Eight months after introducing Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Chewbacca to the world, George Lucas invited Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan to his assistant in Los Angeles to pitch a new name for the adventure.
– Indiana Smith, Lucas said. “Very Americana place.”
Spielberg sighed, “I hate it, but go ahead.” “
Over the next five days, according to a conference transcript, the three concocted a swaggering archaeologist who fused Humphrey Bogart with James Bond. They gave Indy a boost and a passport – and they changed his name.
“Jones,” Lucas conceded, “people can call him Jones. “
That brainstorming session, of course, led to “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which celebrates its 40th anniversary this month (and airs on Paramount +). Four decades later, the iconic success has become the pivot between cinema’s past and present. Indiana Jones’ narrow escapes of Nazis, boulders, darts, poisonous dates, high speed trucks and, of course, snakes, tip a fedora to 1930s cliffhanger soap operas – the children’s adventures that have shaped its creators – even when they calibrated their nostalgia into a cross-promotional blockbuster that would define Hollywood’s future.
“What we’re doing right here, really, is designing a ride at Disneyland,” Spielberg said at that first meeting. Prophetic words. Yet, like Indy’s exploits across the globe, the film’s production story is itself a story of misfortune, luck, and inspiration. Here are four secret stories from the set.