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15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Raiders Of The Lost Ark

15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Raiders Of The Lost Ark

15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Raiders Of The Lost Ark
28 December 2014

Indiana Jones should be taught as a subject at school. Seriously, that's how important he is. Kids would be like: "I hate Mondays because I've got double maths and double Physics, but at least the day ends with TRIPLE INDIANA JONES!"

Alas, unless the Department of Education really loosens up, that's never going to happen. So, in the mean time, here's the next best thing: 15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

Images: Rex/YouTube


In 1973 George Lucas wrote The Adventures of Indiana Smith before shelving the idea to concentrate on Star Wars. In 1977, Lucas was in Hawaii, trying to escape the enormous success of the subsequent sci-fi hit when he told friend and colleague Steven Spielberg about the character. Spielberg loved the idea but told Lucas that the surname didn't sound right. Lucas replied, "What about Jones?". And so it was. Indiana, meanwhile, was the name of Lucas's Alaskan Malamute, whose habit of riding in the passenger seat as Lucas drove was also the inspiration for Chewbacca.


Besides Tom Selleck who famously tested for the lead role (see footage here), actors considered for the part of Jones include Sam Neil, Nick Nolte, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Tim Matheson, Nick Mancuso, Peter Coyote, and Jack Nicholson. Jeff Bridges turned it down. 


Danny DeVito (pictured) was offered the role of Sallah before John Rhys-Davies but had to turn it down due to commitments with Taxi, while Amy Irving (who went on to marry Spielberg) and Debra Winger were considered for the role of Marion. Sean Young played Marion in all screen tests and eventually starred opposite Ford in Blade Runner.


Spielberg came up with the idea of Jones being chased by a boulder thanks to this Uncle Scrooge comic called The Seven Cities of Cibola.


Two actors take two roles in the movie. Vic Tablian played Barranca (top left) and the monkey owner (bottom left) while wrestler Pat Roach played "giant Sherpa" who met his demise in the fire at the Nepalese bar (top right) and a doomed mechanic who gets up close and personal with a plane's rotor blades (bottom right). Roach returned for the next two Indiana Jones films, he was the chief Thuggee guard in Temple of Doom (picture here) and a member of the Gestapo in Last Crusade (see here).


In order to get the proper sound for the giant boulder rolling the crew actually tried pushing boulders down a hill, but it was no good. The same day, as they were leaving in a Honda Civic, they coasted down a gravel embankment and noticed that the sound was just what they were looking for, so they grabbed a microphone and held it near one of the Civic's rear tyres. Bingo.


Sound effects tomfoolery didn't end there. To create the grind of the lid of the Ark being slid open, sound designer Ben Burtt recorded himself moving the lid of his toilet cistern at home. The snakes' slithering noises came from Burtt dragging his fingers through a cheese casserole and animal cries of dolphins and sea lions were used to make the otherworldly sounds once the Ark is opened. Most of the body blows you hear were created by hitting a pile of leather jackets with a baseball bat.

Hang on, what the hell's a cheese casserole? 


It was by some distance the highest grossing movie of 1981 bringing in over $212 million in the US alone, almost $100 million more than second placed On Golden Pond and third placed Superman II.


For the Well of Souls scene producers plundered every pet shop in London for every snake they could get, hence they all look so different. Once all the snakes were on set it became clear that there were not enough so Spielberg had several hoses cut into lengths and scattered about the set. A sheet of glass separates Harrison Ford and the cobra when he falls in. The snake actually sprayed venom onto the glass.


Indy's trademark battered leather jacket and dusty fedora were both brand spanking new, bought for the movie. There were 10 jackets in total and the costume director aged each one with a metal brush and Harrison Ford's own penknife. A less measured technique was used to wear in the Saville Row-bought hat. Cast members took turns sitting on it.

BONUS HAT FACT: When it was made the brim was shaped to cover Ford's eyes for protection and to help hide faces when stunt doubles were being used.


Same movie location. Mind utterly blown.


There's a number of Star Wars references in the movie. Most famously, there's the hieroglyphs resembling C-3PO and R2-D2 (pictured, top and left) and the OB-CPO markings on the plane which nod to Obi-Wan Kenobi and C-3PO.


Ford improvised the line, "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage" after Marion tells him he's not the man he was 10 years ago and also suggested Jones wearily shoot the black-clad swordsman rather than the long fight scene that was planned. At the time he had food poisoning and couldn't face it. The result is one of the funniest moments in film history. Enjoy.


Ford wasn't the only one who got ill. In Tunisia almost everyone got dysentery bar Spielberg who avoided the local cuisine and ate only canned Spaghetti-O's.


The film was Alfred Molina's first ever credited move role. His first scene on his first day of filming involved being covered with tarantulas.