Indiana Jones - who is that anyway? He is a hero, but not a superman. He is well trained, but not invulnerable. He is obsessed with archaeology and the hunt for rare relics. His iron will and incredible stamina are his strongest allies. But he also knows where his limits lie, when to stop. He is the hero who sometimes makes a mistake - but to whom he stands, for whom he bears the consequences and whose consequences he wants to undo with full commitment.
The gun is one of the things Indy relies on. Even more memorable and unmistakable is the powerful bull whip, which his opponents flee from for good reason: It is a lightning-fast weapon and at the same time a universally usable aid, with which Indy can swing over an abyss, for example. In spite of the highest danger, even if a rock door weighing tons threatens to crush his arm, he grabs the whip and frees himself as a matter of course.
Indiana Jones unites everything a successful screen hero needs: He is strong, masculine, intelligent and carries his heart in the right place. Three men stand behind the myth of Indy: actor Harrison Ford, director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas.
It's hard to imagine that Harrison Ford wasn't the desired cast of the film at all. Only when Tom Selleck had to cancel because of his first Magnum shooting days, the choice fell on Ford. Today he seems to have grown together with the beige, sweat-soaked shirt: In the eyes of the audience, Harrison Ford and Indiana Jones have merged into one identity. For the extremely shy leading actor in his private life, the role of the adventurer meant the final breakthrough in his acting career.
After many futile years in Hollywood he had his first big success with the role of "Han Solo" in "Star Wars". But it wasn't until Indiana Jones that Harrison Ford rose to the ranks of the absolute top stars. The Indy myth was invented by producer George Lucas. In close cooperation with director Steven Spielberg he developed the character of Indiana Jones. The wonderboys of Hollywood have been extremely skilful in setting their story in the 1930s, the time of adventure: At that time Kate Capshaw, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Harrison Fordder Jungle, the Orient or the coast of Africa still had something mysterious, unknown - a playground for a lot of eccentrics, gamblers and fortune-hunters.
"Evil" is embodied by the Nazis, who like Indiana Jones chase after secret, lost or stolen treasures. They are entitled to any means to achieve their goals. Despite the immense effort they put in, Indiana Jones always ends up being an idea faster. The difficult, almost unsolvable situations, into which the hero with the felt hat gets again and again, offer the background for an unparalleled action staccato. Apart from the Nazis, it's the dangers of old that lurk on Indiana Jones: Traps to protect graves, rites from ancient times, secret passages or forgotten secrets - he has to explore everything and survive countless adventures. Spielberg stages action from the first to the last shot: Peitschen-Indy can show what he can do - must always give the last. Whether a ghost train tour in a lorry or a wild pursuit on the motorcycle - always the camera is very closely thereby.
The plot, which takes place in the 30s, is staged with the most modern cinema technology. In addition to the acting performance, the three films captivate above all with their technical tricks, the huge buildings and the impressive locations. For weeks the locations were searched, hundreds of thousands were invested in buildings, which are often only a few minutes in the picture to be seen.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas had already brought films to the cinema with immense success before Indiana Jones. Spielberg had broken all records with "Jaws" and was even overtaken shortly afterwards by Lucas with "The Star Wars". Both were considered to be Hollywood's Wunderkinder.
When the shooting of the first Indy film, "Raiders of the Lost Ark", began at London's Elstree Studios on May 15, 1980, the film was preceded by a whole story. Some newspapers, for example, have written that this film will be a sequel to "Star Wars". Many denials can't change that. Other papers already believe to know that a whole series is being planned.
Almost the entire press agrees on one point: After the huge successes of the two men behind the project, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, hardly anyone in the industry doubted a new cinema hit. Director Spielberg and producer Lucas complemented each other ideally: Lucas is used to getting on with his films exactly on budget. He is accused of neglecting artistic freedom. Spielberg has always taken this as a director - regardless of the film's budget. With Indiana Jones, the two friends succeed in combining the good personalities of everyone. The Indy movies are not only an excellent entertainment cinema, but also an example of successful teamwork between director and producer.
The plan of the two Hollywood wonderboys is to achieve a success bigger than James Bond, with a story full of occultism, mysticism and secrets of the 1930s. This included a hero from that time: Indiana Jones always pursues ambitious goals. But he doesn't lose his sense of proportion: he remains human, his toughness never becomes an end in itself. If he has ethical or moral doubts, he can back down, even temporarily give up - without consideration for his own person, even his life.
With Harrison Ford they have found the ideal cast: Not only can all viewers identify with the likeable guy, but Harrison Ford also brings his entire commitment to the role. Together with director Steven Spielberg, he revises the script - with the aim of giving the role its own identity and, above all, distinguishing it from his portrayal of Han Solo in "Star Wars".
Ford's commitment even goes so far that he himself takes over in many dangerous stunt scenes, for which a professional stuntman is intended: the three Indy films convey the tremendous authenticity and gripping realism in many areas.
Despite everything, Indiana Jones remains an artificial figure, even though one of the most sympathetic in film history. After the great success of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" there are numerous attempts to imitate the cinema success. However, none of the copies reaches the quality of the original, Indiana Jones simply remains unmistakable.
So there is also a huge sigh of relief among the fans when the shooting of the sequel "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" begins in March 1983. George Lucas also reveals "his" secret for success: If he could ever really be one of the dream characters in film history, he would choose Indiana Jones. No wonder.
A film idea is born
The beach of Hawaii in May 1977: George Lucas and Steven Spielberg spend their holidays together and build beach castles. The two young filmmakers have come up with a little game: depending on how the beach castles resist the waves, they see this as a sign of the success or failure of a film.
George Lucas has just completed his work on "Star Wars". He is eager to see whether the phenomenal initial success of the science fiction film will continue into the future. That all his hopes and desires will be surpassed by the actual success, he suspects at best. Steven Spielberg has just brought the "Jaws" to the cinema - the most successful feature film of all time at that time. Actually, he should fear that his friend George Lucas will replace him as the most successful director of all times in the next few weeks. But his thoughts revolve above all around his new project "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".
But both have also come to Hawaii to go on vacation, and so they talk a lot about old wishes and plans for the future. Spielberg tells Lucas that he always wanted to make a James Bond film. Lucas is already further: he is already working on such a project.
Full of enthusiasm, he tells Spielberg about the archaeology professor of the 1930s, who has to endure countless adventures in search of lost treasures. It is George Lucas' childhood and youth dream, his longing for a hero - far from all the problems of everyday life. Similar to Bond, many exotic locations and unusual tricks are meant to captivate the viewer. Also the name of the title hero is found fast, named after the dog from the house Lucas: Indiana!
First of all, there is another difficulty for the collaboration: Lucas has already promised the project to director Philip Kaufmann. But here coincidence comes to the rescue: Kaufmann wants to realize other projects and gets out - Spielberg takes immediate action.
More than four years elapse between the first creative days in Hawaii and the release of the film in the cinemas. Despite the long preparation time, often enough decisions have to be made at the last second. Only shortly before the start of shooting the decision for Harrison Ford as main actor is made. Under his influence important parts of the script are rewritten.
The decisive discussion between Spielberg and Ford about the script takes place in the plane, while both are on their way from Los Angeles to London to start shooting. At this time George Lucas gave the artistic design of his "baby" mainly to Steven Spielberg - but without losing control over the project. Spielberg fully exploits the artistic possibilities and, with the creative help of Harrison Ford, manages to fill Lucas' dreams with life.
Lucas and Spielberg had already met as unknown cinema fans. They had long been regarded as cinema lunatics who had seen almost everything that had ever been captured on celluloid. Both have always been fascinated by the short sequels that were shown weekly in the cinema's pre-programmes in the 1940s. The so-called cliffhangers, like numerous comic strips, were always built according to the same knitting pattern: At the end of each episode the hero was in a hopeless situation - literally hanging over an abyss, threatening to fall down.
It was at this very moment that the voice of the speaker sounded: Will our hero be able to free himself from this situation, will he survive? Or will the sheer overpowering enemy finally triumph? Only next week could the hero free himself or herself - often enough in a hardly comprehensible, hair-raising way. But the tension remained and the audience came back week after week to see the new resolution. Some of these sequels were also shown on German television (Flash Gordon, Zorro etc.).
It was against this background that Lucas and Spielberg began together to create their main character "Indiana Jones". After a short intensive work Indiana Jones was born - according to the proven knitting pattern: Whenever the hero has rescued himself from the almost unsolvable, life-threatening situation, he gets into a new, even more dangerous adventure.
In the design of the hero Indiana Jones, Spielberg was able to impose a very decisive characteristic on Lucas: Indiana Jones was not supposed to be an elegant playboy - as Lucas had planned - who had an easy time with the ladies. Instead, Spielberg pushed through the university professor, who lives in a typically messy world. Lucas and Spielberg quickly agreed on the design of the adventurer Indiana Jones: the crazy type Im sweaty shirt, with whip and colt.
Of course, Lucas and Spielberg didn't work alone on the project at this early stage of film preparation either. But despite many helpers - from scriptwriters to trick advisors - the two fathers of Indiana Jones had control over the project at all times and, above all, very detailed ideas about what the film would look like in the future. This is probably the secret for the extraordinary success of the three films. Despite the precise preparations of producer and director, the two were overwhelmed by the phenomenal success of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" itself. Only a few days after the release at the end of July 1981 it became apparent that Indy would become one of the most successful stiffs in cinema history.
Hollywood's Wunderkinder have done it again: they have proven that their naive creativity, coupled with an absolute penchant for perfectionism, is a guarantee for cinema success.
More than four years had passed since the first joint planning on the beach of Hawaii in May 1977. Lucas and Spielberg had in the meantime also been extremely successful with their own projects.
It is all the more impressive that together they were so happy about their joint success. Their collaboration with Indy was not a flash in the pan; besides a number of not insignificant projects, they concentrated their teamwork on the second and third part of the Indiana Jones series.
Surely it was not an easy task to repeat a success with a second part of a film. In a conversation with Cinema, Steven Spielberg revealed his strategy for the sequel: "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" did not require him to waste any more time introducing the hero.
Instead, Spielberg tried to stage action from the first to the last shot. This is all the more astonishing as Spielberg had just completed a completely different kind of film: E.T. This shows the director's high level of professionalism. Spielberg can ideally adapt his way of setting the plot into the picture to the circumstances of the book, actors or even the desired audience. George Lucas had had no difficulty in winning Steven Spielberg as director of the second Indy film. But Spielberg had said quite clearly at the time that he would never be involved in a third or even fourth episode.
He wanted to make a second, even better Indy film, but not go down in film history as a serial director. This resolution lasted until the beginning of 1984, and Spielberg announced that he would also direct the third part of the Indy saga - not even six months after shooting the second indy film. Not only the audience, but also the filmmakers apparently can't get rid of the Indy fever so easily.
Such a professional, highly motivated team seems to be one of the decisive reasons for the huge success of the three Indy movies: George Lucas, who wants to bring his favourite dream character to the screen, Steven Spielberg, who wants to create the most turbulent action scenes in film history, Harrison Ford, who simply loves working with two professionals under whose leadership he can unfold ideally.
Indiana Jones: The sequels
Already during the first Indy preparations George Lucas thinks of several parts. Whether five episodes were actually planned from the very beginning - as is often reported - is difficult to determine in retrospect - too many anecdotes are now built up around the story by the Indy fathers themselves. But one thing is certain: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is such a box-office success that Lucas and Spielberg inevitably have to consider a sequel. Furthermore, Harrison Ford has signed a contract for at least three Indy movies, and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" director Steven Spielberg continues to be thrilled by the story and the opportunity to capture numerous thrilling action scenes. All three men are gripped by Indy fever.
The conditions for the present trilogy are therefore excellent. The actions of all three episodes are extremely skilfully interwoven. Even if the viewer of a single Indy film has no difficulty in following the respective film - the Indy connoisseur experiences the highest pleasure, who can recognize every small side blow, every amusing cross-connection to another episode with a smile. Anyone who has seen an episode wants to see everyone.
The Stars of Indiana Jones
Like hardly any other actor, Harrison Ford knows how to fill a film character with life. He transforms himself totally into his roles with facial expressions, movement and appearance. The character of Indiana Jones was an especially big challenge for Harrsion Ford. To play the Indy-typical Pokerface comprehensibly, without it becoming a farce, he regards as one of the most difficult tasks of his acting career. And in fact he convinces: You believe it immediately, the steel-hard nerves, the toughness and the recklessness with which he passes the most exciting adventures in the most exotic locations of this world.
Ford enables the cinema-goer the total identification with the adventurous archaeology professor from the 30s. The viewer is happy with him, trembles for him in a seemingly hopeless situation and can - last but not least - breathe a sigh of relief with Indy at the happy end. Ford plays the role as a positive, comprehensible character. Indy's decisions become humanly plausible and reasonable. The hero with the whip doesn't just blindly head for his goal.
It is undoubtedly Ford's merit to make Indy so believable and understandable. He gave the character wit and humor, as well as that incomparable self-ironic distance. Ford also repeatedly emphasizes the immense joy that the depiction of the adventurer from the 1930s gives him. He also likes to overlook the great exertions that the shooting demands of him. Not only from journalists, but especially from his colleagues, Ford receives excellent reviews and almost exuberant praise. Director Steven Spielberg already compared Ford with Errol Flynn and Humphrey Bogart.
Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg on locationSurely the good cooperation between director Spielberg and Indy actor Ford is one of the secrets for the extraordinary acting performance of the main actor. Spielberg always allowed Ford to intervene in the decision-making process during the shooting. Ford then brought in his ideas with the necessary sensitivity.
In the first drafts of the script, Indy had a very strong resemblance to the role of Han Solo in "Star Wars". But Harrison Ford didn't want to be fixed to this one type. In addition, he was convinced that the role of Indiana Jones needed an independence of expression and character. Since Ford was chosen as the leading actor only shortly before the shooting began, he had only little time to exert influence beforehand. Certainly the already mentioned meeting with Steven Spielberg in the airplane was the decisive beginning for the co-creation of the character by Harrison Ford.
For the shooting of Indy Part 1 the London Elstree Studios had been chosen beside the desert of Tunis and the French Atlantic coast. George Lucas had already booked the traditional studio for the elaborate studio recordings for "Star Wars". Despite all reservations against the food, the weather and above all the trade unions in Great Britain, the choice - mainly for economic reasons - had fallen on "Old England" again.
While Ford and Spielberg flew side by side from Los Angeles to London, every scene, every setting and every single line of the script was discussed. Upon arrival in London, Spielberg and Ford had the same inner attitude to the character and role of Indiana Jones: this correspondence between the two formed the basis for the continuous development of the role during the shooting.
The film shots are described by all participants as a great experience: Again and again Ford made new suggestions about how a scene should be played, how a dialogue should be conducted or how a stunt shot should be created. Steven Spielberg was clever enough to listen to all suggestions in peace and quiet and in many - if not most - cases to accept them.
Even Harrison Ford was not a world star before "Raiders of the Lost Ark". For him this role certainly meant the absolute breakthrough. Besides his leading role in the Indy movies, it is very difficult for any other actor to develop his talents. The numerous hectic pursuit scenes are better for stuntmen and stuntwomen than for character actors. Nevertheless, Spielberg and Lucas, director and producer, have always used excellent stage, television and film actors in each of the three films.
In each of the three Indy movies there is a different woman at Indiana Jones' side. In "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Karen Allen embodies Indy's heroine Marion Ravenwood. With Marion, Karen Allen plays a gripping, resolute partner who, like Indy herself, is not afraid of anything. Marion is rather the buddy than the female to be protected. In contrast, the Indy partner in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom": Kate Capshaw plays the nightclub singer Willie Scott, a very female type. She is bitchy and adamant about all the adventures she didn't want to get into. In many scenes she is Indiana Jones a real block to the leg. This results in a whole series of amusing scenes, which enable Harrison Ford as well as Kate Capshaw to fully develop their acting talent.
In "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" the female partner takes on a new color: Alison Doody plays the archaeologist Dr. Elsa Schneider, who turns out to be a Nazi in the course of the plot. For the first time, the pretty female leading role in an Indy film can be counted among the evil camp - even if she loves Indiana Jones. Dr. Elsa Schneider apparently fears no one and nothing; she is obsessed with the Holy Grail. In the end she has to pay for it with her life.
The actors of the so-called villains of the three Indy movies have been chosen with special care by Spielberg and Lucas. For example, the Indian actor Amrish Puri embodies as death priest Mola Ram (in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom") the prototype of the religious fanatic, His cruelty and obsession make every spectator shudder - an outstanding achievement of the Indian.
Paul Freeman as the deceitful archaeologist in Indy Part 1 and Julian Glover as the money-grabbing industrialist Walter Donovan in Indy Part 3 are also perfectly cast. For the actors, the portrayal of a clear villain is particularly difficult: no spark of sympathy should arise.
Characteristic for the Indy myth are also the companions of Indiana Jones in his three films, Marcus Brody is his boss and at the same time his friend. The curator of the museum is the British character actor Denholm Elliot. Always on the spot when it seems necessary, this is Indy's Egyptian friend Sallah, played by John Rhys-Davies. These two roles are also the only ones that appear in more than one Indy movie - except of course Indiana Jones herself.
In "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" a new kind of companion appears: the Chinese boy Short Round, short Shorty. He brings a special lightness and cheerfulness to the film. The great popularity of the shorty actor Ke Huy Quan confirms the decision to include an additional identification figure for the young viewers in the plot. Spielberg and Ke Huy QuanDirector Spielberg also shows his enormous talent in dealing with "very young" actors. Spielberg also perfectly implemented this talent to let children and teenagers act realistically in front of the camera.
For "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" Lucas and Spielberg came up with a very special idea to lure new viewers into the cinema. For the role of Indiana Jones' father, Sean Connery was hired, an actor with a ringing name among cinema audiences over thirty: Indy 3 is a film for father and son, for the whole family.
The character of the gray, but still quite sprightly Dr. Henry Jones shows Sean Connery in a less accustomed role. The former James Bond actor is no longer the hero himself, but "only" the father of the hero. Connery brings his typical irony to the role.
According to an American critic, this is the first time an Indy movie has reached an acting climax. Surely, this judgement is a bit unfair towards the performance of Connery's acting colleagues. But in any case, the role of father Henry brings a new acting dimension to the movie.
In contrast to his son, Henry Jones is only a scientist and therefore a little unworldly. In the many car chases he is at first an astonished extra, who makes his son even more difficult. Nevertheless, he remains endearing with his efforts to do the best. But the old man can learn quickly and saves the life of his threatened son time and time again.
Sean Connery manages to show special wit and intelligence in the role of Dr. Henry Jones: For example, Indiana Jones is almost lost in front of an approaching, wildly shooting Nazi plane. Apparently abandoned by all good spirits, Father Jones storms with his umbrella open towards the approaching plane. Suddenly Indy and the audience recognize the ingenious idea: Henry Jones shooes up a large crowd of birds colliding with the plane and crashing it - the unusual rescue is one of the movie's greatest laughs.
Much happens without words: A wink or a friendly gesture - Connery can convey more in a few seconds in interaction with Ford than other actors in whole plays. "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is another confirmation of the sentence: With Connery it's like an old wine - he gets better and better over the years.
Connery is still unforgettable in his parade role as James Bond. More than half a dozen times he embodied the British agent with the license to kill. Then he got tired of the role and looked around for more serious roles. Especially with movies like "The Name of the Rose", "The Untouchables" and "The Rock" he was able to get away from the bond image.
The more mature look is also very helpful now: Connery can now impersonate the older gentleman, whose wild youth years are finally over. Especially in this role he finds a whole new strength, as "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" proves.
|Raiders of the Lost Ark
|Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
|Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
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