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March 27, 2013

Sacred Scroll: Transcript of the George Lucas/Steven Spielberg Chat Where They Hashed out Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders is my favorite movie. It's actually why I even care about movies. Raiders was the first movie I even loved.

Lucas and Spielberg, along with writer Lawrence Kasdan, recorded the session where they brainstormed ideas for Indy. I don't know where the tapes are, but there is a transcript online.

G ... The fact that he is slightly scruffy. You don't know it until it happens. 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.

L Except there has to be that moment when he's alone with a can of beer and he just whips it to him.

Note that, bizarrely, it's Spielberg and Kasdan offering up dumb ideas here (make someone's pants fall down, whip a can of beer to him). Lucas isn't actually saying anything stupid. Spielberg did offer the whip-the-girl gag used to good effect in Temple, but make someone's pants fall down?

Eh. I guess the motto of a brainstorming session is "no judgements, no internal editing."

But what happened to George Lucas? He seems like he knows his onions here. He's like... the smartest person in the room. What the hell happened to him, that he eventually became the King of Bad Ideas?

Quick Review of the Blu-Ray version of the Indy films: Don't buy it. The packaging is lovely and all that, but they just about ruined Raiders. They did some strange color and contrast correction to the opening Jungle Trek in which they turned the gorgeous green-and-black-shadows of the original into a much lighter, less lush yellow-brown sort of thing. I'm not sure if it's due to the higher resolution -- it probably is -- but the whole Idol Chamber set now looks as fake as Pam Anderson's boobs, too.

I don't know if Lucas does this on purpose. But Raiders, the most important film to be transferred to Blu-ray here, was botched badly. I don't even like watching it. I turned it off and put on my DVD version. I don't know what they do later because I never bothered watching the rest. Temple of Doom looks good, but, you know. Kind of, "Who cares?" I've learned to like Temple of Doom a lot more than I used to, but the sequels are, well, sequels.

It might be that a casual fan of the series wouldn't even notice this. But these sorts of things are not made for the casual fans, are they? When people think of Indiana Jones they're really not thinking about Temple or Crusade. And... the opening of Raiders is the most important part of the whole movie. They botched the most important ten minutes in the eight and a half hour of movies on the discs.

So congratulations, George Lucas. In five years, when you release a restored-to-its-former-glory Raiders, you'll suck another $35 out of my wallet. Good for you.

Wow: Turns out George Lucas really did have his share of bad ideas, too.

Such as... making Indiana Jones a pedophile.

No, seriously. Remember Marion's line, "I was too young, it was wrong and you knew it," and Indy's answer, "You knew what you were doing"?

I always assumed she was like 18. Actually I never gave it much thought -- I assumed it was actually Contrived Filler Dialogue To Establish That These Characters Have Conflict to Justify Their Arguing Later. Like, I assumed it meant nothing at all, and was just come up with as "This dialogue will do, as far as justifying the undercurrent of anger."

But to the extent I thought about it I figured she was a college girl, maybe 18, when they began an affair.



eorge Lucas: I was thinking that this old guy could have been the mentor. He could have known this little girl when she was just a kid. Had an affair with her when she was eleven.

Lawrence Kasdan: And he was forty-two.

George Lucas: He hasnt seen her in twelve years. Now shes twenty-two. Its a real strange relationship.

Steven Spielberg: She had better be older than twenty-two.

George Lucas: Hes thirty-five, and he knew her ten years ago when he was twenty-five and she was only twelve. It would be amusing to make her slightly young at the time.

Steven Spielberg: And promiscuous. She came onto him.

George Lucas: Fifteen is right on the edge. I know its an outrageous idea, but it is interesting. Once shes sixteen or seventeen its not interesting anymore. But if she was fifteen and he was twenty-five and they actually had an affair the last time they met. And she was madly in love with him and he


From the Political Hat. Holy crap.

I know the rule in brainstorming is "no judgments, no internal editor," but may I suggest a slight caveat to that rule?

They seem to have blundered into this area by pushing the idea that Indy is only quasi-ethical, basically a grave-robber who steals artifacts for money, and so on. I think this is an attempt to push that idea still further, into the realm of overkill and, frankly, outrage.

I kind of don't know what to say about it. They do seem to agree mutually that this sort of thing would make a hero (albeit a tarnished hero) "interesting" rather than repellent.

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posted by Ace at 02:03 PM

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