From Box Office Draw to Box Office Phenomenon
‘Playing Indy is just a fun thing to do.’ Harrison Ford
Every time a big, successful movie looms over the cinematic horizon, you can bet, sure as sunrise, that the same relentless movie-making machinery will grind into motion.
The first stage of this process is that every bozo with a budget in Film City, USA will think he can reproduce the elements that made the original the success it was. Within months, a flood of dismal, copycat movies will be jostling for space on screens around the world. Then, the makers of the film that started it all will begin work on a sequel – if only to show the rip-off merchants how it should be done.
Which is exactly what happened with Raiders of the Lost Ark.
In rapid succession, film-goers were forced to suffer High Road to China (ironically starring George Lucas’ first choice for Indiana Jones, Tom Selleck), Invaders of the Lost Gold (actually just an Italian horror movie Horror Safari opportunistically retitled), Hunters of the Golden Cobra, a kind of spaghetti Raiders starring ex-model David Warbeck and directed by Italian hack-meister Antonio Marghereti, and Treasure of the Four Crowns, another cheesey Italian effort, this time in 3D. Then, in early 1983, the American screen trade paper Variety announced that work had begun on the follow-up to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF ... WHAT?‘Steven Spielberg is helming Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on location in Sri Lanka (with lensing in Hong Kong and London’s Elstree Studios to follow) for Lucasfilm Ltd and Paramount, with Harrison Ford reprising his title role characterisation first seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Douglas Slocombe back as cinematographer, Kate Capshaw, who had roles in A Little Sex and the current sci-fier Dreamscape is Ford’s new leading lady.’ All of which must have come as something of a surprise to certain American fan magazines which were getting excited about a Raiders sequel called ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death’.
Other than that, information was hard to come by. Not that Ford would have put talking to the press very high on his list of priorities anyway. He had married Melissa Mathison on March 14, 1983, a short time after obtaining his final divorce from Mary and mere weeks before beginning work on Temple of Doom.
What was known was that Lawrence Kasdan, busy with directing his latest film, The Big Chill, had passed on the scripting chores. Lucas had turned to his old friends Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, who had worked wonders with Lucas’ original draft of American Graffiti.
George Lucas himself had hinted at the contents of further Indiana Jones films around the time Raiders was released and confessed that Indy was his personal favourite of the characters he had created. ‘If I could be a dream figure, I’d be Indy,’ He told American magazine Rolling Stone. ‘It’s not just that I’m interested in archeology or anthropology; a lot of that got into Star Wars too. It’s just that Indy can do anything. He’s a lot of Thirties heroes put together. He’s this renegade archeologist and adventurer, but he’s also a college professor, and he’s got this Cary Grant side, too. In some stories, we’ll see him in top hat and tails. We don’t want to make him Superman – he’s just open to all possibilities. Raiders will be the most action oriented of the Indiana Jones movies – the others should deal more with the Occult.’
|OK, maybe not top hat and tails, but definitely another side to |
Indiana Jones ... kind of a "Bogart in Casablanca" look
Lucas had no problems convincing director Steven Spielberg to re-sign on the dotted line. ‘I’d hate to let it slip through my fingers into some one else’s hands,’ said Spielberg. ‘I’ll certainly not be involved in the third or the fourth one, but I really want to do the follow-up, because the story is even more spectacular than Raiders.’
|Coincidence? I think not ...|
Pleased as he was, Ford was a little disturbed to hear from Starburst’s Tony Crawley that there were a total of five Indiana Jones films on the Lucasfilm launching pad, in varying stages of development. After completing filming on Return of the Jedi, the actor said, ‘Actually, I’m only committed to one film at the moment. That’s another Indiana Jones film. I had hoped to have a year off between the end of Jedi and the beginning of the next Indy film. Five (Indiana Jones films) is okay with me. I mean I really enjoy working on them. And I really enjoy the character very much. And certainly I couldn’t hope for better company than Lucas and Spielberg. But having done one, I don’t think I’d do four more of anything. They must be talking to Roger Moore ... one at a time for me!’
THE WRITE STUFFThough they were newcomers to the Indiana Jones series, script-writers Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz were no strangers to Lucasfilm Ltd. They had written the screenplay for Lucas’ first big hit, American Graffiti, succeeding in producing a workable script where others, including Lucas, had failed.
Huyck and Katz, a husband and wife team, had met at University in California, worked together at Francis Coppola’s studio where they first encountered Lucas and went on to write Graffiti (1973), Lucky Lady (1975) and French Postcards (1979).
The writers were first contacted about writing Temple of Doom in February, 1982. ‘We flew up to George’s house with Steven Spielberg and spent four days there,’ said Huyck. ‘In the first hour, George told us what he had in mind. Essentially, the story started in Shanghai and had Indy get into a situation in which his plane crashes. Then he’s asked by villagers to recover a sacred stone. That’s the basic outline we were given and we started building from there.’
The events in Temple of Doom take place a year before those in Raiders. Consequently, the new script called for a completely new cast of supporting characters, notably Short Round, Indy’s child companion and ‘bodyguard’ and Willie Scott, a nightclub singer.
‘We sat around trying to come up with names for the new characters,’ explains Huyck, ‘and we said that since George named Indiana Jones after his dog, Steven Spielberg and us should be able to name the characters after our dogs. So Steve named Willie after his dog and we named Short Round after ours. But our dog is named after a Korean child in the Sam Fuller movie The Steel Helmet (1951).’
‘Short Round really came out of the notion that George wanted a child in the movie,’ adds Katz. ‘He wanted a girl, but we didn’t like that idea too much, and Steve didn’t feel comfortable with it, either. So we thought of the idea of Short Round and then of his character. How he participated in the script developed out of the story conferences.’
The script went through three full drafts on its way to completion, with pauses for less major rewrites along the way. The first draft took Huyck and Katz six weeks, ‘because we wanted to get something we could talk about immediately,’ says Huyck. The second draft took another six weeks, with the third draft being completed in a breakneck four weeks of work. From there, the writers were called away to attend to their next project, Best Defense, though throughout the period of shooting on Temple of Doom, they were continually called upon by Steven Spielberg for polishing on the final draft.
FINE TUNINGWith the script out of the way, the production crew could turn their attention to the casting of both the supporting actors and the locations. In the September of 1982, the ‘line’ producer of Temple of Doom, Robert Watts, set off for Asia with the movie’s production designer, Elliot Scott.
‘First we went to Hong Kong,’ said Watts, ‘looking for locations for the Chinese sequence. Hong Kong was too modern and we had to rule it out. From there we went to Macao, which hasn’t been developed as much as Hong Kong, and we found locations that would do for Shanghai. Then we went to India, where the bulk of the movie is supposed to take place, and we found most of the locations we wanted. The only problem was that they were miles apart.
‘Carrying on to Sri Lanka, we found, to our surprise, that we could get almost everything we wanted in the environs of one town, Kandy, with the exception of the Maharajah’s Palace.’
It was decided to base the production location at Kandy with only three days set aside for filming the Palace sequences on mainland India. Then Watts ran into hurdles. The Indian Government has rigid policies concerning the making of movies within its borders. A number of changes to the script were asked for. Too many for Lucasfilms’ liking.
‘George Lucas had very clear ideas on how the film should be,’ said Watts. ‘It is an adventure and the things that happen couldn’t possibly happen in real life. But the film, if it is to work, has to have the look and feel of reality. We were prepared to go so far to meet the Indian Authorities’ demands, but to have gone the whole way would have robbed the film of that element. In the end we decided it wasn’t worth it, least of all for three days shooting, and we closed our Bombay office.’
To get around the problem of being denied the necessary location, the filmmakers decided to build the Palace on the backlot at Elstree Studios and use matte paintings – a special effects technique to incorporate realistic artwork into live action footage – for the long shots.
Watts’ next objective was to take care of casting the actors. ‘The film has a very small cast,’ said Watts, ‘though this is not always apparent because there are always lots of people on the screen. In fact, I would say that it is possibly the smallest and most difficult casting I’ve ever worked on.’
That Harrison Ford would appear as Indy was never in dispute. But finding the right actor to portray Short Round caused all concerned headaches.
‘We had open casting calls in New York, Vancouver, London – anywhere with a substantial Chinese community,’ explained Watts, ‘and out of hundreds of boys there was only one who was really suitable.’
Ke Huy Quan was discovered during casting sessions in Los Angeles. A Vietnamese refugee, his English was good, but not so polished as to sound like a native American.
|Ford with supporting cast members Ke Huy Quan and Kate Capshaw.|
For the key role of villain Mola Ram, Indian star Amrish Puri was cast. ‘The only trouble was,’ said Watts, ‘that being such a popular actor in India, he was working on eighteen films at once. Scheduling him was a nightmare!’
|Top Bollywood star Amrish Puri was cast as as the |
dastardly villain Mola Ram.
The casting of Kate Capshaw for the part of Willie Scott was a lot more straightforward. Capshaw had been introduced to the character of Indiana Jones when she was dragged, under protest, to see Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981. ‘I went, very petulent and sulky,’ admitted Capshaw, ‘and stayed that way for about two minutes! When I came out, I would have been a great advertisement for going to see that movie.’
|Kate Capshaw got to perform a spectacular cabaret routine |
in the opening sequence of Temple of Doom.
A couple of years later, Kate Capshaw’s agent just happened to be out jogging with one of the casting directors on Temple of Doom ... and the rest is history. ‘Every director has a gut feeling for who a character is, what their special qualities are. They don’t know who has “got it”, but they’ll know it when they see it. Steven felt I had it when he met me.’
With Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom the plan was to set it apart from Raiders, with Indy himself as the only linking factor. This was underlined in the filmmakers’ approach to the character of Willie Scott. Kate Capshaw was at pains to make Willie as different from Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood as she could. Where Marion was tom-boyish, Willie was feminine, Where Marion was tough and capable – up to a point – Willie was nervous and flappable.
‘Willie has led this pampered life,’ explained Capshaw, ‘and feels that’s what’s due to her – to be cared for and looked after. She meets Indiana Jones, a person unlike anyone she has ever been involved with, and ends up going off with him. In the course of their adventures, all of her earlier life is stripped away from her and Willie must fall back on her own resources. She discovers that she is a strong woman and a very gutsy lady.’
The screen writers Huyck and Katz don’t necessarily share Capshaw’s vision of Willie. Their intention was to depict Willie as an ordinary person caught up in extraordinary situations, whose first reaction to the assorted plights she finds herself in is to crack up, not an attribute that Huyck particularly admired; ‘I never really cared for the character very much in the first place,’ he said. ‘But we felt that she was reacting realistically to the kind of things Indiana Jones goes through ... the kind of situations where, since she’s not so tough – as few people would be in those situations – she’d scream.’
|Kate Capshaw spent most of the movie squealing and complaining,|
which didn't endear the character to fans ...
I thought that this take on the film’s female lead was its biggest liability. Willie did little more than scream throughout the whole picture, and ended up as little more than a typical ‘damsel in distress’, but that kind of talk tends to upset Gloria Katz.
‘People have very mixed feelings about Willie,’ said Katz. ‘I’m a little offended by the idea of a macho woman. I think that’s a woman as conceived by men. I don’t think that’s a woman that necessarily, realistically exists. When you’re covered in insects, your instinct is to scream! So I think Willie represents the audience’s realistic point of view, what they would be like if they were thrown out into the jungle. True, it’s not a brave, strong woman but it’s a different kind of woman and, I think, a more realistic one.’