For the scene at the Nazi rally in Berlin (where Indy confronts Elsa and steals back the diary), Steven Spielberg had all the extras who did the "Sieg Heil" arm salute also put their other arms behind their backs and cross their fingers.
Harrison Ford nominated River Phoenix to play him as a teenager. When describing how he prepared for playing the role, Phoenix explained that he didn't really base his portrayal on the Indiana Jones character, but on Harrison Ford. So he observed Ford out of character before acting his part.
Henry Jones senior was, according to backstory material written but not presented in the film, born in the 1860s, and was a Scottish university professor before emigrating to Utah, where Indy was born. He was roughly 75 years old in 1938. Sean Connery was only 58 at the time of filming (and only 12 years older than Harrison Ford), hence the beard and general "old man" attire his character wears. Indy impersonating a Scottish lord at Castle Brunwald was a nod to this unspoken backstory.
Most of the uniforms worn by the Nazis in the Berlin book burning scene are authentic WW2 uniforms and not costumes. A cache of old uniforms was found in Germany and obtained by costume designer Anthony Powell to be used in the film.
In the scene where Indy has to choose which cup is the grail, he picks the right one by saying "That's the cup of a carpenter". It is said in the Bible that Jesus - like his mortal father Joseph - was a carpenter. Interestingly, as a struggling actor Harrison Ford used a book on carpentry from the library to start doing odd jobs and earn a living. One of those jobs was working on George Lucas' house.
When George Lucas met with Steven Spielberg to discuss a third Indiana Jones movie, he wanted to have it set in a haunted mansion. Spielberg had just finished Poltergeist (1982) and decided that he wanted to do something different. Lucas then came up with the idea of the Holy Grail and Spielberg added the idea of a father/son sub-story.
When Henry climbs into the tank to rescue Marcus, he taps Marcus on the shoulder (scaring him in the process), after which Henry says "Genius of the restoration...", to which Marcus replies with "...aid our own resuscitation!" That particular phrase was originally an old toast that was traditionally given at the University Club in Manhattan.
River Phoenix becomes the first actor to portray Indiana Jones as a teenager. The prologue sequence featuring young Indy inspired George Lucas to create the TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992) released three years later. Phoenix was asked to play young Indy in that series, but turned it down, since he didn't want to return to television.
Indiana notes that in Latin, Jehovah begins with an I, not a J. This is quite correct, especially given that the knight who recovered the Grail acquired it during the First Crusade. The First Crusade ended in 1099. In the time of the Roman Empire, J was merely a variant of an I, hence the resemblance between their lower case forms i and j. The original pronunciation was very much like an I or Y. Its use as a soft g sound dates to no earlier than the fifteenth century.
The temple right at the end of the movie exists, but not in Alexandretta. It is in Petra, in Jordan. However, there is no inside to it - the doorway that can be seen on screen is huge, eight or nine people shoulder to shoulder can easily walk through it. It leads to a huge empty square room carved from the top down over two stories high. Similarly, they would be unable to get "lost" down the valley as the valley stretches for about a mile or so, and there is no other route but out. Steven Spielberg and his crew were guests at the royal palace of King Hussein and Queen Noor during the shoot in Jordan, and Spielberg was even brought to the temple by Queen Noor and her children.
Chris Columbus wrote a couple of drafts. His first draft, dated May 3, 1985, changed the main plot device to a Garden of Immortal Peaches. It begins in 1937, with Indiana battling the murderous ghost of Baron Seamus Seagrove III in Scotland. Indiana travels to Mozambique to aid Dr. Clare Clarke (a Katharine Hepburn type according to George Lucas), who has found a 200-year-old pygmy. The pygmy is kidnapped by the Nazis during a boat chase, and Indiana, Clare and Scraggy Brier-an old friend of Indiana-travel up the Zambezi river to rescue him. Indiana is killed in the climactic battle but is resurrected by the Monkey King. Other characters include a cannibalistic African tribe; Nazi Sergeant Gutterbuhg, who has a mechanical arm; Betsy, a stowaway student who is suicidally in love with Indiana; and a pirate leader named Kezure (described as a Toshiro Mifune type), who dies eating a peach because he is not pure of heart. His second draft, dated August 6, 1985, removed Betsy and featured Dash - an expatriate bar owner for whom the Nazis work - and the Monkey King as villains. The Monkey King forces Indiana and Dash to play chess with real people and disintegrates each person who is captured. Indiana subsequently battles the undead, destroys the Monkey King's rod, and marries Clare. Location scouting commenced in Africa but Steven Spielberg and Lucas abandoned Monkey King because of its negative depiction of African natives, and because the script was too unrealistic. Spielberg acknowledged that it made him "...feel very old, too old to direct it." However, the tank chase sequence in the film was taken from one of his drafts.
Indy's trademark hat, jacket, and whip currently reside in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. These items remained on display during filming of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), as they used numerous duplicates for their prop costumes.
The character named "Fedora" in the credits (played by Richard Young) was in the script originally named Abner Ravenwood, Marion Ravenwood's father and Indiana's mentor who was mentioned in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
In the beginning of the film when Harrison Ford is teaching his class, he says, "...If it's truth you're interested in, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is right down the hall." This is a reference to Ford's own professor (Ford was in fact a Philosophy major), Dr. William E. Tyree, at Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin.
When Professor Jones Sr. scares the "seagulls" to fly up and stop the plane, they are in fact pigeons, and not seagulls, as seagulls cannot be trained. Looking closely, one can also see that there are a number of 'cut out' seagulls in the sand, which do not move as the others do.
During the Castle Brunwald rescue, Dr. Jones Sr. expresses dismay at Indy inadvertently bringing the diary into enemy hands saying that he "should have mailed it to The Marx Brothers". Harpo Marx revealed in his autobiography that he once actually had to smuggle a journal of important documents out of Russia to keep them from falling into enemy hands.
First Indiana Jones movie to receive a PG-13 rating by the MPAA. Although Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) was instrumental in the development of the PG-13 rating, the MPAA only gave it a PG-rating.
In the movie the grail is located in the Republic of Hatay near the city of Alexandretta. There actually was a Republic of Hatay from 1938 to 1939, after the region was granted independence from French Syria and before it became a province of Turkey. The capital of Hatay was Alexandretta before 1939 when the city's name was changed to Iskenderun and the capital moved to Antioch. An early title indicates the movie's action takes place in 1938.
According to the address on the package he received from Italy, Indy teaches at Barnett College. The name of the school was adopted and more prominently used in later media (e.g. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (1992))
When it came to filming the rat scene, the producers inquired of their insurer, Fireman's Fund, whether they were insured if the animals were for some reason indisposed, due to illness, an accident, or simply because they refused to perform. This was a delicate issue, as one lost day of filming can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, yet the experts at Fireman's Fund were able to reach a compromise which pleased both sides. They asked the director what would be the least number of rats needed for a dramatic shot. If different camera angles were used, 1,000 rats would probably be sufficient, came the answer. Thus Fireman's Fund underwrote the world's first insurance policy with a 1,000-rat deductible. 1000 mechanical rats were also used in the scene. To help achieve the sound of thousands of rats, sound designer Ben Burtt actually used the higher registers of thousands of chickens.
When Indy's bag is caught on the gun and is being dragged along the wall no stuntman was used, Harrison Ford did it himself the crew just went along with shovels tipping dirt and clay on him from above
Both tanks (the hero tank for full shots and process tank for closeups of action) now reside at the Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly the Disney/MGM Studios) in Disney World in Florida, although the process tank is no longer on display.
Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones) and Pat Roach (Gestapo) are the only actors to appear in all three films in the original trilogy. Roach played Giant Sherpa/First Mechanic in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)' and Chief Guard in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). A scene was filmed where Indiana Jones knocks him unconscious aboard the zeppelin, extending a running joke in the series of Ford's character knocking down Roach's characters in every movie; however, the scene was not used in the final cut, so the only presence of Roach remaining in the movie is the shot of him running behind Vogel toward the zeppelin. "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is also the last film in the franchise with Roach, who would pass away in 2004.
Unable to keep his hat on during the scene where he was chasing the tank on horseback despite trying glue, tape, and newspaper wedges, Harrison Ford pretended (in a "Making Of" special) to staple the hat to his head.
The difficulties shown by the tank-driver in maneuvering the vehicle were very realistic. The Mark I tank --or indeed, any World War I tank-- was so unwieldy that its manufacturers rushed to produce an upgrade; the Mark IV was ready in only one year's time.
The idea of an airplane being carried by an airship was actually taken from the U.S. Navy airships U.S.S. Akron and U.S.S. Macon. Each airship, slightly smaller than the Zeppelin shown in the movie, actually had a trapeze (also known as a "sky hook") under the belly of the airship, and hangar space inside for up to four small planes. The planes were intended to act as scouts that used the airship as a flying aircraft carrier. The builders of the Hindenburg also attempted, with help from the Navy, to install a similar trapeze on the Hindenburg shortly before her disastrous last flight in 1937. The idea was for the small plane to act as a mail courier. However, the pilot was unable to "hook on" to the trapeze consistently, the experiment was abandoned, and the trapeze was removed from the Hindenburg before she departed for her final flight. In The Great Waldo Pepper (1975), the character of Kessler was based on that pilot, WW1 German ace Gen. Ernst Udet.
Steven Spielberg wanted Donovan's death shown in one shot, so it would not look like an actor having makeup applied between takes. Inflatable pads were applied to Julian Glover's forehead and cheeks that made his eyes seem to recede during the character's initial decomposition, as well as a mechanical wig that grew his hair.
A sign leading up to the tribune at the rally says "Staff Officers only" ("Nur für Stab(s)offiziere", which in German means the rank of major or higher), which is probably why Indy chose the rather conspicuous uniform of a colonel.
Steven Spielberg devised the three trials that guard the Grail. For the first, the blades under which Indiana ducks like a penitent man were a mix of practical and miniature blades created by Gibbs and ILM. For the second trial, in which Indiana spells "Iehova" on stable stepping stones, it was intended to have a tarantula crawl up Indiana after he mistakenly steps on "J". This was filmed and deemed unsatisfactory, so ILM filmed a stuntman hanging through a hole that appears in the floor, 30 feet above a cavern. As this was dark, it did not matter that the matte painting and models were rushed late in production. The tarantula version is used in comic book adaptation of the movie. The third trial, the leap of faith that Indiana makes over an apparently impassable ravine after discovering a bridge hidden by forced perspective, was created with a model bridge and painted backgrounds. This was cheaper than building a full-size set. A puppet of Harrison Ford was used to create a shadow on the 9-foot-tall (2.7 m) by 13-foot-wide (4.0 m) model because Ford had filmed the scene against bluescreen, which did not incorporate the shaft of light from the entrance.
George Lucas first introduced the Holy Grail in an idea for the film's prologue, which was to be set in Scotland. He intended the Grail to have a pagan basis, with the rest of the film revolving around a separate Christian artifact in Africa. Steven Spielberg did not care for the Grail idea, which he found too esoteric, even after Lucas suggested giving it healing powers and the ability to grant immortality.
After fleeing Castle Brunwald and eluding the Nazi soldiers on motorcycles, Indy and his father come to a fork in the road with a sign indicating left (North) to Berlin and right (South) to Venice. A third city is barely visible on that same sign, pointing at the direction the Joneses just came from, and it indicates the road to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which hosted the 1936 Winter Olympics.
When Indy's father expresses surprise that Indy can fly a plane, Indy responds with "Fly, yes. Land, no". This may be a nod to Indy's improvisational piloting in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).
Costume designer Anthony Powell found it a challenge to create Sean Connery's costume because the script required the character to wear the same clothes throughout. Powell thought about his own grandfather and incorporated tweed suits and fishing hats. Powell felt it necessary for Henry to wear glasses, but did not want to hide Connery's eyes, so chose rimless ones. He could not find any suitable, so he had them specially made.
The shot of Donovan's death was created over three months by morphing together three puppets of Donovan in separate stages of decay, a technique ILM mastered on Willow (1988). A fourth puppet was used for the decaying clothes, because the puppet's torso mechanics had been exposed. Complications arose because Alison Doody's double had not been filmed for the scene's latter two elements, so the background and hair from the first shot had to be used throughout, with the other faces mapped over it. Donovan's skeleton was hung on wires like a marionette; it required several takes to film it crashing against the wall because not all the pieces released upon impact.
Because steam locomotives are very loud, Michael Lantieri's crew would respond to first assistant director David Tomblin's radioed directions by making the giraffes nod or shake their heads to his questions, which amused the crew.
After having a great working relationship with Steven Spielberg on Gremlins (1984), Spielberg produced the next two films Chris Columbus scripted, The Goonies (1985), based on an idea Spielberg had, and Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), which was Columbus's idea, which altogether was two years working on three films. Spielberg then wanted Columbus to script The Last Crusade, a big step for him as a writer. He accepted and went to meet Spielberg and George Lucas, two men he was very intimidated by, even though he had worked with Spielberg three times, and they were two of his cinematic heroes. Columbus acted as Spielberg and Lucas's secretary on the film for five days taking down all of their ideas. Lucas dictated the screenplay to Columbus making him fearful of changing any of it, and it went against what Columbus had learned at film school. To him, the script seemed lifeless and without energy and there was nothing of Columbus in it. Columbus assumed Spielberg hired him for that last reason and when Columbus turned in the script, he was fired from the picture for all the above flaws in the screenplay. It was a defining moment in Columbus's career, to never again ignore his base instincts on a movie, or to be intimidated by the people he worked with.
Kevork Malikyan spent hours with Steven Spielberg staging his death scene. He was to collapse into Alison Doody's arms and slide down her body. After grabbing him, she pulls her hands back to find them covered with blood. The shot never managed to achieve the impact Spielberg wanted and he finally dropped it. The scene was actually a recreation of David Gelin's death from The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956).
Jeffrey Boam wrote a draft set in 1939. The prologue has adult Indiana retrieving an Aztec relic for a museum curator in Mexico and features the circus train. Henry and Elsa (who is described as having dark hair) were searching for the Grail on behalf of the Chandler Foundation, before Henry went missing. The character of Kazim is here named Kemal, and is an agent of the Republic of Hatay, which seeks the grail for its own. Kemal shoots Henry and dies drinking from the wrong chalice. The Grail Knight battles Indiana on horseback, while Vogel is crushed by a boulder when stealing the Grail. In his second draft, Indiana's mother, named Margaret in this version, dismisses Indiana when he returns home with the Cross of Coronado, while his father is on a long distance call. Walter Chandler of the Chandler Foundation features, but is not the main villain; he plunges to his death in the tank. Elsa introduces Indiana and Brody to a large Venetian family that knows Henry. Leni Riefenstahl appears at the Nazi rally in Berlin. Vogel is beheaded by the traps guarding the Grail. Kemal tries to blow up the Grail Temple during a comic fight in which gunpowder is repeatedly lit and extinguished. Elsa shoots Henry, then dies drinking from the wrong Grail, and Indiana rescues his father from falling into the chasm while grasping for the Grail.
Stop motion animation was used for the shot of the German fighter's wings breaking off as it crashes through the tunnel. The tunnel was a 210 feet model that occupied 14 of ILM's parking spaces for two months. It was built in eight-foot sections, with hinges allowing each section to be opened to film through. Harrison Ford and Sean Connery were filmed against bluescreen; the sequence required their car to have a dirty windscreen, but to make the integration easier this was removed and later composited into the shot. Dust and shadows were animated onto shots of the plane miniature to make it appear as if it disturbed rocks and dirt before it exploded.
Several hundred tim-birds were used in the background shots of the seagulls striking the other plane; for the closer shots, ILM dropped feather-coated crosses onto the camera. These only looked convincing because the scene's quick cuts merely required shapes that suggested gulls.
Ben Burtt recorded chickens for the sounds of the rats and digitally manipulated the noise made by a Styrofoam cup for the castle fire. He rode in a biplane to record the sounds for the dogfight sequence, and visited the demolition of a wind turbine for the plane crashes.
When it was still only 3 Indy movies, there was a fan theory that Indiana's adventures are merely a series of dreams that Han Solo is having while still frozen in carbonite. Several examples can be produced to lend some credence to this. In Raiders, a carving of C-3PO and R2-D2 can be seen behind Indy in the well of souls, and when Indy faces the swordsman in the town, he "shoots first". In Temple of Doom, the name of the club in Shanghai is "Club Obi-Wan". In Last Crusade, the characters of Donovan and Hitler are portrayed by two actors who have also played Imperial Officers in Star Wars. Also are several sounds throughout the movies that sound like the Millennium Falcons engines and even sounds that were also sounds from the Carbonite freezing chamber. All this could be occurring in Solo's mind as a way of his subconscious trying to wake him up or making sure he remembers people and things from his life.
The temple set, which took six weeks to build, was supported on 80 feet of hydraulics and ten gimbals for use during the earthquake scene. Resetting between takes took twenty minutes while the hydraulics were put to their starting positions and the cracks filled with plaster. The shot of the Grail falling to the temple floor-causing the first crack to appear-was attempted on the full-size set, but proved too difficult. Instead, crews built a separate floor section that incorporated a pre-scored crack sealed with plaster. It took several takes to throw the Grail from six feet onto the right part of the crack.
The shot of the boats passing between two ships was achieved by first cabling the ships off so they would be safe. The ships were moved together while the boats passed between, close enough that one of the boats scraped the sides of the ships. An empty speedboat containing dummies was launched from a floating platform between the ships amid fire and smoke that helped obscure the platform. The stunt was performed twice because the boat landed too short of the camera in the first attempt.
The tank broke down twice. The distributor's rotor arm broke and a replacement had to be sourced from Madrid. Then two of the device's valves used to cool the oil exploded, due to solder melting and mixing with the oil. It was very hot in the tank, despite the installation of ten fans, and the lack of suspension meant the driver was unable to stop shaking during filming breaks.
Several thousand snakes of five breeds-including a boa constrictor-were used for the train scene, in addition to rubber ones onto which River Phoenix could fall. The snakes would slither from their crates, requiring the crew to dig through sawdust after filming to find and return them.
For the close-up of the rhinoceros that strikes at (and misses) Indiana, a foam and fiberglass animatronic was made in London. When Steven Spielberg decided he wanted it to move, the prop was sent to John Carl Buechler in Los Angeles, who resculpted it over three days to blink, snarl, snort and wiggle its ears. The giraffes were also created in London.
A smaller section of the tank's top made from aluminum and which used rubber tracks was used for close-ups. It was built from a searchlight trailer, weighed eight tons, and was towed by a four-wheel drive truck. It had safety nets on each end to prevent injury to those falling off.
It's no coincidence that Sean Connery was cast as Indy's father. One reason is because the Indiana Jones series borrows a lot from old adventure movies, much like a son will gain traits from his father. The trait passed down from Connery is that of James Bond, in that James Bond is always finding ridiculous ways to escape life threatening situations, this is seen in many Indy movies, like in the tank scene in Last Crusade, or the bobsled scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).
Although all of the scenes involving the Frederick Jaeger character were cut from the film, he can still be seen in the background of one shot set inside the Berlin airport. Billy J. Mitchell and Jerry Harte, despite being credited in the end titles, were cut out of the final print.
Michael Lantieri, mechanical effects supervisor for the 1912 scenes, noted the difficulty in shooting the train sequence. "You can't just stop a train," he said, "If it misses its mark, it takes blocks and blocks to stop it and back up." Lantieri hid handles for the actors and stuntmen to grab onto when leaping from carriage to carriage. The carriage interiors shot at Universal Studios Hollywood were built on tubes that inflated and deflated to create a rocking motion.
The tank that Indy fights is a replica of a British/American Mark VIII, manufactured in 1918. Its armament consisted of two six-pound guns and seven machine guns; only 107 were produced due to the end of the war. The tank shown in the film has a turret replacing the large cupola for the commander/driver, and no machine guns; it is also much faster than the real Mk VIII's.
Steven Spielberg originally had planned the chase to be a short sequence shot over two days, but he drew up storyboards to make the scene an action-packed centerpiece. Thinking he would not surpass the truck chase from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (because the truck was much faster than the tank), he felt this sequence should be more story-based and needed to show Indiana and Henry helping each other. He later said he had more fun storyboarding the sequence than filming it
Menno Meyjes submitted a script that depicted Indiana searching for his father in Montségur, where he meets a nun named Chantal. Indiana travels to Venice, takes the Orient Express to Istanbul, and continues by train to Petra, where he meets Sallah and reunites with his father. Together they find the grail. At the climax, a Nazi villain touches the Grail and explodes; when Henry touches it, he ascends a stairway to Heaven. Chantal chooses to stay on Earth because of her love for Indiana. In a revised draft dated two months later, Indiana finds his father in Krak des Chevaliers, the Nazi leader is a woman named Greta von Grimm, and Indiana battles a demon at the Grail site, which he defeats with a dagger inscribed with "God is King". The prologue in both drafts has Indiana in Mexico battling for possession of Montezuma's death mask with a man who owns gorillas as pets
For the villains' cars, Michael Lantieri selected a 1914 Ford Model T, a 1919 Ford Model T truck and a 1916 Saxon Model 14, fitting each with a Ford Pinto V6 engine. Sacks of dust were hung under the cars to create a dustier environment.
It is quite fitting that the city built on the ruins of Alexandretta should be called Iskenderun. Like many other cities he conquered, Alexandretta was named for Alexander the Great. Translated into Arabic, Alexander would be Al-Iskenderun. By itself, "al" translated as "the," hence it would be omitted from the name of a city.
The film cast includes one Oscar winner: Sean Connery; and three Oscar nominees: Harrison Ford, Denholm Elliott and River Phoenix. The four actors received only one Oscar nomination (as of 2015 in the case of Connery and Ford, both still living) and that nomination came in the 1980's.
George Gibbs used Swiss Pilatus P-2 army training planes standing in for Messerschmitt Bf-109s. He built a device based on an internal combustion engine to simulate gunfire, which was safer and less expensive than firing blanks.
The steamship fight in the prologue's 1938 portion was filmed in three days on a sixty-by-forty-feet deck built on gimbals at Elstree. A dozen dump tanks-each holding three hundred imperial gallons (360 U.S. gallons; 3000 lb.) of water-were used in the scene.
Mechanical effects supervisor George Gibbs said the film was the most difficult one of his career. He visited a museum to negotiate renting a small French World War I tank, but decided he wanted to make one. The tank was based on the Tank Mark VIII, which was 36 feet (11 m) long and weighed 28 short tons (25 t). Gibbs built the tank over the framework of a 28-short-ton (25 t) excavator and added 7-short-ton (6.4 t) tracks that were driven by two automatic hydraulic pumps, each connected to a Range Rover V8 engine. Gibbs built the tank from steel rather than aluminum or fiberglass because it would allow the realistically suspensionless vehicle to endure the rocky surfaces. Unlike its historical counterpart, which had only the two side guns, the tank had a turret gun added as well. It took four months to build and was transported to Almería on a Short Belfast plane and then a low loader truck.
The motorcycles used in the chase from the castle were a mixed bag: the scout model with sidecar in which Indy and Henry escape was an original Dnepr, complete with machine gun pintle on the sidecar, while the pursuing vehicles were more modern machines dressed up with equipment and logos to make them resemble German army models.
River Phoenix and Brad Gregg previously played brothers in Stand by Me (1986). In this film, Phoenix steals a treasure from Gregg. In the previous film, Gregg attempts to steal the treasure (the dead body) from Phoenix.
Ronald Lacey, who famously played Gestapo agent Major Toht in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, plays the very minor role of Heinrich Himmler in the Berlin scene where Adolf Hitler autographs Indy's diary. This was one of his last film roles before his death in 1991.
The novelization for Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) mentions the Ten Commandments and the one and only God, which recalls the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981); the book also mentions the word nazil, almost like Nazi, the villains of that film and The Last Crusade.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Indy's true name is finally revealed in this movie: Henry Jones, Jr. In the previous two films (and in this film, up until the final minute), he has only been referred to as "Indiana Jones" and variations thereof. ("Dr. Jones", "Indy", etc.) The name Indiana came from a dog in both the movie and real life: George Lucas' Alaskan malamute dog who lived in the 1970s. A dog of this breed is seen in the film when young Indy (River Phoenix) returns home with the cross in his hand.
Donovan's death sequence by rapid aging was the first all-digital composite. In previous films involving computer generated visual effects (i.e., Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) and Willow (1988)) CG elements were output to film and added to final film print using optical printers. For "Last Crusade" ILM scanned several filmed makeup transformations of "Donovan's demise" and "morphed" the elements together digitally. By doing this, film (was for first time) scanned, digitally manipulated, and output back to film rather than arranging film elements with an optical printer. It took a week to film this death scene.
When Tom Stoppard was brought in for rewriting the dialogue, specifically the lines for Henry and the Henry-Indy exchange, he was paid $120,000. After the film's release and subsequent success, he was paid another $1 million as a bonus. In "The Last Crusade: An Oral History," an article published in Empire magazine in 2006, Spielberg said about the Jr. and Sr. conversations, "It was an emotional story but I didn't want to get sentimental. Their disconnection from each other was the basis for a lot of comedy. And it gave Tom Stoppard, who was uncredited, a lot to write. Tom is pretty much responsible for every line of dialogue."
This film has the most chase sequences of any Indiana Jones movie with 5 different types of chases: (Foot, Train, Boat, Motorcyle, Plane and Car). This is the only film to have a boat chase or a train chase.
Early ideas were to end the film with an elaborate escape from the temple and valley. However, Steven Spielberg later reconsidered when he realized that the movie had already reached its emotional climax in the previous scene, where Henry saves Indiana and the two men finally find what they were looking for.
When Donovan says that his team is just one step away from the Grail, Indy comments: "That's usually when the ground falls out from underneath your feet." Ironically, this is exactly what happens twice at the end: the first time when Indy has to traverse the 'Word of God' challenge, and nearly falls through the floor; the second time when the Grail Temple starts to shake violently, and the floor collapses.
Henry Jones Sr. calls Indy "Junior" 16 times. He calls him Indiana only twice. He also calls Indy "son" 4 times and "boy" three times. Indiana tells his father not to "call him Junior" (or "that") 3 times, and almost does a 4th but is interrupted. Indiana calls his father "dad" a total of 54 times, 4 times when his Jones Sr isn't in the scene.