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8 Fun Facts and Trivia Tidbits for Raiders of the Lost Ark

By Zandra Wolfgram

In the summer of 1981, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Harrison Ford banded together to introduce moviegoers to a new kind of action hero. In the intervening years, Indiana Jones has made four more big-screen appearances, a television series, not to mention video games and an entire merch franchise.


To be sure you are fully prepared (and properly excited) for Raiders of the Lost Ark in Concert on April 30 at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center, featuring live accompaniment by Sinfonia Gulf Coast, we have cracked the whip on our fact checkers and have these fun facts and trivia tidbits for you:


Indiana PI?

Television heartthrob Tom Selleck was originally offered the lead role but was unavailable due to his commitment to the television series Magnum, P.I.


Indiana to the Rescue

While developing the film with Spielberg and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, Lucas named the main character “Indiana Smith.” But Spielberg protested that it was too similar to the 1966 Steve McQueen western Nevada Smith and requested a change. The three agreed that the last name should be as universal and nondescript as “Smith,” so Lucas threw out “Jones” as a possibility. Indiana came from Lucas’ dog, an Alaskan malamute named Indiana. The big, hairy pup was also the inspiration for Chewbacca from Star Wars.


Harrison Ford the Philosopher

After graduation in 1960, Ford used his voice for the high school radio station. Later, he went to Ripon College to major in Philosophy and English. To move out of his shyness, Ford became inclined to act, and now, 79 years later, we know him as a famous American actor.


Where Was the Lost Ark, Exactly?

Filming took place on location in La Rochelle in France, Tunisia in North Africa, and Hawaii, and on sets at Elstree Studios, England.


The Full Effect

Advanced CGI was still far off when Spielberg tasked the effects wizards at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) to create the otherworldly elements for his film. To create the deadly specters that emerge from the Ark, a model maker suspended small puppets with silk robes into a clouded water tank in front of a bluescreen. Puppeteers would shake the model back and forth in the water to achieve the surreal flowing movements Spielberg wanted, which would then be composited onto the actual footage by optical expert.


A Ghostly Receptionist

To pull off the effect where an idyllic ghost floats toward the camera, only to reveal a hideous visage, the ILM guys found a receptionist from Lucasfilm and outfitted her in long white robes and painted her face a ghostly shade of blue and white. They then had her sit on a flat trapeze mechanism in front of a bluescreen and swing away from camera—which was run backwards in the final film to achieve a dreamlike quality. The receptionist’s performance was then composited with a grotesque, skeletal model to create the final transformation.


Spielberg is Art & Science

Steven Spielberg was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Cincinnati, Ohio, on December 18, 1946. His mother, Leah, was a concert pianist, and his father, Arnold, an electrical engineer — the perfect blend of art and science, for a young filmmaker with a penchant for big emotion and high spectacle.


A Notable Pair

Spielberg has had many successful collaborations in his career. George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski are all notable, but the greatest has to be Spielberg’s collaboration with composer John Williams. Williams has composed the score for 28 Spielberg movies, won Academy Awards for three of them, and been nominated for a further 14. In six decades of collaboration, some of the highlights in addition to the Indiana Jones movies, are Jaws, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, E.T., Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and Catch Me If You Can.

Don’t let your set get away. Purchase your passport to music and film adventure at SinfoniaGulfCoast.org.

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