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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Filmmakers were unable to get permission to shoot scenes in India. The Indian government requested a copy of the script and demanded that the word "Maharajah" be removed, fearing that the content did 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).
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").
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).
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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. In the campfire scene, Willie mistakes a snake for an elephant trunk. While she grabs it and tosses it aside in annoyance, Indy is visibly disturbed by the snake's presence. This reinforces Indy's fear of snakes quite clearly.
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.
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.
As he knew that he would spend a large portion of film shirtless, Harrison Ford underwent a strict weightlifting regimen to prepare for the film. In an interview on the DVD release, he credits being in such good shape for his quick recovery from a back injury while filming.
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".
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.
The production enlisted Ernie Fosselius, the director of the famous Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) spoof Hardware Wars (1978) to provide the voices of the two Chinese pilots for the bi-plane scene. At the same time, sound designer Ben Burtt had Fosselius record a gag line as a prank on Steven Spielberg. During a screening, of which Fosselius attended, Spielberg was surprised and bemused when, at the ending, Indiana Jones delivers the stone to the Shaman who then exclaimed "Wait a minute! You brought back the wrong stone!" The director leaped to his feet and demanded an explanation, which made Fosselius very fearful, until it was explained to be a joke. Spielberg then began to laugh and the incident ended happily.
Steven Spielberg said in 1989, "I wasn't happy with Temple of Doom at all. It was too dark, too subterranean, and much too horrific. I thought it out-poltered Poltergeist (1982). There's not an ounce of my own personal feeling in Temple of Doom." He later added during the Making of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom documentary, "Temple of Doom is my least favorite of the trilogy. I look back and I say, 'Well the greatest thing that I got out of that was I met Kate Capshaw. We married years later and that to me was the reason I was fated to make Temple of Doom."
George Lucas, Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz had been developing Radioland Murders (1994) since the early 1970s. The opening music was taken from that script and applied to Temple of Doom. Steven Spielberg reflected, "George's idea was to start the movie with a musical number. He wanted to do a Busby Berkeley dance number. At all our story meetings he would say, 'Hey, Steven, you always said you wanted to shoot musicals.' I thought, 'Yeah, that could be fun.'"
In the original cut of the film there was a scene showing a Thuggee guard whipping slave children when he is suddenly struck in the legs by lava exploding from a fissure. Short Round who was digging nearby witnessed the guard's awakening from his possessed state before the Thuggee was dragged away by other guards. This scene explained how Short Round knew what to do to bring Indy out of Kali's "black sleep." Although, of great significance to the plot, this scene was cut from the final film for unknown reasons.
George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck were concerned how to keep the audience interest while explaining the Thugee cult. Huyck and Katz proposed a tiger hunt but Spielberg said, "There's no way I'm going to stay in India long enough to shoot a tiger hunt." They eventually decided on a dinner scene involving eating bugs, monkey brains and the like. "Steve and George both still react like children, so their idea was to make it as gross as possible," says Katz.
Around 6000 actors auditioned worldwide for the part of Short Round. Jonathan Ke Quan was cast after his brother auditioned for the role. Steven Spielberg liked his personality, so he and Harrison Ford improvised the scene where Short Round accuses Indy of cheating during a card game.
Lawrence Kasdan of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) was asked to write the script. "I didn't want to be associated with Temple of Doom," he reflected. "I just thought it was horrible. It's so mean. There's nothing pleasant about it. I think Temple of Doom represents a chaotic period in both their [Lucas and Spielberg] lives, and the movie is very ugly and mean-spirited."
The filmmakers were denied permission to film in North India and Amer Fort due to the government finding the script racist and offensive. The government demanded many script changes, rewritings and final cut privilege. As a result, location work went to Kandy, Sri Lanka, with matte paintings and scale models applied for the village, temple, and Pankot Palace.
Adults' surprise over seeing a child performing a "grown-up's task" figures prominently in two instances in this film: Willie Scott upon seeing the young boy driver, and Indy upon seeing the young Maharaja.
Many fans have been expressing thoughts regarding Indiana Jones and friends' choice to go back into the mines instead of leaving through Pankot Palace with the rest of the escaped captives. An explanatory scene to this question was shot showing Indy and Willie helping the freed children to cross the lava pit through a makeshift bridge. When the time came for Short Round to cross the pit the bridge had caught fire under the intense heat and Indy and Willie managed to save him in the nick of time from falling in the lava pit. With the bridge crumbled the trio had to find another way out and that was through the mines. As with the above scenes, the most logical explanation for this cut seems to be the pace and not the film's running time, since it ended up at 113 minutes. Even the addition of all of the scenes mentioned on this writing would never push the film over the 120 minute barrier.
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.