The rope bridge used during the final fight scene was actually suspended up a couple of hundred feet across a gorge on location in Sri Lanka. Acrophobic Steven Spielberg would never walk over it, and had to drive a mile and a half to reach the other side. Harrison Ford on the other hand had no such fear, and would run across it at full speed.
D.R. Nanayakkara, cast as the Indian village Shaman, did not speak a word of English. He delivered his lines phonetically by mimicking Steven Spielberg who was prompting him off camera. The pauses in his dialogue were therefore not for dramatic effect, but rather waiting for his next line.
An open casting call was put out to all the elementary schools to find a young Asian actor to play Short Round. Jonathan Ke Quan arrived with his brother, not to audition, but merely to provide moral support. He caught the casting director's attention because he spent the entire time of his brother's audition telling him what to do and what not to do.
Kate Capshaw's dress in the Shanghai club was completely made of 1920's and 1930's original beads. This meant that there was only enough to make one dress. The opening dance number was actually the last scene to be shot, but the dress did feature in some earlier location shots in Sri Lanka, in particular, a night-time one with Harrison Ford and Kate Capshaw sitting by a campfire, with the dress drying on a nearby tree. Unfortunately an elephant had started to eat the entire back of the dress, which was saved just in time. Consequently, some emergency repair work had to be done with what remained of the original beads, and it was costume designer Anthony Powell who had to fill in the insurance forms. As to the reason for damage, he had no option but to put "dress eaten by elephant".
In the "Making Of" Documentary for this movie, George Lucas said that although he originally intended for Temple of Doom to have a darker tone compared to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (much like Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) was darker than Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)), he admitted that he made it much darker than he intended, part of the reason being that he was going through a divorce at the time and was "not in a good mood". Steven Spielberg also admitted that although he agreed with Lucas' idea for a darker-toned film, he felt uncomfortable with certain scenes while filming them and would attempt to inject some humorous elements into those scenes trying to lighten them up. The scene where Indy is fighting the Thuggee chief guard with a hammer, and the guard takes the hammer away and tosses it aside, only to have it land on a bystander's head, knocking him out with a comical thud, is a prime example of this scene "lightening up".
Steven Spielberg said that he did not enjoy this film as much as the rest of the Indy films, but said that it was a great experience for him because he met his future wife, Kate Capshaw, during the production of this movie.
Harrison Ford herniated his back in the scene where he is attacked in his bedroom by a Thuggee assassin. Production had to shut down for Ford to be flown to Los Angeles to have an operation. A huge majority of Ford's work in the fights and chases in the Temple of Doom are actually stuntman Vic Armstrong.
The python that Willie Scott mistakes for an elephant's trunk was brought to Sri Lanka for shooting by animal handler Michael Culling, but since the snake and its companion weren't very welcome in the country, he had to book them their hotel rooms under fake names: Mr. and Mrs. Longfellow.
When the two swordsmen attack Indy on the cliff and Indy attempts to reprise his response from the "basket scene" Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) by reaching for his gun, a bit of music from the basket scene is heard.
There was a scene involving Kate Capshaw and a rather large snake which had to be cut out as Capshaw was having panic attacks at the very prospect of it. Director Steven Spielberg jokingly says that the only reason Kate married him later was because he allowed the scene to be cut.
The production was highly fortunate in their main location in the town of Kandy in Sri Lanka as nearby a British engineering company was building a dam. When it came time for the film crew to shoot on a suspension bridge over a gorge, the British engineers were able to design and build one for them very quickly.
For the human sacrifice scene, an animatronic dummy of the sacrificial victim was made so that the "victim" would realistically writhe in agony upon catching fire. However, Steven Spielberg deemed the writhing "too gruesome" and added a sheet of flame in post-production to obscure the dummy's movements the moment it caught fire.
Generally credited (along with Gremlins (1984)) with the creation of the PG-13 rating, as many felt the scenes of violence in both movies were too much for a PG rating, but not enough for an R rating. It is widely believed that had Steven Spielberg's name not been on both movies, both may have received an R rating. (The Flamingo Kid (1984) was the first film to be *given* a PG-13 rating, but sat on the shelves for five months before being released.) Red Dawn (1984) was the first motion picture released with the PG-13 rating.
All of the scenes involving the long rope bridge were filmed on three different continents. The entire bridge itself was built on location in Sri Lanka, and the scenes where Indy cuts the bridge were filmed there also. The scenes where the bridge is hanging along the side of the cliff with everyone hanging on were filmed at Elstree Studios in London. And finally, the alligators at the end were shot by Frank Marshall in Florida.
In the original draft, there was supposed to be a motorcycle chase scene across the Great Wall of China. However, the Chinese government refused to grant the permission of filming thus it was replaced with a stowaway on the plane scene.
The film's original title was "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death" which was changed because it sounded too foreboding. It was retained as the film's German title ("Indiana Jones und der Tempel des Todes").
Filmmakers were unable to get permission to shoot scenes in India. The Indian government requested that a copy of the script to be read and also demanded that the word "Maharajah" to be removed fearing that the content does not reflect their culture. As a result, production was moved to Sri Lanka where some locations were also used for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
Kate Capshaw was thrilled at the opportunity of singing and dancing in the opening musical number, but the reality was her dress was so tight, there was very little movement she could attempt without ripping it.
The only Indy movie to ever display its title on-screen using the famous Indiana Jones typeface; and perhaps the only movie to ever show its title largely obscured by an object (in this case, Kate Capshaw) in the foreground.
During film production the movie was starting to go over budget and Spielberg went to the writers (Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz) and asked them to make changes to the script in order to save money. They removed one page from the script and saved a million dollars. It was a planned air chase scene using vintage biplanes. The scene was removed from the movie but was later incorporated into Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
For the scene where Willie stirs up the soup and several eyeballs rise to the surface, Steven Spielberg said that this particular scene was notoriously difficult to shoot and it took many takes to get the result seen in the final film. The eyeballs were attached to the bottom of the soup bowl with stick-ups and Kate Capshaw was supposed to give the soup a good stir in order to release the eyes so they could rise to the surface, but the stick-ups held pretty tight and for many takes, only one or two of the eyes would release and rise to the surface.
In the Obi Wan club sequence, the artifact Indiana Jones is told to hand over is the remains of Nurhaci. Nurhaci was in fact an actual emperor of China (1616-1626). He was the founder of the Manchu Qing dynasty; the last imperial dynasty of China (1616-1911).
The village shaman refers to the Sankara stone as "Shiva linga". In traditional Hinduism, the linga is a tall, cylindrical stone representative of a phallus, often set inside a circle representing the yoni, or female organ. Together, the two symbols stand for the dualistic sexual energy of the god Shiva.
The only Indiana Jones movie that does not show or make any references to the Ark of the Covenant. This is because the movie takes place one year before Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), so Indy has yet to become interested in the Ark.
The only installment of the Indiana Jones franchise in which Indy does not make physical contact with a snake. There is however a nod to his fear of them, and to a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): After he retrieves the Sankara stones from the Kali shrine, he looks up at a statue of a cobra poised to strike (like the one he famously faced in the Well of Souls scene in "Raiders") and straightens his hat...
An early draft of the script for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) had Indy traveling to Shanghai to recover a piece of the Staff of Ra. During his escape from the museum where it was housed, he sheltered from machine gun fire behind a giant rolling gong. The same script also featured Indy and Marion fleeing destruction in a mine-cart chase. Both of these scenes were cut from that script, but resurface in this movie.
As of 2014, this is the Indiana Jones movie with the least amount of travel shown in a "red line" sequence. The only red line travel sequence shown in the film is when Indy and his party travel from Shanghai to the Himalaya Mountains.
The plane belonging to "Lao Che Air Freight" that Indy, Short Round, and Willie use to escape from Shanghai is a Ford Trimotor 5-AT-B, first built in 1929. The Trimotors were Ford's first (and only) attempt at making airliners. Since the first mass-produced Ford car (the Model T) was known as the "Tin Lizzie", many pilots affectionately nicknamed the Trimotor the "Tin Goose".
Originally the Amber Palace in Jaipur was going to be used for all the exterior shots of Pankot Palace when the movie was originally going to be filmed in India, but after negotiations between producer Robert Watts and the Indian Government for permission to film in India broke down and filming was moved to Sri Lanka, matte paintings were used for the exterior shots of the palace, with the interior shots filmed at Elstree Studios in London.
The particular Ford Trimotor belonging to "Lao Che Air Freight" in the movie, was also used many decades before in the 1930 Trans World Airlines promotional film, "Coast to Coast in 48 Hours", appearing on screen with Amelia Earhart.
When Indy, Shortround and Willy get to the airfield just after being chased by Lau, the officer that leads them out of the car and takes them to the plane is none other then Dan Aykroyd. You cant make out his face but pay careful attention to the voice.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
WILHELM SCREAM: 1. When a food cart in Club Obi Wan crashes into the orchestra stand. 2. When the tommy-gun man is shot by Indy during the car chase at Shanghai. 3. When Mola Ram is eaten by the alligators at the movie's finale.