Paramount Pictures / Lucasfilm

One of the greatest cinematic characters of all time, whip-wielding archaeologist Indiana Jones has been thrilling audiences with his adventures since 1981! Here are 10 things you might not have known about his first outing, Raiders of the Lost Ark… 

1) The origins of Indiana… Smith

After the successes of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg and Lucas were taking a very well deserved holiday together in the late 70’s. On the holiday, Spielberg confessed he wanted to work on a James-Bond-Styled adventure film. Lucas confessed he was already developing an idea he might be interested in – the adventures of an archaeologist named Indiana Smith. Spielberg managed to convince Lucas to change the surname. 

2) A couple of Star Wars droids cameo as hieroglyphics 

R2D2 and C3PO hieroglyphics in Indiana Jones
Paramount Pictures / Lucasfilm

Produced by George Lucas, it’s no surprise that the Indiana Jones series contains several references to treasured space saga Star Wars. In the snake-filled tomb into which Indy and Marian are thrown, you get a brief glimpse of some hieroglyphics carved into the stone wall. They feature two very recognisable figures from the Star Wars universe – lovable droids C3PO and R2D2. 

3) Toht was originally planned to be much more Terminator-like

Toht the Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark
Paramount Pictures / Lucasfilm

In the original drafts, one of the film’s main villains, Toht, sported a mechanical arm with a machine gun built into it, with a bionic eye, and a radar antenna in his head! These extras were quickly abandoned, though, when Lucas realised they were too unrealistic. Anyhow, we think Toht was plenty menacing without all these mechanical extras! 

4) Tom Sellec was the favourite for the role

Tom Sellec in Magnum P.I.

Tom Sellec massively impressed Lucas and Spielberg during his auditions for the film, and he was offered the role of Indiana Jones. However, Sellec had filmed the pilot for Magnum P.I. before auditioning, and when the series was picked up, he ended up giving up the federer and the whip to star in the series. 

Lucas was reluctant to approach the actor who had played Han Solo in Star Wars because he didn’t think Ford would agree to a three-movie deal. Thankfully, though, he did agree to it, and became synonymous with the role. 

5) The sound effect for the famous boulder chase scene came from a surprising place 

Indiana Jones runs from the boulder
Paramount Pictures / Lucasfilm

In the film, Harrison Ford insisted on outrunning the huge boulder prop himself. Made from fibreglass, the boulder didn’t quite make the heavy crunching sound you would expect from an enormous rolling sphere of rock, and so the sound effects team had to get creative.

They tried rolling real boulders down a rocky hill, but this didn’t create a very exciting noise. Inspiration struck when one of the team happened to be driving his car down a gravel driveway. It’s this noise you can hear in the final version of the film. 

6) Most of the Raiders of the Lost Ark team got food poisoning in Tunisia 

Much of the film was filmed in Tunisia – the same place where Lucas had filmed for Star Wars: A New Hope. Whilst there, the majority of the cast and crew suffered from terrible food poisoning, which made filming a living hell.

Fortunately, one of the only crew members not to get ill was the director himself. Steven Spielberg ate and drank only from supplies he had bought in Sainsburys in England, before flying out to Tunisia. 

7) Food poisoning led to Indy shooting the swordsman  

Indiana Jones and the Swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark
Paramount Pictures / Lucasfilm

One of the most iconic scenes in Raiders of the Lost Ark occurs in the ‘Cairo’ market, where a swordsman impressively swishes around his blade as he prepares to attack Indy. In the original script, Indy was supposed to fight the attacker off with his whipping skills.

However, Ford was much too ill to carry out a successful take of the stunt, and so eventually just suggested he shoot the assailant instead. This simple gunning-down of the swordsman became one of the most memorable moments from the series. 

8) 10,000 ‘snakes’ filled the well of souls 

The crew originally ordered 3,000 snakes to fill the Well of Souls set. But, once they had been put in place on the floor, they realised that was nowhere near enough, and upped the number to 10,000 reptiles. Why do we say reptiles? Well, because a lot of them weren’t snakes at all! Rather, they were legless lizards which – being non-venomous – are much safer to film with. 

9) Spielberg cut the film to make Beloche appear to eat a fly

Raiders of the Lost Arc Marion Ravenwood
Paramount Pictures / Lucasfilm

It’s a well-known detail among Indiana Jones fans that, in the desert, a fly crawls into the mouth of the film’s main antagonist, Beloche, and doesn’t appear to leave it again – sparking eagle eyed viewers to state, ‘Beloche ate a fly!’

However, in actuality, the fly did exit and flutter away. Spielberg suggested that the cutting team remove that frame, however; so in the final film, it looks like the bad guy swallowed a fly. 

10) Pepper made the cast and crew erupt into a fit of coughing 

Whilst filming the truck chase scene, the crew agreed to use powdered red substances to represent blood, instead of a liquid, which would look too gory for family audiences, and might have landed the film with a higher age certification.

So which ‘powdered red substance’ did the crew choose to use for the scenes where jeep-loads of soldiers get machine gunned? The only powder available was cayenne pepper. It blew all over the set, and just like pepper spray, it made the cast and crew erupt into fits of coughing and splurging. 

There you have it – our run-through of 10 things you probably didn’t know about Indiana Jones’ first outing, Raiders of the Lost Ark! Explore his next adventures below…

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