Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Indiana Jones Story Conference

The year is 1978. Lucas has already released the biggest film in the history of movies: Star Wars. Spielberg has just released Jaws and then Close Encounters of the Third Kind. These two Hollywood giants meet at Jane Bay's (Lucas' secretary's) home, accompanied by Lawrence Kasdan who is invited by Spielberg who really likes his Continental Divide script.

The three movie titans sit in a room for 5 consecutive, 9-hour days and discuss the story for a little film called Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The transcription for this very story conference between Spielberg, Lucas and Kasdan is very, very interesting. It is really long and has some missing pages, but I recommend reading it in its entirety, as I have done.

The conference consists of Lucas talking the most, who has the basic story already figured out. Lucas just lays down the groundwork and gets feedback from Spielberg and Kasdan, who also expand and add on to his existing story about a heroic archaeologist.

The conference is very funny at times, especially when Kasdan's ideas constantly get shut down by the somewhat bossy Lucas, and when Spielberg just spurts out incredibly random bits of information like "Monkeys bite" and "Maybe the arch-villian is smart enough to speak German, but they're not smart enough to speak French". I also find it amusing that at one point, Spielberg says "What we're doing here, really, is designing a ride at Disneyland." And, as you, know, there is an Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland today!

The conference ranges from naming the character to possible actors to portray him, from the first thought of a huge boulder to thinking about whips and snakes.

Below are my favorite parts of the transcribed story conference for the first Indiana Jones, or, as I recommend, you can download the entire transcribed conference as a PDF here. (G stands for George Lucas, S for Spielberg, K for Kasdan.) Here are my favorite tidbits, which don't even scrape the surface of the full meeting:

"It's a spaghetti western, only it takes place in the thirties"

G: One of the main ideas was to have, depending on whether it would be every ten minutes or every twenty minutes, a sort of a cliffhanger situation that we get our hero into. If it's every ten minutes we do it twelve times. I think that may be a little much. Six times is plenty.

S: And each cliffhanger is better than the one before.

G: That is the progression we have to do. It's hard to come up with. The trouble with cliff hangers is, you get somebody into something, you sort have to get them out in a plausible way. A believable way, anyway. That's another important concept of the movie, that it be totally believable. It's a spaghetti western, only it takes place in the thirties. Or it's James Bond and it takes place in the thirties. Except James Bond tends to get a little outrageous at times. We're going to take the unrealistic side of it off, and make it more like the Clint Eastwood westerns. The thing with this is, we want to make a very believable character. We want him to be extremely good at what he does, as is the Clint Eastwood character or the James Bond character. James Bond and the man with no name were very good at what they did. They were very, fast with a gun, they were very slick, they were very professional. They were Supermen.

The Whip and Costume

G: Now, several aspects that we've discussed before: The image of him which is the strongest image is the "Treasure Of Sierra Madre" outfit, which is the khaki pants, he's got the leather jacket, that sort of felt hat, and the pistol and holster with a World War One sort of flap over it. He's going into the jungle carrying his gun. The other thing we've added to him, which may be fun, is a bull whip. That's really his trade mark. That's really what he's good at. He has a pistol, and he's probably very good at that, but at the same time he happens to be very good with a bull whip. It's really more of a hobby than anything else. Maybe he came from Montana, someplace, and he... There are freaks who love bull whips. They just do it all the time. It's a device that hasn't been used in a long time.

S: You can knock somebody's belt off and the guys pants fall down.

G: You can swing over things, you can...there are so many things you can do with it. I thought he carried it rolled up. It's like a Samurai sword. He carries it back there and you don't even notice it. That way it's not in the way or anything. It's just there whenever he wants it.

S: At some point in the movie he must use it to get a girl back who's walking out of the room. Wrap her up and she twirls as he pulls her back. She spins into his arms. You have to use it for more things than just saving himself.

G: We'll have to work that part out. In a way it's important that it be a dangerous weapon. It looks sort of like a snake that's coiled up behind him, and any time it strikes it's a real threat.

On Vulnerability and Brains

L: It seems like it would be nice if, once stripped of his bullwhip, left him weak, if we had to worry. Just a little worried about him being too . . .

G: That was what I thought. That's why I was sort of iffy about throwing it in. If we don't make him vulnerable.

S: What's he afraid of? He's got to be afraid of something.

G: If we don't make him vulnerable, he's got no problems. We'll shut that idea for now.

The other thing, which is like the Kung-Fu and the ghost thing, which given the plot and the way it's working, there's not really time to cope with it in an interesting way. It's a nice aspect of this thing, might be able to deal with it, might not. It's not really that important. It's the same thing with the Kung-Fu. We might be stacking too much into his character that is not necessary. Just the fact that he's good with a bullwhip is going to be fun enough. You could fill a script. In one way it's better to keep it clean.

S: As long as he has brains. He should be able to talk his way out of things.

L: I think that would be his first choice.

G: Right.

He Should be a Doctor

L: Is it necessary that he really be trained?

G: It's not absolutely necessary. I just thought it would be amusing if people could call him a doctor.

S: I like that. The doctor with the bullwhip.

First Disneyland Reference!

S: When the spikes come out and go like that, there should be remains, skeletal remains skewered on some of them, of victims that have been there before. It's kind of like one of those rides at Disneyland

The Opening Sequence

S: This is the first scene in the movie. This scene should get at least four major screams. The audience won't trust anyone after that. They won't trust the film.

G: There's also the thing you can do which is your famous "Jaws", or what I call the hand on the shoulder trick, which is not only skeletons, but we can have skeletons that aren't that old, they just have drawn skin all over them, that are lurking in the shadows.

S: Falling into their arms. A skeleton comes out of the cobwebs, and just embraces the guy. The guy eases him to the ground.

G: At the more tense moments in that whole thing. We'll work on that more specifically. Anyway, he goes through a series of really spooky scary things.

S: What we're just doing here, really, is designing a ride at Disneyland.

G: They get into the main throne room and this guy can either be with him or not. Or we've killed him off. There's a temple figure, idol, whatever. I thought at one time it would be just a little teeny idol, rather than this giant thing. Voodoo, whatever. If the idol is really small, it's spookier. Like one of those voodoo dolls where you're saying this must have some sort of very strange... So you can almost believe the curse on the thing. We'd had a thing where there was an eye and he tried to pry the eye out and it set off... He had to get the eye out without doing... It's the same thing with the little figure. There's this little figure sitting on a pedestal, or in a niche. First of all, when he gets in the room, it's semi-lit from above. It's got sort of a sky light. The center of the thing is this sort of shaft that runs all the way down so there's sunlight.

The Infamous Boulder

S: You know what it could be. I have a great idea. He hears the sand... When he goes into the cave, it's not straight. The whole thing is on an incline on the way in. He hears this, grabs the thing, comes to a corridor. There is a sixty-five foot boulder that's form-fitted to only roll down the corridor coming right at him. And it's a race. He gets to outrun the boulder. It then comes to rest and blocks the entrance of the cave. Nobody will ever come in again. This boulder is the size of a house.

G: It mashes the partner.

S: Right. The guy can't run fast enough.

"One sentence further and it's a great idea"

S: One thing you should do: He's on this airplane. There are about four or five passengers around him. He's asleep and these passengers are looking at him. We don't know why. They they all get up and put on parachutes, and they jump out the door. He wakes up when he hears the door open, and realizes he's all alone. The door to the cockpit is locked. The airplane begins to go into a spin. He's trapped in this airplane and it's going down. The whole thing was a set up. That's a great cliffhanger, to see how he gets out.

G: That's great. Then what happens? One sentence further and it's a great idea.

S: Well, he's never flown an airplane before, but he kicks in the pilot's door. That would be interesting, he's never flown before, but he brings it down. The other thing would be if he knows how to fly, but he's too late. It's one of those jungle scenes, you've seen where the plane crashes into this dinosaur infested jungle, only now without dinosaurs. He has to bring it down over the tree tops. Either that or he crashes into the Mediterranean, into the water.

G: Part of it is stylistic, but one of the things that works in movies is when the guy gets out of that situation in a unique very bravado sort of way. He has to do something so audacious that you have to say, "I'd never think of anything like that." And he gets away with it.

S: One of the things he could try, although it takes away from the suspense... If I were him, I'd jump at the last minute with a parachute.

G: The way to do it is to have him... You have seat covers or something. He starts ripping off the seat covers and tying them together. Then he jumps out holding all these seat covers. That's sort of unbelievable. If you could make something like that believable. He's over the water. It's James Bond. Not only do you have to get him out of it, you have to do it in a very colorful way. I'm not saying that you actually have to be clever, just make it believable. Sometimes he does it in a totally outrageous way, but it works and it's truly great.

S: One thing he can do is wait until it's almost crashed into the ground and then jump out and land in a tree, or on a roof top.


L: He could land in the snow. One thing about landing in the water that bothers me is that we end up in the water on the sub.

G: Actually, he could land in the snow.

S: When he hits, the raft comes open and he has a toboggan ride.

G: It's even better, because when he thinks of the raft over, well that's why he thought of it. But if he thinks of it over snow, that's even more clever. And snow is soft.

S: If the plane gets to crash in the mountains, there would be a huge explosion that we wouldn't have in the water. The plane is going into a box canyon and the guy has to jump. On top of a mountain he jumps out. The plane hits the mountain and there's a big fire ball. The pieces go everywhere. He's on the raft holding onto the ropes, coming down the mountain. And for comic relief he should go right through some sort of village, with a fiesta or something happening, with llamas. He knocks a llama over.

L: There could be a ceremony with monks... (garbled) They're all looking up.

G: It can be amusing, but at the same time it has to be very realistic. It has to be what would really happen. You have to believe that someone could live through it like that. We have to concentrate on keeping it clean and not go through unnecessary explanations. The fun part of that flight is that it comes out of nowhere. You just don't expect it. It's great if it's the second flight in the movie. We'll cut to him flying various places. We want to get all that great period stuff. We have all these flights, and then suddenly you cut inside to all this craziness going on. I think he should go to Shang Hai to find this guy, his enemy. We get a little more information about the enemy. Also, maybe he gets a piece of the puzzle that sends him to the Himalayas.

All About Marion Ravenwood

L: Exactly how do you see this puzzle?

G: I see it as a tablet, a piece of stone with a map. It's not really a map. It's a description of the site. It's like a plan of the city. It was drawn at that time. And it has hieroglyphics on it telling the legend. It's an architects drawing that was done in stone, and it shows the placement of various temples, and of the Ark. The tablet was found out in the desert where the Germans are. it has to be the lost city of something.

L: Does it lead you to the Ark?

G: It shouldn't be something that shows you where the Ark is. It shows you where a certain temple is. If you find this city, and you have the map that shows you where this temple is, then you can find the Ark. Otherwise you have to dig up the whole city. The Germans have found the lost city. And they have two-thirds of the map, which maybe they found when they were digging. Other portions of this map have been found before, antiquities in various museums and other places

L: Let's say her father is there. Her father may have been his mentor. He has been working on some unrelated project. But it was her father who discovered the first fragment of the map. She has it. Her father dies. That's why he's going to Nepal, to get it from her. That's why they know each other. That's why she's reluctant to part with it. Does any of this sound possible?

G: Sounds possible.

L: So they have a previous relationship through her father.

G: The other thing we can do, twisting what you've just done with what we've already got... My immediate reaction is to shy away from the professor's daughter goes along. But what if we do it, and since her father dies, he left her broke. He was an archeologist and he left her so broke she didn't have any money to get back. So she's stuck there. She runs the bar. She's the local Rick. Sort of the American Rick. She's sort of goofy...

S: Earning money to get back to the states.

G: Yeah. She wants to get back. She's sort of made it her hone. She started out maybe singing or being a call girl or whatever. Eventually she bought out the guy who ran the place, or he died. Now she's got this little tavern, and she's doing sort of well. She could only sell the place for as much money as it would take to get her back to the states, and then she would be stuck there with nothing, no job. What she'd like to do is really strike it rich. But she doesn't see any way of doing that. She's sort of a goofy tough, willing to take care of herself, mercenary type lady who's really out for herself. She has this piece and he wants it, so what she does is cut herself in on it. "Look, you're going to have to take me along with you." "What do you mean?" "Partners. I have one piece. You have the other." That old story. It's kind of the thing where she wants to go back to the states in style or something. She doesn't want to get on a tramp steamer and make her way back, which she could have done a while ago. She really wants to go back as a lady. This is her chance. She says she'll sell it to him.

L: This is in Cairo.

G: No. This is in Nepal. She's stuck there.

L: Who are her customers at this Rick's Place in Nepal?


S: I like the idea that she's a heavy drinker and our hero doesn't drink at all. She gets drunk a lot. She's beautiful and she gets really sexy when she's drunk, and silly. And he doesn't touch the stuff.

L: I don't want to soften her. I like the fact that it's greed. I like all the hard stuff, but you're going to love here.

G: This is good, but she obviously gets into something that's way over her head as the whole thing goes along.

L: I wonder if someone hasn't approached her already. The map has heated up considerably in three weeks. They've found the town. Does she have some tip off that this is worth while? When he comes to her, "That's funny. I've had this ten years since my father died. Now in this week two people want it."


G: She's a rough and tumble girl. She says, "It belonged to my father. It's mine." We have to have a good scene there. How we get into that scene is the most important part of it. He jumps out of the plane, he lands, he's all snowy, he looks around, wipe and he's walking into the thing or he's sitting there with the girl. Cut to her saying, "Long time no see." "Yeah, I guess it has been a long time." Or do you cut to him walking into the bar, and he sort of walks up and sits down and she comes up and says . . .

L: I don't want to throw away their first sight of each other.

S: I would like very much if she didn't see him at first, but he witnessed her dealing with a bunch of rowdies. He's on the other side and he watches her in action. He really gets a lot of respect for her. She's really grown up. Then he deals with her.

L: What if we lose him, see her dealing with the rowdies. She clears the place out and then sees him sitting there.

S: She says, "I'm sick of all this." And she almost has a nervous break down in front of everybody. She breaks up a fight and tells them to get out. Everybody leaves except for our guy. She doesn't know who he is because his back is turned. She tries to get rid of him.

G: You have to be careful, no matter what you do, when he turns around it's gonna be "Indy."

S: He turns around smiling. He planned it for the dramatic effect.

G: It has to be careful. I like the idea of cutting to her and seeing her in action, tough. She should be Rick, in control of the situation. This is the normal thing for her. She shouldn't be hectic or frantic.

L: And I like him to witness this. And she doesn't know he's observing.

G: When they meet there should be some kind of a good scene between them. He should say, "Where's your father?" "He died five years ago. I sent you a note. We had to bury him up here." It's like she's really rubbing it in. Maybe she didn't send him a note. Her feeling when he walks in is here is a guy she loved. He left her. She's stuck up here in the middle of nowhere. All of a sudden out of the blue. he shows up, in the middle of Nepal. Her first reaction would be, "My God, what are you doing here?" Or it could be total sullen... She could still be burning over the thing and the fact that he... Maybe she did send him a note when her father died and he never got it.

S: I like the idea that she greets him with disdain when he first walks in.

G: The fact that she sent him a note when her father died five years ago, and she was hoping that he would come and comfort her... He didn't even acknowledge the note.

S: She says, "You're too late."

G: He says he's been traveling around.

L: I wonder if her first reaction isn't to hit him. Something unusual, not just a slap. First sight, register who it is, wham.

S: "Still with that right cross I taught you."

G: "Hey, Junie, long time no see." Wham.

S: And she says, "Get out."

G: They should refer to the death of the father. The idea is that he's there to find her father, his old mentor. He's not there to find her at all. The father had the other part and he thinks he might be able to help him.

S: She should have hair like Veronica Lake. You only see one eye at a time.

G: When he asks her for it she could be all pissed off about that stuff, because that's what got her there. She loved her father, but she puts on this act. It would be interesting if she were putting on an act, "I threw all that junk out when he died. It ruined his life and it ruined my life. I never kept any of that junk. He was a fool." He says he wanted to buy it. She starts pumping him for money or something, telling him she sold it to an agent and I can tell you who the agent is if you cut me in. That may be later. She says no. Or maybe she says she sold all the junk to an antiquity dealer. She tells him where the junk is. He says thanks. "Was that all you wanted?" "That's all I wanted." She says, "Well, why don't you come back and see me later." Some kind of thing where he has to come back. Maybe it should be on a personal level. Maybe they become friends. He leaves and then we cut to... She reveals that she's got it. Instantly you say she's got it, but she's not going to give it to him.


L: I love the idea of fire. When it rolls across the floor could it roll into the fire. You don't think it's going to burn up, but he has to retrieve it. Maybe at the same moment he uses the fire as a weapon. I'd love it if he burns down her only stake in the world, which is the inn.

S: That's a good idea.

L: The pendant might lead him to the fire. He uses the fire.

G: The Nazis would do that. Let's have the Nazis cause the fire. He's the one who brought the Nazis there, so it's all his fault anyway. I like the idea of doing the old branding iron scene before bursts in.

S: I love branding iron stuff. It's a red hot poker.

G: That's what starts the poker. It starts immediately on the fight. When he comes in he knocks the poker out of their hands. The poker goes into the curtains and immediately starts the fire. They fight. The box gets knocked off the table. One of the Nazis sees the pendant as it falls, and starts to go foor it. He gets hit in the head by a falling beam or something. When it's all over they end up with the pendant and a pile of rubble. She says, "You're going to be a long time paying for this." The he feels sort of obligated to bring her along, since he does feel sort of guilty. She has to sort of insist. That's why it's important in the first scene that we understand she's a tough broad. She doesn't give a shit about going out and roughing it up a bit. But she has no idea what they're in for. She wants to get out of there, and she still loves that guy.

Naming Indiana

L: Do you have a name for this person?

G: I do for our leader.

S: I hate this, but go ahead.

G: Indiana Smith. It has to be unique. It's a character. Very Americana square. He was born in Indiana.

L: What does she call him, Indy?

G: That's what I was thinking. Or Jones. Then people can call him Jones. He crashes into the snow, then dissolve to him with his crutch or something making hiw way down into a village. There is a little scene where he gets transportation. Where he lands is not next door to the village. We might have a lot of suspicious looking Himalayans standing around that you might think are spies. One guy rushes to a telegraph office. Create a little bit of tension. It's really a scene where we have him rent a car or something and drive to the next village. I don't think the trek is good getting out of the mountains, 'cause they have a tendency to be boring. It should be getting to where the girl is. Again we're just talking about a few shots because we don't want to spend a lot of time in between things. We go to him trying to get a car, then dissolve to him driving into the town, getting out, looking around. We have established tha fact that he's going to Nepal or someplace. It's not like he was going to Cairo and ended up in Nepal.

The Staff and the Map

S: Also, the interior of the hole has to be beveled in such a way that the sun only pierces it at a certain time.

G: I was thinking that the Germans would be doing it mathematically and building models more or less reproducing what our guy has. They don't have some of the key information, so they're doing it in sort of rough. They figure it out and it points to a building on the map. When he comes they're in the process of digging at that building. In the process of the film we get the information that they've found it. But they haven't.

S: They're digging the wrong building.

G: The reason is that the sun has changed so drastically in the three thousand years or whatever, that they didn't take that calculation into... If they were all bright people they would have thought of it. But they're dumb. The Nazis and his partner weren't that well-versed in astronomy and he was. He knew that the asmath was wrong, and he moves the thing over. You see him digging in one spot while they're digging in another. Sort of one-upsmanship, where our guy is brighter than they are.


S: Any way you look at it, the whole inside of the staff has to be cut in such a way that only at a certain time of day, and only for the distance of the hole, would the sun show the exact spot where the Ark is hidden. Yes, if they had a spotlight they could shine it, and that would the most expedient way to do it. Otherwise they would have to wait for the sun. It's more dramatic to see the sun rising, and he's waiting around looking at this little figure, and the sun hits it and he marks- the spot. We could rationalize it by saying that in that day they didn't have spotlight units, which they didn't unless you went to Hollywood.

G: The thing about sunrise and sunset that I like is that it gives you such a precise thing. When you say noon, it's very hard to tell when noon unless you have a clock. But sunrise and sunset is when1 the sun is halfway over the horizon and it will always line up that way, for eternity, except for the earth shifting, and you fix that with precise calculations. Also, the time of the year has a big effect. That would be another part of the calculation they would all have to go into. I thought we would relate the date to the summer solstice or the rites of spring or some particular date, the Ides of March or however you want to do it. What they would do is not be there on the particular date, but they know where the sun would be, so they move it sixteen degrees east and that's where it is.

S: This can't take much time or the audience will go right to sleep. It has to be quickly explained and accomplished.

Indy is a Role Model

G: But he still has to have some moral scruples. He has to be a person we can look up to. We're doing a role model for little kids, so we have to be careful. We need someone who's honest, trusting and true. But at the same time he's confronted with this difficult problem. We have a great thing when she won't give it to him. She doesn't like him.

On Subtitles and Languages
(With Spielberg's Hilariously Random Comments)

S: He's a Walter Huston Arab type.

G: And he has a young son who's our tag-along.

S: Never stops talking.

G: The crazy little Arab kid that's really a pickpocket. The old man is poor but very well connected. He's the one who gets him the boat and the tools and the information. Plus, he probably knows a lot about what the Germans are doing. He's like the chief digger in the area. Obviously the Germans have hired all these diggers, so he knows what's going on out there, because they keep telling him every day. He gets updates on the situation.

L: How do you guys feel about subtitles?

S: I don't like them.

G: I don't either. I think it is better if we don't understand what they're saying.

S: I like hearing English with a German accent.

G: It depends on how you work it, but I like hearing people speak in their native tongue, except for people who have a right to speak in a different tongue. You don't have to talk to the people who speak in a funny otngue. Only the lead characters speak broken English, everybody else speaks what they speak.

L: What about when Indiana assumes German, should we know what he's saying?

S: When does he assume German?

G: When he's carrying the Ark to the truck. I don't know that it's important we know what he's saying. There's more tension if you don't knwo what's going on.

L: Let's say the arch-villian is French. When he's speaking to this German...

G: Maybe they could speak English.

S: Maybe the arch-villian is smart enough to speak German, but they're not smart enough to speak French.

L: I'll write the entire movie in English.

The $1 Million Camel Chase

S: I love it. It's a great idea. There's never been a camel chase before.

L: Is this camel going to chase a car?

S: You know how fast a camel can run? Not only that, he can jump over vegetable carts and things. It could be a funny chase that ends in tragedy. You're laughing your head off and suddenly. "My God, she's dead."


S: When do we have the big fight with the flying wing?

G: That's once he gets into the camp. It's a secret landing strip, too. It's what they were going to use to fly the ark back to Germany.

S: We still have the big fight in the moving truck to do. And now we have a camel chase.

G: We've added another million dollars.

S: Not really. How much trouble can a camel be.

G: It will be funny. It's also great because the camel is so outmatched with the car. Once he gets out of town you realize the car is going to outrun him, so he veers off. It has a whole lot of twists in it.

Spielberg says, "Monkeys Bite"

G: A monkey is a perfect thing.

S: What animal don't people like?

G: A rat.

S: A pet rat.

G: It doesn't have to be a pet.

L: He's looking the other way, the rat comes up.

S: That's a pretty brave rat.

G: It wouldn't come on the table.


L: The minute they hit Cairo we can assume they're being followed. Maybe this Arab operative is the one who has the monkey. It's a villian monkey. The Arab can make him do things, and he sends him in there to steal the piece.

G: They arrive at the airport or whatever.

L: We don't see them at the airport.

G: So we cut from the Himalayas to Cairo, busy streets. We see them walking down the street. We realize they're being followed. The guy is carrying a cage or a little box. And this can be like two or three shots. They stop for a second. She stops to look at something. He's irritated and wants to keep moving. The guy opens up the little cage and he pets the little monkey and sends him off. The little monkey goes to the girl or to the guy and makes friends, and tags along. They get to the house and the monkey comes in. They can't get rid of this monkey. The girl says she loves the monkey. The guy says to get rid of it. The monkey is making faces and doing cute things. You establish the monkey. Oh the street they're going to the friends house and the monkey is riding on the guys shoulder or something. It goes on the camel chase and everything. Then you go back to the friend's house for this little respite scene and they write something down. Or they do it in the first scene. The monkey looks around as they write something down. The monkey picks up the piece of paper and goes out and gives it to a guy outside and then comes back. He's like a little spy. It has to happen real quick because it's very short until the time we want to kill him. He kill the monkey spy.

S: Can it wear a turban? It should be dressed up.

G: Yes. In these three scenes, because the fourth scene is where he dies, we have to establish that he's spying on them.

S: What is the monkey trying to get?

G: Information, pieces of paper and things.

L: Before we kill this monkey, I want to really make him a villian. What if he is along when they're headed out to the friends. The ambush takes place and as Indy is fighting them off, the girl jumps into a basket to hide and the monkey leads the Arabs to the girl. That's how they get her.

G: That's good.

S: Also, there's this sleeping cat that the monkey knocks in the face. Something you really hate the monkey for.

G: That can be over the dinner table. I like the cat coming up and starting to eat the food and the monkey whacks it and takes the food away from it.

L: He charms his way into their confidence.

S: The monkey should be dressed up as a little Arab.

G: I like the idea of not only having a turban, but also a little backpack. When he's in the thing, he's sort of picking up letters, any mail, scraps of paper, wads it up and puts it in his pack. We give him a chance in one of these scenes... He follows them down the street.

L: He doesn't have to follow them, they take him with them. He climbs on and they can't get him off. When she's taken away, he could just go back to his master. Then when Indy is with the friend, he could appear again. Indy is not going to suspect the monkey.

G: When they get ambushed on the way to the house, we have to have that short scene when the monkey takes all the stuff out of his pack and gives it to the guy. What if we do that before. I don't want to have a big scene where they say they're going to leave. We should do these in cuts. They're walking down the street, the monkey is on his shoulder. Suddenly the monkey jumps off and runs away. She yells for him to come back. He says good riddance. Then you follow him and takes all his stuff out and gives it to some guy.

L: The same guy who dropped him off.

G: And then you follow that guy and he sort of signals to somebody and then they attack. In the middle of the fight the monkey sort of appears again. When she hides the monkey runs over to the thing and points her out. He gets on the camel. You cut back to the home and he's back there lamenting, and the monkey comes back in.

S: (garbled, something about the monkey going "Heil Hitler.")

G: That's up to you and the trainer, and the monkey.

L: The monkey could come back in the quiet scene and put his arm around him.

G: You might even want to play it where he thinks the monkey ran when the bad guys came. Back at the house when the monkey comes in the window. "At least you came back." At the next scene with the old friend the monkey is there. The monkey beats up the cat. We break this into three parts: the first scene is with the family, the second is at the digs wherever this old friend is working, or the house. You go into one of these nice Arabian houses, with servants and everything. I like the idea of them catching this servant. The servant brings in the food, then goes out. There's a scuffle outside, a fight, and our guy goes out. They think he's there to spy or something. You don't know there's poison. It should happen before they put the thing together and discover the mistake. It's important that it be very clear that whoever the spy is, the poisoner, has no idea that they are making that discovery. The other thing is, possibly when they're writing stuff down we could still have the monkey taking somethig, being a thief in that scene too. It would be interesting if Indy caught the guy or the other servants caught the guy. Something where he's sort of found out afterwards. I don't know how important that is. We have to see him do the poison. We cut from the digs when he says, "Come on over and have some dinner." Cut to the servant putting the powder on the stuff and bringing it into them.

L: I don't know why it concerns you that he get caught. Let's say he puts in the poison and then take off. He wouldn't hang around there. He's not a listening spy, he's a poisoning spy. He takes off, they continue their conversation, the monkey eats the food and drops deas.

G: It would be more plausible if the guy... You cut to them going into the house, and they're being followed. When they go in the house you follow the bad guy. He goes into the back, into the kitchen. He poisons the food without the servants knowing it. The regular servant brings the food in. If it's a strange servant, the guy would know. Nobody would know there's poison. Even the monkey wouldn't know.

L: The monkey comes with Indy?

G: Right. You're going to have the monkey in four or five scenes.

S: Monkeys bite.

L: The monkey drops dead and then they get to the staff.

S: What does this scene accomplish between the two of them?

G: Plotwise, they're discovering the major difference between the new and the old. We get a little bit of old friendship, a little bit of character stuff about them. Plus we have the tension of the poison going on through the whole thing.

G: I was thinking they bring in the couscous and stuff, and they put a plate of olives there.

L: Would the guy put the poison just on the olives?

G: That's all he could get to. That's the only thing he could find in the kitchen. Maybe it's an oil he pours on the olives. The olives are sitting there, and they're eating, and maybe a guy reaches for an olive and drops it. He throws one up and he misses it, it bounces off his forehead. This is is while they're carrying on their exposition conversation, and just beginning to talk about the thing. They haven't really mentioned tha fact that he has the thing. As he grabs for another olive, he sees a shadow on the wall, or something behind the window. He maybe grabs his bullwhip and gets the guy. That's the guy who poisoned the food and is also listening in on them. He has to do away with him. The guy has to be run off or killed. The guy asks what he was after. He was after this thing that I got. We know the guy is nowhere around when they talk about it. That gives them a break to get away from their meal. While they're doing that, the monkey is eating the food. I don't know if he even needs the staff. The guy just takes a string and says this is eighty-nine inches. Then he takes it and puts it in his picket, so when he gets down there he can just take the string off and measure off a stick somewhere, break it off and use it. When they say that's the answer to the thing they realize the Germans must be digging in the wrong place. They turn around and the monkey is dying.

S: I think it would be funny if, as they're talking about this and the olives are between them, you see a hairy little paw is pulling olives off the plate, coming in and out of frame. Finally the paw comes up to grab an olive and begins slipping, like palsy. You use a little mechanical paw. And then you hear a thump.

G: The monkey eats the olives during the exposition. It would be great if the monkey keeled over with the olive in his hand. "I wouldn't eat those olives."

S: As our hero looks over and sees this dead monkey with pits all around him, his friend is tossing one up, and he finally catches one in his mouth. "Hey, I got got one." Our guy hits him on the back and makes him spit it out, saves him at the last minute.

G: Either one can save the other. He flips it up, and as it's going into his mouth, the other guy grabs it. The guy asks him why in the hell he did that. He points to the monkey sprawled out with pits all over him. "Bad olives."

L: One thing that bothere me, the monkey eats just the olives? He can eat other stuff, too.

G: Rather than olives, it could be dates. They would stick to his head instead of bounce off. It's better with olives, an olive would bounce around the room. The good thing about dates is that's something monkeys would be crazy about.


S: Why can't they close him in the temple and lock the door, and he sits down thinking about what he's going to do, because there's no way out, and all of a sudden you hear strange animal sounds. The Germans had put some kind of maneating animal in there to get him, like a couple of lions or tigers. He hears this growling that gets louder and louder, he goes around this corner and you realize a chute put these horrible animals in there, and they're starving. He realizes that however those animals got in. that's the way out. But the animals are trying to get him, and all he has is this bullship, and maybe some clever devices hidden under his clothes. We'll do an animal fight. He works his way to this little chute where the animals came out. Somehow he gets out that way. I don't know how.


G: Suppose he's just in the temple and they lock the door. What if the temple had other doors? He came in from the roof anyway. He can't get toe door open, so what he does is there's like a giant column or something. He starts chipping away at the column, cutting it down like a tree. He finally gets the column so it falls over and crashes through the door, and opens it up. Then he climbs through. I like the idea of him climbing through the underground city. Then he finds an exit. The idea of the Nazis putting tigers in there... You know what it's like to fly in a tiger from South Africa.

S: It would have to be a neighborhood tiger.

G: There aren't any tigers out there.

S: I'm not in love with the idea.

G: You could have bats and stuff, make it slightly spooky.


S: What about snakes? All these snakes come out.

G: People hate snakes. Possibly when he gets down there in the first place.

L: Asps? They're too small.

S: It's like hundreds of thousands of snakes.

G: When he first jumps down in the hole, it's a giant snake pit. It's going to detract from the... This is interesting. It is going to detract from the discovery of the Ark, but that's all right. We can't make a big deal out of the Ark. He opens the thing, and he starts to jump down, and it's full of snakes, thousands of them. He looks down there and sees them. What if they scurry out of the light. Then when he says they're afraid of light, they throw down torches. You have a whole bunch of torches that keep the snakes back. Then he gets the thing, and they take it out. And the guy says, "Now you will die my friend." Clunk. At the clunk three of the remaining four torches go out. So he only has one more torch, and the snakes start coming in. He sits there with one torch, knowing that when the torch goes out... It's the idea of being in a room, in a black room with a lot of snakes. That will really be scary.

S: The snakes are waiting, looking at him. Thousands. And the torches are burning down. He's trying to keep it going. The torch goes out. The whole screen goes black. The sound of the snakes gets more intense. You hear him backing up. The camera pans and suddenly you see, it's black, but there's light coming from several cracks. It's not completely black. That leads him to an opening. To a rock that isn't so flush against the other rocks. He knows there's access. He keeps pushing on it, he gets a little more room.

L: What are the snakes doing?

S: The snakes are coming at him, but the darkness gives him his way out. The clue of the way to go.

G: If he was there with one torch, he'd see that. It's pretty dark. I like the idea of, he's got the last torch, or maybe the last two torches, depending on how long we want to play this out. Say there's thirty-five torches. This will be a nice scene when we go to get the Ark and there's like a landing strip of torches. It's getting very smokey in there. They close the door and almost all of them go out, except for maybe five or six. It's the only thing that's keeping him from the snakes. He looks around and tries to figure a way out. He sort of sees that there-is this door that's locked. Maybe he takes one of the torches and moves over toward this door and bangs on it, can't get it open. There is a big column. What if he takes... During this whole thing torches keep going out every minute or so. Now he only has two torches, so you know he's really getting desperate. He works his way over to this column and he shimmies up. As he goes up, he drops one of the torches, and it bounces down. He only has one left. The snskes are sort of winding their way up the column. Suddenly a bat comes flying out. He drops a torch, or he takes the torch and sort of pushes it behind the column, and snakes slither out. He starts pushing between the wall and the column. Finally the torch goes out, it's just a glow around his face. He's sweating and straining. Shots of snakes slithering toward him. He finally pushes it and the column goes crashing down. We could have a couple of crachs from above. Obviously it's very thick. The column knocks out a portion of the wall next to the door. It would be great if he were left hanging there. It breaks open the door.

S: Now he has to get over to the door.

G: I think we're going to have to leave him with one torch. I don't want to get into a big long thing. He's up there, he has one torch left, he dropped the other one, he's holding it in his teeth and it begins to go out. There are little shafts of light coming through, so it's not pitch black. He knocks the column over. It goes crashing down, knocks open a door in the far side of the temple. He's left hanging up there, about to fall onto the thing of snakes. Maybe one snake slithers across his hand. He pulls himself up on the ridge, or he drops down to another ledge. He gets into a position away from the snakes. He stands there and lights his torch again. He has matches. He didn't do it before because he was in the middle of pushing the column. He gets the torch going again and he starts walking through the temple with the torch. We have to have a torch.

S: I think it should end quickly the minute the column falls and breaks down the door. I think he should ride the column down and get out right away. That's the end of the scene.

L: He has to ride it as it falls.

G: He goes down with the column, does a tumble and runs out. The trouble is, you're going to have him going through those temples without any light.

S: The column falls down, breaks through a wall, and light comes pouring in. It's like salvation.

L: I don't think there should be a door down there. He sees that it's weaker there.

G: Let's just make it a wall. Since he's an archaeologist, he would know how it... (garbled). If it's that dark, you don't need that many snakes. You're using shafts of light, so you can just see the snakes on the edge of the light.

S: The way to do it is like "Squirm." It has more worms than you can imagine. Snakes are ugly when they're all piled up with each other.

L: I wonder what their reaction to light is.

G: You can get a snake charmer or something. I don't know how you'll do that. All you need is a lot of snakes in a very small spot, so it looks like there are a lot of snakes everywhere. You can also do a lot with sound, and close shots of snakes slithering across hands.

S: What's real scary to me is when that rock comes down to seal the temple. The air pressure blows half the torches out. That place is air tight. A visual effect and a sound effect.

G: We shouldn't have any snakes in the opening sequence, just tarantulas. Save the snakes for now.

S: It would be funny if, somewhere early in the movie he somehow implied that he was not afraid of snakes. Later you realize that that is one of his big fears.

G: Maybe it's better if you see early, maybe in the beginning that he's afraid, "Oh God, I hate those snakes." It should be slightly amusing that he hates snakes, and then he opens this up, "I cna't go down in there. Why did there have to be snakes. Anything but snakes." You can play it for comedy. The one thing that could happen is that he gets trapped with all these snakes.


G: The other thing they could do is throw the girl down there with him.

S: In the snake pit?

G: Yes. That would be a natural thing. They don't need her anymore.

S: I've seen that in so many movies, they throw them in to suffer their fate together.

G: But if they throw her in, it would be a great stunt. Say it's like twenty feet down, or further. They just throw her in, and the guy would have to catch her.

S: Love among the snakes.

G: I think it is important that we get the girl back into it.

L: He pushes her up the column ahead of him, or what?

G: This solves a problem. They have two torches left, he has one and she has one. He goes up and his goes out. The snakes are going to get him. He pushes the column over and she still has her torch. The snakes are closing in on her and she's trying to burn them and keep them back, on the other side of the room.

S: All these snakes are coming to get her, and she's holding them back with the torch. All of a sudden the snakes begin to part, like they're afraid of something. They leave a certain area. Here come two king cobras.

L: I like that. And then the column falls on them.

S: And kills the king cobras.

G: You'll never get those snakes to part, and you'll never get two giant snakes to walk in unless you make them all mechanical snakes, and we're not going to have any mechanical snakes in this movie. Do it so you can shoot it all in inserts. We'll do the whole thing second unit. It's good that she's there, you can intercut with him pushing the thing and her with the torch and snakes. It's also funnier going through the catacombs with this girl.

"Someone like Harrison Ford . . ."

G: All the Germans are running around like crazy. They're crawling around the tents. That's when he says now they're even. The Germans are saying, "The ark is in the truck. get out of here. Saboteurs." That's when they run into Sabu. You have this little scene with them under one of the trucks or something saying, "How are we going to get it now?" He says, "Look, you take Sabu, go back to his father and get him to get a plane or some kind of transportation to England. Tell him I have to get to England, and I'm going to come in quick. But I'll get that truck." "How?" "Don't worry about that. Just get there and tell him." She and Sabu sneak off. The truck is taking off. There are a bunch of Arab's horses around. He goes and jumps on one of the horses and rides off across the desert. Eventually he gets on a mountain road.

S: Or a motorcycle would be good, like in "The Great Escape." He could do some great cross-country jumping.

L: There's no end to the fascination of a motorcycle.

G: He has to stand up on a motorcycle and make the transfer.

L: How do you see this guy?

G: Someone like Harrison Ford, Paul LeMatt. A young Steve McQueen. It would be ideal if we could find some stunt man who could act.

S: Burt Reynolds. Baryshnikov.

G: We can do two things here to hype the action. You can have him go after the truck and forget about the girl and Sabu. Or you can have the Germans going after the girl and Sabu, discovering them and chasing after them.

S: I think that's too confusing. I would rather, at this late point in the movie, concentrate on the most important action. One man against the Ark.

G: Okay. They go off to Cairo. He takes off after the thing. There are two trucks, or a truck and a car. The truck is one of those canvas Warner Bros, trucks. And a staff car. If he's on a motorcycle, he races across the desert...

Opening the Ark

L: Didn't you have a scene in here where someone wanted to open the Ark?

G: We don't really have time to open it.

L: No. Someone wanted to and he says no.

G: That was in the warehouse scene, when they're unloading it. We could do that. The warehouse scene is everybody unloading the Ark. "We have to get out of here." "I got you a ship, it's the only thing I could come up with." It has to move fast. They get on the ship, and just as it's taking off... Actually, it would be better if the Germans weren't on the deck. So it's more of a surprise. It goes very fast, and the ship sails out into the harbor at sunset. Then you have this relaxing scene where there is no threat. They're at teh captains table or something.

S: The audience will feel that it's winding down.

G: He says, "We did it." And this is where we can have a scene between the guy and the girl, tender, reconciliation. He loves her. It's where we can really pull them together. A short little scene. It can be in the cabin or wherever. They fall asleep and everything is calm. He's asleep, and the engines shut down, then he wakes up. "The engines have shut down." "What does that mean?" "I don't know. I'm going to find out."

S: They've been making love. This is the first love scene in the movie.

G: Right. He tells her to stay there. He goes up to the cabin and asks the captain what's going on. "Look." We look, and there are like twelve wolf submarines surrounding them.

S: The Germans are manning the guns.

G: "Shit." "There was nothing we could do. They'd torpedo us out of the water if we tried to resist. There's too many of them."

S: They wouldn't torpedo them, they'd shoot them with their deck guns.

G: He says, "Shit." You cut to the Germans swarming all over the deck, treating everybody very rough. The captain is outraged. They slap the captain around.

L: They think they're Aryan supermen.

S: Heavy prejudice. They really abuse the black guys.

G: Indy is running down the deck trying to get back to the cabin and the girl. He gets cut off by the Nazis. He hides under a lifeboat. Two of the Nazis are carrying the girl. You see her struggling and screaming at them.

S: Why are they talking the girl?

L: The captain sacrifices himself in some way for the girl. Then you really hate the Germans even more.

G: We have to figure out a reason for them to take the girl at this point. Before I had it because she was a double agent.

L: Maybe here is where we can save the other thing. The Frenchman wants her, even though she's not receptive to it. We can do that in a scene when he comes in to question her. Say he's the Claude Rains character, it makes sense that he's attracted to Barbara Stanwyck. The German says it's time to get rid of her, the French guy says no.

G: The big thing with these movies is the damsel is going to get screwed by the bad guy. What we do is, in the interrogatior scene the Frenchman is in love with her, coming on to her. The German torture guy could care less. "Get out of my way." When they push her down into the snake pit, it's the German guy who does it, and the Frenchman is very upset about it. "The girl was mine." "She's a waste of time, and we don't need her." We got rid of the German guy when he went off the cliff. Now the French guy is left to his own devices. "The girl goes with me. She's important to this project." He takes her along. We know he's been sort of lusting after her. As the Frenchman takes her, they look around and say, "Where is Indy?" "Search the ship." They take the girl and the Ark, and row out to one of the submarines. Then we cut to the submarines going away.

L: When the captain sacrifices himself could be when he takes after the Germans.

G: They're maybe going to blow up the ship or something. We're going to intercut them rowing out to the Ark with something going on on the ship, without Indy being involved in it. So we can speed that time progression up. Just as they're closing the hatch on the submarine, you see this hand come up and grab the submarine. The last we say Indy, he was hidden under a life boat.

S: As the last of the Germans leave the ship, they sink it right there.

G: Expensive.

S: Or they can rake it with machine gun fire.

"Every Bond movie has made money, too"

G: I only worry that we have enough trouble as it is trying to explain everything and make it work. But if they're going to lose more than the Ark, a huge ammo dump or something, that's going to cost them. The problem I have is that we wind up the way every Bond movie has ended. He's on the island, he has to get out of there with the girl, and they do get out, they're on the water, and the whole place blows up.

S: I love that. Every Bond movie has made money, too.

G: If you follow classic dramatic plotting, that's what is going to happen. You put your biggest boom last, and you create as much tension as you possibly can. The way we originally had it, the bad guys got fried by the Ark, and he dragged it back to Washington. He didn't really destroy anything. We had that time lock thing, but that gets confusing. We can hype it or we can leave it at the original. Those are the two extremes. Right now the end of the movie is, all the stuff for the Ark is set up, silk cubicles, and he goes in there, and the bad professor and the Nazi general and a couple other guys are there about to open the Ark. He gets in there and drops the gun on them. "Just pick up the Ark and follow me." Somebody comes up behind him and hits him on the head. They fight and he is subdued and hauled off. As he's being led out, the guys open up the thing and it goes off. The guy turns around and the tent turns into a big fire ball. In the resulting chaos he runs in to try and get the Ark. He drags it off and hides it, or wipe to Washington. D.C., where he's telling them that this is dangerous, and it's real. They tell him they'll take care of it. He says he wants to work on it. They tell him to apply for a grant or something. The last shot is them putting it in a warehouse. We have certain problems: the girl, does he blow up the base? The tent goes up in smoke . . .

"It's the ultimate cliffhanger, everybody gets killed in the end"

L: Indy doesn't know that there is going to be this electric explosion from the ark. But there is, and it threatens the ammo stock. Now he does have a time problem. He has to move the Ark and the girl out of there without getting blown up. How does he survive that? Everyone else dies, the island blows up, but he and she survive. That would be an improvement on the Bond thing.

G: It's the ultimate cliffhanger, everybody gets killed in the end..

S: Or they turn transparent. I like the idea of the whole island blowing up and finding a clever way for them to survive. Whatever that is.

L: When the guy opens the ark, you visualize that it explodes and then the top slams down again. What if they open it up, and it takes care of everyone, and we see a lot of this electrical stuff zapping people and starting fires everywhere. And he has to close it.

G: That's possible. I saw the opening of the Ark and the resulting chaos as the climax of the movie. The quicker we get from that point to fade out the better. I just wanted him put the thing on a cart, race out, and cut to Washington.

S: It makes him very godlike if one of the bolts doesn't zap him.

G: If we make the effect real, it shouldn't last long, or that hurts it. If it happens in a split second, he opens it up and suddenly these giant arcs go for five or six seconds, then you cut outside and see the entire tent go up, then it's not that hard to get away with the whole thing.

S: We end it like "Moby Dick." After the explosion there's no life at all. Our guy and our girl come up gasping for air, they're okay. Suddenly the Ark comes up. They grab onto the Ark and hang onto it and kick ashore. The Ark presents itself.

L: I like that.

The Classic Credits, and, "we should shoot it at the Disneyland Matterhorn"

S: It would be a real roller coaster ride.

G: They race off the end of the ramp, crash into the water, the mountain caves in, the submarine is destroyed. Cut out to the island, you hear a lot of rumbling, a side of the mountain slips down, a cave in. Then you sit there. And then the cast credits go up on that shot. After they finish, where the crew, credits would normally be, they pop up. Then you have to do the tag scene in Washington. You might be able to do the Washington scene with the end credits, like you do opening credits. They pop up, you cut to Washington, and then you continue with the credits. That should be a short little dialogue scene. Not more than a page. "Congratulations, Indy. You did a great job. We'll take it from here." Then you cut to the guy carrying the crated up ark stamped "Top Secret" or "Do Not Remove." He puts it in a giant warehouse. So you have three little title sequences.

S: I think we should try it.

G: If it's done with style, then you have really nice credits. It's just the reverse of opening credits.

S: This mine cart thing, we should shoot it at the Disneyland Matterhorn. They go on it at the end, so the final run is an up and a huge down, and the out is over the ocean.

G: I don't know if you can make that believable.

S: Just the last part of the run. It's tracks and a very small closure. It's like where they have the cable to pull the thing up, except this time it's coming down. It's weightless. It's not being run by a machine. The wheels are locked on the track, but there's no machine grinding it forward. It has no brakes. They've gotten onto the tail end. It drops down to the loading zone.

G: You're talking about an expensive sequence there. To make it look great you'd have to build a whole track.

Spielberg says, "Fast doors closing are fun."

S: run in front of the boulder and get out of the cave before it gets you. The reason the boulder is coming down is not to kill him, it's to seal off the cave.

L: I'm seeing his retreat from there as all out, but still keeping in mind what he has to do. Like when he gets to this place, when he's going back, he dodges through it. They're a little slower than he is.

S: Fast doors closing are fun.

Well, there it is, the meeting where one of Hollywood's most iconic characters of all time was born. Those are the best portions of the transcription, but the entire things makes for a very good read. Download the PDF here to read the entire conversation between Lucas, Spielberg, and Kasdan where one of the best movies of all time was created: Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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