Pictures. For the logo of his film studio, the young Spielberg also copied the famous mountain peak logo of Paramount with added scenery in the background.
As a nod to his childhood, and since Raider of the Lost Ark is distributed by Paramount, Spielberg decided that the first scene of the film should be a real-life version of the mountain peak that appears right after the Paramount logo dissolves. Spielberg gave producer Frank Marshall the task to find the best mountain peak in Hawaii that will look similar to the Paramount logo. Marshall was able to find what Spielberg was looking for, and that specific mountain peak became the intro scene for the movie.
The Famous “Sword versus Gun” Scene Was Not in the Original Script
The infamous “swordsman get shot with Indiana’s gun” scene was not actually in the original script. Spielberg’s original plan for the scene was that the swordsman was supposed to chase Indiana Jones around a butcher shop, and when Indiana taunts the swordsman to slash at him, the treasure hunter dodges the attack, and the swordsman’s weapon chops a piece of meat laid on the table at the shop. However, since Harrison Ford wasn’t feeling well during that time, mainly due to the location’s (Tunisia) agonizing heat and temperature, he wasn’t able to perform the scene well.
The scene was ultimately erased from the script, but Spielberg didn’t want to waste the abilities of the stuntman to handle the sword, so they came up with a brilliant short scene that eventually becomes one of the most famous scenes in the Indiana Jones series. It was reported that George Lucas didn’t like the scene at first, but when the audiences of two preview screenings were seen laughing hysterically at the scene, Lucas decided to keep it.
Almost All Members of the Crew Became Ill in Tunisia
Harrison Ford wasn’t the only one who felt ill during the filming in Tunisia, as there were more than 150 members of the crew that reported to have felt exhaustion from the heat, as well as stomachaches that are believed to have been caused by the food that was served to them by the locals. One of the only few people who did not get sick in the location was Spielberg. The director said that he didn’t eat the local food in Tunisia since he brought with him canned food from the U.K. and only bought bottled water as his drink. However, even if he didn’t suffer from any illnesses during the filming in the location, Spielberg still describes the experience to be one of his worsts as a filmmaker.
There Weren’t Enough Snakes in “The Well of Souls” Scene Initially
While Indiana Jones is portrayed as cunning and braves in most of his scenes in the series, he has one glaring weakness, and that is his fear of snakes. To make one of the last scenes exciting in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spielberg decided to fill “The Well of Souls” set with about 2000 snakes.
However, when Spielberg was filming the scene, he noticed that the 2000 snakes were not enough to fill every space and corner of the set, so he asked some of the crew members to find snakes all around London to get 7000 more snakes. Luckily, the crew was able to get more than 7000 snakes, and it was reported that the total number of snakes on the set during that day was 10,000.
Indiana Jones’ Name is Inspired by George Lucas’ Dog
The first name “Indiana” came from George Lucas’ dog of the same name, and the last name “Jones” was just randomly thought about by Lucas when he, Spielberg, and the film’s screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan were thinking about what should be the name of the protagonist.
They first decided to name the treasure hunter “Indiana Smith,” but Spielberg said that it sounds too similar to the title of the film “Nevada Smith,” which was directed by Steve McQueen and released in 1966. In addition, all of them thought that the last name “Smith” is too common, so they decided to change it to “Jones.” Interestingly, Indiana the Dog was also the inspiration for the popular Star Wars characters Chewbacca, as they both have shaggy fur. But oddly enough, Indiana was actually a female dog.
Some of the Scenes in the Movie Were Shot Using Miniatures
In order to reduce cost and lower the budget for the film, Spielberg called upon production designer Norman Reynolds to construct miniature set pieces so that they could film those instead of building larger set pieces. Reynolds is particularly known for also constructing the amazing miniature set pieces in the original Star Wars trilogy, and since he is already acquainted with George Lucas prior to the production of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spielberg had an easier time finding someone who will help the team stay on the film’s budget without overspending.