‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ was the highest grossing film of 1981, confirmed Harrison Ford as a big star, and was a turning point in adventure cinema. Forty years later, the Indiana Jones saga is still in our lives and it is already being shooting the fifth installment.
Inspired by the action movies that marked his childhood, George Lucas began to think in the early seventies of a story entitled ‘The Adventures of Indiana Smith’, while planning the ‘Star Wars’ saga, according to the notes of production kept by the Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of the United States.
Lucas worked on the development of the archaeologist’s story with Philip Kaufman, who was the one who introduced the idea of the lost ark that contained the tables of the commandments of Jesus. But then he put this project aside to focus on ‘Star Wars’.
Precisely before the possibility that the premiere of ‘Star Wars’ (1977) was a failure, Lucas decided to travel to Hawaii with some friends, including Steven Spielberg, who at that time wanted to direct a James Bond film. “I have something better than that. It’s called ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. He told me the story and I promised to do it on the beach,” said Spielberg on several occasions.
The original idea was one more series B movie, which mixed adventure, fascism and mysticism, but during the production process it became something of greater scope. Therefore, and given the clear possibility of success that they almost certainly saw, the two filmmakers reached an agreement with Paramount that was very new at the time: they kept the merchandising rights, with a large part of the income from video rental and they also included the making of a total of five films.
As for the protagonist and after varias attempts to count on Tom Selleck -who could not because he was committed to the ‘Magnum PI’ series – the chosen one was Harrison Ford, who had already become very popular for his role as Han Solo in the first two installments of ‘Star Wars’, another of the sagas of George Lucas. To accompany him, and after shuffling names such as Debra Winger, Amy Irving or Sean Young, Karen Allen was selected, a little-known actress but who gave the profile of a classic heroine in the style that Spielberg was looking for to play Marion Ravenwood.
“I always thought Harrison was some kind of contemporary Humphrey Bogart“And that his on-screen relationship with Karen Allen” was a bit like Elsa and Rick’s in ‘Casablanca,’ “Spielberg said in an interview with the American Film Institute (AFI).
The filming began on June 23, 1980 in La Rochelle (France) and passed through various towns in Tunisia, England and California (USA), ending in October, with a budget of just over 22 million dollars. The premiere arrived on June 12, 1981 and was the highest grossing in Paramount history up to that point. It reached 212 million worldwide, which made it the biggest success of the year, according to data from the specialized website Box Office Mojo. And she was nominated for nine Oscar, of which he took four in technical sections.
And its success sparked the realization of three sequels: ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ (1984), ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ (1989 and ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ (2008), which were among the highest grossing of those years.
The success of the first installment of the saga underpinned the career of Harrison Ford, who thus got two characters that have gone down in film history. And it elevated elements such as Indy’s hat and whip to the category of icons, in addition to making the music of John Williams enormously popular, which became one of the hallmarks of the archaeological saga. “It was simply one of the best experiences of my entire life,” summed up Spielberg for the AFI.
It was also a great experience for all moviegoers, who eagerly followed the evolution of the Indiana Jones character, the appearance of his father (Sean Connery) or the young Indy, who he played in ‘The Last Crusade’ River Phoenix, whose death it truncated the natural relief of the hero. It didn’t work out as expected Shia LaBeouf’s entry in ‘The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ and somehow Harrison Ford has been forced to stay at the forefront of the saga. At 78 he is in the middle of filming the fifth film, but as Spielberg said in an interview with EFE a few years ago, he can embody it until he is 90.
While this film arrives, we can enjoy a remastered version of the four Indiana Jones in Ultra High Definition, supervised by Spielberg or see the beginning of the saga on platforms such as Google or Apple.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.