The famous scene in which Indy shoots a marauding and flamboyant swordsman was not in the original script. Harrison Ford was supposed to use his whip to get the sword out of his attacker's hands, but the food poisoning he and the rest of the crew had gotten, made him too sick to perform the stunt. After several unsuccessful tries, Ford suggested "shooting the sucker". Steven Spielberg immediately took him up the idea, and the scene was successfully filmed.
Freeze-framing during the Well of Souls scene, you can notice a golden pillar with a tiny engraving of R2-D2 and C-3PO from the Star Wars saga. They are also on the wall behind Indy when they first approach the Ark.
Indiana Jones never loses his hat in the film, as an homage to the classic serials of the 1940s. In those serials, the heroes' hats stayed on heads through virtually any assault. This was done for continuity reasons, but also because it was considered poor taste for a gentleman to be without his hat in certain situations, even on the silver screen. It eventually becomes a running joke through the series. Indy does, however, lose his hat once each in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).
When Brody first goes to Indy's house to discuss the mission, Jones is dressed the way he is because he is entertaining a young woman in his bedroom. The script originally planned to show her before moving to the next scene, to give Indy a more worldly persona (like James Bond). However, her appearance was cut, as Steven Spielberg thought that being a playboy did not fit Indy's character.
While filming the snakes scenes inside the Well of the Souls, a python bit First Assistant Director David Tomblin's hand and wouldn't let go. Tomblin calmly asked someone to grab the python (still attached to Tomblin's hand) by the tail and whip it, so that the snap would send a wave up the snake's body and force it to let go. A stage hand did just that, the python released its bite from Tomblin's hand, and Tomblin got medical attention. The python itself was not injured.
Traditionally when one of his films is about to open, George Lucas goes on vacation to get away from all the hoopla. As Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) was just about to open, Lucas went to Hawaii where he was joined by Steven Spielberg. When the grosses for Lucas's film came in and it was clear it was going to be a hit, Lucas relaxed and was able to discuss other topics with his friend. It was at this point that Spielberg confessed he always wanted to direct a James Bond film, to which Lucas replied he had a much better idea, an adventure movie called "Raiders of the Lost Ark". The conversation happened while the two were making a sand castle. After their trip, they got together and developed the script with Lawrence Kasdan.
The film was originally given an R-rating because of the exploding head at the end. They didn't want the picture to be rated R, so they added layers of fire in front of his face to make it appear less graphic.
During filming in Tunisia, nearly everyone in the cast and crew got sick, except Director Steven Spielberg. It is thought that he avoided illness by eating only the food he'd brought with him: a lot of cans of Spaghetti-O's.
During the scene where Indiana threatens the Nazis with a Panzerfaust, you can clearly see a fly creeping into the mouth of Paul Freeman. Contrary to popular belief, he did not swallow it. Freeman explained in an interview years later that the fly flew off at about the instant he uttered the word "bad," but Steven Spielberg noticed it and decided it would be funny to cut out a few frames so the fly would not be seen flying away. This made it look as though Freeman ate it, and he found the edit highly amusing. Empire Magazine chose this scene as one of the most common scenes for which people press the "Pause" button on their VCRs.
The last line to be added to the script was Dietrich's "I am uncomfortable with this Jewish ritual" because after reading through the script, the Screenwriters realized that there was no mention of Jews or the Nazis' hatred of them.
The monkey raising his paw and saying (in his own language) "Heil Hitler" was thought up by George Lucas, and is one of Steven Spielberg's two favorite scenes (in the video box set, he says his other favorite is the "where doesn't it hurt" love scene on the ship). In Empire magazine, Frank Marshall said that they got the monkey to do the Nazi salute by putting a grape on a fishing pole, and getting the monkey to reach for the grape, which was dangling just out of camera range. This took about fifty takes before it actually looked like a Nazi salute. Voice-artist Frank Welker provided the chattering sounds for the monkey, including the "Sieg Heil"-like chirp that the monkey gives when it raises its paw in salute. (Welker later provided similar monkey chatter for Abu, the spider monkey in Disney's Aladdin (1992).)
George Lucas made what was at the time an unusual deal for this film. The studio financed the film's entire eighteen million dollar budget. In exchange, Lucas would own over forty percent of the film, and collect almost half of the profits after the studio grossed a certain amount. It turned out to be a very lucrative deal for Lucas. Paramount Executive Michael Eisner said that he felt the script for this film was the best he had ever read.
Indiana Jones's hat came from the famous Herbert Johnson hat shop in Saville Row, London. The hat was the shop's "Poet "model. On the Bonus Features DVD, Costume Designer Deborah Nadoolman said that in order to properly age the hat, she grabbed and twisted the hat, then she and Harrison Ford both sat on it, and it eventually looked like "a very lived-in, and well-loved" hat.
George Lucas first dreamed up the idea of an adventurous archeologist about the same time he came up with the idea for the Flash Gordon-type space story that became Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
The giant boulder that chases after Indiana Jones at the start of the film was made of fiberglass. On the Bonus Features DVD, Sound Designer Ben Burtt said that in order to get the proper sound effects for the giant boulder, he and the sound crew tried pushing boulders down a hill, but the sounds they were getting weren't what they were looking for. Later that day, as they were leaving in a Honda Civic and coasting down a gravel embankment, Burtt noticed that the sound was just what they were looking for, so he grabbed a microphone and held it near one of the Civic's rear tires to record the effect.
Harrison Ford actually outran the boulder in the opening sequence. Because the scene was shot twice from five different angles, he had to outrun it ten times. Ford's stumble in the scene was deemed to look authentic and was left in.
In filming the Well of Souls sequence, the producers scoured every pet shop in London and the south of England for every snake they could lay their hands on. Hence, there are snakes that are identifiable from many different geographical areas. However, once all the snakes were on set, it became clear that there were not nearly enough of them, so Steven Spielberg had several hoses cut into lengths, and these were used as well. Looking closely, you can tell which are the real snakes and which are not. Some of the weeds in the scene were lifted by Lawrence Kasdan from the Dagobah set of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). A sheet of glass separates Harrison Ford and the arched (and highly dangerous) cobra when he falls in. The snake actually did spray venom onto the glass.
Indy being dragged under and then out behind a moving truck is a tribute to Yakima Canutt's famous stunt in John Ford's Stagecoach (1939). In fact, it was a stunt that stuntman Terry Leonard had failed to pull off the year before in The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981). He was thrilled at the chance of having another shot at it, but only agreed to do it if his friend and colleague Glenn Randall, Jr., was driving. The truck was specially constructed to be farther off the ground than normal to allow clearance for Indiana Jones to pass underneath safely, and the center of the road was also dug out. In Great Movie Stunts: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), we see on the camera slate that the camera was set at twenty frames per second instead of the traditional twenty-four. In other words, the shots were done in "fast motion", so the truck was not really moving as fast as depicted on-screen. Harrison Ford was actually dragged behind the truck for some of the shots, badly bruising his ribs. When asked if he was worried, Ford quipped: "No. If it really was dangerous, they would have filmed more of the movie first." During the chase, Harrison Ford dispatches all three of his stunt doubles, all of whom are playing German soldiers. Terry Leonard plays the driver of the truck, who gets punched out of the cab by Ford. Vic Armstrong and Martin Grace play soldiers hanging onto the side of the truck before being knocked off.
The models used for the German U-boat were rented from the production company that was making Das Boot (1981) in the same area at the time. The company, however, had forgotten to tell this to the crew of Das Boot, who were surprised to find the model suddenly missing.
The instructions for the construction of the Ark are found in Exodus 25:10. The clothing that Belloq wears while acting as a high priest during the ceremony at the end is found beginning in Exodus chapter 28.
John Williams had actually written two themes for the film. He played them both for Steven Spielberg on the piano and Spielberg loved them so much, he suggested that Williams use both of them. He did and the result was the famous "Raiders March", performed by the London Symphony Orchestra (who did not perform in any more Indiana Jones films). The March has become one of the most popular movie themes of all time.
Although the Nazis speak German in many scenes, most of the lines were dubbed for the German versions of the film, because the actors spoke very bad German, with a very strong American accent. Some lines were simply wrong. On the recent DVD release, no German lines are wrong. The majority of the German lines seems to be spoken by native German speakers, with a slight south German accent.
The name of the sadistic Nazi interrogator is never mentioned in the film, but it is Toht, pronounced like Tod, the German word for Death. The role was offered to Klaus Kinski, who writes in his book "Kinski Uncut" that Steven Spielberg offered him a part in this movie, but he turned it down. "As much as I'd like to do a movie with Spielberg, the script is as moronically shitty, as so many other flicks of this ilk." Kinski chose to appear in Venom (1981), because the salary was better. Michael Sheard also auditioned for the role. Ronald Lacey, who had given up acting to become an agent, was chosen because he reminded Steven Spielberg of Peter Lorre. Toht only speaks a total of fourteen lines in English. The rest of his dialogue is in German.
The opening scene in the lost South American temple was partly based on a classic Disney Ducks adventure, written by legendary artist Carl Barks, many of whose comic books have inspired George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Exploring a lost temple, Donald Duck, his nephews and Scrooge McDuck must evade a succession of booby traps like flying darts, a decapitating blade, a huge boulder, a tunnel flooded with a torrent of gushing water, etc., in the story "The Prize of Pizarro" ("Uncle $crooge" no. 26, June-August 1959), which hit the newsstands when Lucas and Spielberg, both avowed fans of that comic book, were respectively fifteen and twelve years old. Another Barks story, "The Seven Cities of Cibola" ("Uncle $crooge" no. 7, September 1954), has a native American lost city, and a valuable idol that triggers a giant round rock to smash everything in its way.
Production Designer Norman Reynolds had found a rusty-looking ship that was perfect for the Bantu Wind. However, when the time came for this sequence to be filmed, he was horrified to discover that the ship had been repainted, and now looked pristine. It had to be swiftly repainted to achieve its distressed look.
In the submarine pen, the German who comes upon Indiana says, in German, "Good day" "Tired? Why do you sleep? Wash yourself! And straighten your shirt, so that you don't look like a pig at your court martial..." "Stand up... (straight)" He is cut off by Indiana's punch.
In order to make it match the follow-up movies in the DVD collections, 2008 DVD cover artwork changes the film's title to read "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark" instead of just "Raiders of the Lost Ark".
Early concept art for the character, who ultimately became Toht, depicted him as a uniformed Nazi officer with a mechanical arm that doubled as a machine gun, and a radio antenna built into his head. George Lucas dismissed this as being too far-fetched.
Indiana Jones' name comes from the name of Marcia Lucas' dog, and is a play on Steve McQueen's eponymous character name in Nevada Smith (1966). Indiana the dog, who was a Malamute, also served as the inspiration for Chewbacca in the Star Wars saga.
Shooting in Tunisia was unbearable for the cast and crew. The only thing that got Steven Spielberg and George Lucas through the shoot, was knowing that at the age of fifty-four, David Lean endured fourteen months of blistering heat, while shooting Lawrence of Arabia (1962) on-location.
Shooting in Tunisia proved to be so stressful, and so hot, that Steven Spielberg managed to compress a six-week shoot into four and a half weeks. This helped the production complete principal photography twelve days ahead of schedule.
Philip Kaufman shares story credit with George Lucas, because they originally dreamed up the film together in the 1970s. Reportedly, it was Kaufman's idea to pursue the Lost Ark of the Covenant. Originally, Kaufman was going to direct.
The words that Belloq slowly recites before opening the ark are (badly pronounced) Aramaic, and are part of a paragraph recited in many Synagogues today when the Ark that holds the Sefer Torahs (the Old Testament handwritten on Parchment) is opened as part of the Sabbath service.
The musical theme for the Ark of the Covenant is heard several times throughout the film. Each time, it either trails off, segues into a different theme, or modulates into a different key. Only at the climax of the film is the entire theme heard and resolved in its original key.
Part of the reason that George Lucas was originally against using Harrison Ford was that he had noted how his film colleague and close friend Martin Scorsese had earned a reputation for casting Robert De Niro in most of his movies, and didn't want Ford to become known as what he called "My (Lucas') Bobby".
A visit to the Elstree set by Stanley Kubrick's daughter Vivian Kubrick led to an investigation by the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). She had complained that the snakes in the tomb scenes were being unfairly treated, and this led to filming being delayed by one day.
In 2014, Steven Soderbergh published an experimental black-and-white version of the film, with the original soundtrack and dialogue replaced by an electronic soundtrack. Soderbergh said his intention was to encourage viewers to focus on Steven Spielberg's extraordinary staging and editing: "This filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day."
An early draft of the script had Indiana Jones traveling to Shanghai to recover a piece of the Staff of Ra. During his escape from the museum where it was housed, he was to be sheltered from machine gun fire behind a giant rolling gong. Also in the same script, Indy and Marion flee the chaos caused by the opening of the Ark in a wild mine-cart chase sequence. These scenes were cut from the script but ended up in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).
The scene where Jones fires at the truck was a botched stunt. The truck was supposed to flip over by means of a telegraph pole being fired by explosives through the floor. The explosive wasn't powerful enough and it simply forced the truck to tip over at an angle as can be seen in the finished movie. Time did not permit any further attempts at getting it right.
In a deleted scene where Sallah is confronted by a Nazi soldier, John Rhys-Davies, who was suffering from cholera at the time, was required to bend down. Unfortunately, this prompted the very sick Rhys-Davies to soil himself.
The tune that Sallah keeps singing, "A British tar (is a soaring soul)," is from Gilbert and Sullivan's "H.M.S. Pinafore". He also sings the words "I am the Monarch of the Sea, The Ruler of the Queen's Navee" from the song "Give Three Cheers", which is from the same musical.
Harrison Ford did most of the stunt work himself, including the scene in which he is getting dragged behind the truck. He sustained several bruised ribs from the stunt and later said "if the stunt was dangerous, we wouldn't have done it."
Steven Spielberg asked Producer Frank Marshall to find a mountain that looked like the Paramount logo. Marshall had to drive around the whole island until he found one, and with a suitable location to shoot.
On the Bonus Features DVD, John Rhys-Davies talks about how when he auditioned for the role of Sallah, he was concerned, since the script originally described Sallah as a "five-foot-two, skinny, Egyptian digger". Steven Spielberg mentioned that when he first heard Rhys-Davies speak, he reminded him of the Shakespearean character Falstaff. Spielberg then told Rhys-Davies that for his performance as Sallah, to combine his earlier role as "Vasco Rodrigues" from the miniseries Shogun (1980) with the character of Falstaff.
Costume Designer Deborah Nadoolman based Indy's outfit, flying jacket and fedora on Charlton Heston's in Secret of the Incas (1954). In that film, Heston played a treasure-hunting adventurer who, after studying an ancient model "map room", uses a beam of sunlight reflected off of a crystal to pinpoint the location of the treasure. In that film, Heston also flies a hijacked airplane and goes down a river in an inflatable yellow raft, reminiscent of events in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).
Indiana's primary weapon is a Smith & Wesson model 1917 .45 ACP revolver, with the barrel cut down from six inches to four inches. He also carries, as a backup weapon, a Browning Hi Power 9mm automatic, used during the shoot-out in Marion's tavern in Nepal.
Steven Spielberg admitted in the "Making of" DVD that watching the stage hands preparing the Well of Souls set by laying out the thousands of snakes nauseated him, even to the point where he nearly wanted to puke a few times.
The German plane that the Ark was going to be transported on is an experimental flying wing design by Blohm and Voss, a shipbuilding company that designed some rather unorthodox aircraft in the 1930s and 1940s. Though this particular model exists only in the film, it borrows various design elements from authentic period aircraft.
Instead of the standard Paramount logo used between 1975-87, the opening logo was a version of the studio logo used in the 1940s or 1950s which read: "A Paramount Picture". The only difference is that it also read "A Gulf+Western Company". This logo was also used in the sequels, instead of then-current logos to parallel the franchise's set time period.
Scenes cut from the film: . In the uncut conversation between Indy and Marion at the Raven Bar, Marion explains the cause of Abner's death, and tells Indy about the difficult last two years of her life. After having arranged the following day's appointment for the delivery of the medallion, Indy turns to leave, only to return under Marion's urge. She grabs his jacket and pulls him close for a kiss. The whole Raven Bar scene was cut because it was considered too long. The kissing part can be seen in The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark documentary. The scene appears in a script draft, the novelization, and the Marvel Comics movie adaptation. A plot element involving the Ark of the Covenant was cut from the film, and is only hinted at during the finale, when the Ark is opened. Basically, there were two rules about the Ark not mentioned in the final cut of the film: 1. If you touch the Ark, you die. 2. If you look at the Ark when it is opened, you die. This is first explained in additional dialogue for the scene when Indy and Sallah visit the Imam. Before translating the writings on the headpiece that give the height of the Staff of Ra, Imam warns Indy not to touch the Ark, or look at it when it is opened. The next scene involving this Ark subplot, is when Sallah and Indy remove the Ark from the Well of the Souls. When Sallah first sees it he reaches out to touch it. Indy stops him before he does, and reminds him of the Imam's warning. Then they insert long poles through each side of the Ark to lift it out of its crypt. Notice that nobody ever touches the Ark throughout the rest of the film, until the finale. While Indiana Jones is in the map room trying to find the exact location of the Well of the Souls, two German soldiers approach Sallah and order him to help them remove their truck that had been stuck in the sand. In the process, Sallah loses the rope, with which he was supposed to help Indy get out of the map room. In a continuing scene, we see Sallah entering a German tent looking for something to substitute his missing rope, and awhile later he comes up with a "rope" made of bed sheets and a Nazi flag. What we don't see, is Sallah in a state of panic, wandering in the Nazi camp at breakfast time. A group of German soldiers ask him to serve them water from a marmite. Sallah spills the content of the marmite on the German officers' uniforms and leaves promising to return with fresh water. The scene called for smoke in the background, but unfortunately the tires, used to produce the smoke were too many, thus making the scene too dark. Steven Spielberg opted to cut this scene, instead of spending half a day shooting it again. With Indy and Marion left to suffocate in the Well of the Souls, the Germans decide that Sallah should be executed. A young German soldier was supposed to carry out the dirty job, but things changed when he started having second thoughts. A German youth vacationing in Tunisia had been hired for the part of the young soldier. The funny thing is that this inexperienced young man managed to express brilliantly the moral dilemma of a young soldier forced to decide whether or not to kill a harmless stranger. This is the business of foreign wars, and this unknown German boy was able to convey it as well as any actor. The result was beyond description, with this German student playing an intensely moving and emotional scene, making David Wisnievitz and Karen Allen call it the greatest moment since the film began. Spielberg said the bitter truth was that brilliant and memorable though the scene was, it would probably end up on the cutting room floor, because it was just too long. So it did. There was a small cut during the scene where Indy and Marion escape from the Well of Souls. When Indy pushes the large stone brick out of the room filled with mummies, there is an Arab guard standing outside. When the Arab and Indy come face to face, Indy simply knocks him unconscious. Evidence of this scene still remains in the film. As Indy steps out of the chamber, he pauses and looks off to the left side of the screen. In the following shot, when Indy and Marion run from the building to the German plane, the Arab is visible lying on the ground by the building. Indy surviving the submarine journey by lashing himself to the periscope with his whip. In the final film, the plot hole goes largely unnoticed. Most people seem to assume either that Indy snuck inside the sub, or that it stayed on the ocean surface for the duration of the trip. This cut scene did appear in the Marvel Comics adaptation.
Though not mentioned in the film, the final location and destination of the German submarine ports, as shown by map, indicates the final segment of film where the Ark is opened by the Nazis is located on a Greek island north of Crete. However, since the map used for the film is geographically inaccurate (it does not include several of the other islands found in this location), it is believed that the island location used is fictitious. However, its size and shape as shown in wide and overhead shots (a better overhead image of the island's shape is seen as the lid of the Ark flies into the heavens) could mean the island is the small Greek rock island of "Pachia".
The Pan American seaplane that Indiana Jones flies to Nepal in is a Short Solent Mark III flying boat modified by matte effects to resemble a Martin M-130 with the name "China Clipper". The producers contacted the owner of the craft about using the flying boat for the movie, and though he responded that he was happy to help out, he informed them that only one of the flying boat's engines had been restored to working order, therefore, for the shot used in the movie, we see only that single engine running. Additionally, in order to convey the fact that it was a passenger aircraft, Spielberg had several production assistants dressed in period clothing, and filmed them simply walking through the doorway of the plane.
The scene where Marion puts on her dress and attempts to leave Belloq's tent was improvised as was the entire plane fight. The script called for Marion to shed her conservative Egyptian garb and don a revealing dress to heighten the tension when she and Indy are fending off snakes as they're sealed in the Well of Souls, but the script didn't include why she ended up in the dress. In order to get her into the dress, Karen Allen and Paul Freeman improvised the scene where she hides a knife with the older clothes she takes off to try to seduce Belloq and escape, and thus giving her character a plausible reason to be in the dress. Allen thought it would also be a good idea to callback to the drinking game scene that introduces her character in the beginning of the movie.
The Flying Wing in the fighting scene in Egypt is not a real plane. It was designed for the movie by Production Designer Norman Reynolds, and built by Vickers. It was inspired by the Horten Ho 229, a prototype German fighter and bomber that entered production too late in the war, though three of them had been built and tested.
During the Well of Souls scene, snake handler Steven Edge served as the double for Marion's legs. According to Edge, Karen Allen's stunt double refused to stand in amongst the snakes. Steven Spielberg offered him the chance by asking if he was willing to shave his legs and put on a dress. For the scene in which Indy is face to face with a hooded cobra, Edge says snake handlers induced the cobra to hood with a toy rabbit held just out of frame. Edge noted that unlike Indiana, Harrison Ford is not afraid of snakes.
All of the German vehicles in the desert chase sequence are replicas of pre-World War II German vehicles. The Mercedes-Benz 320 staff car is a Jaguar MK9 with a modified MK5 body; two were built for the movie by Classic Cars of Coventry. The cargo truck is a Mercedes-Benz LG3000 replica, built on a GMC CCKW. Gobler's troop car is a replica of a Mercedes-Benz G5 "Geländewagen".
A common fan theory states Indiana Jones supposedly had no effect on the outcome since the Nazis actually did get the ark. This is false, however, because Belloq states in the beginning of the movie that following Indy around is his usual way of finding things, which is the basis of their rivalry. This, along with scenes where Belloq is advising the Nazis, indicate that Belloq has told the Nazis to follow Indy around, until he leads them to the Ark, as he had led Belloq to previous discoveries.
Steven Spielberg had originally offered the role off Major Arnold Toht to Roman Polanski, who was intrigued at the opportunity to work with Spielberg, but decided to turn down the role because he wouldn't be able to make the trip to Tunisia.
One of the unique selling points of the Indiana Jones movies was their sound quality. Ben Burtt, the Sound Designer, said that the sounds used after the Ark was opened were synthesized using human vocalizations and recorded animal cries of dolphins and sea lions to make it sound otherworldly. The sounds for the subsequent sparkle and beams were recorded with the old gear used for the early Frankenstein movies.
The well-known line "Indy, they're digging in the wrong place." is in fact a misquote. The true line is simply "They're digging in the wrong place," and is spoken by both Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) and Indiana (Harrison Ford).
The Bible that Indiana hands to Major Eaton and Colonel Musgrove in the beginning of the movie is a old Dutch version, and shows 2 Chronicles 5, which describes how "the Ark of the Lord's covenant is brought to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim."
Brody states that the Pharoah Shishak (Shoshenq) invaded Jerusalem in 980 B.C. Historians actually date his reign from 943 to 922 B.C., and Solomon's as 970 to 931. According to the Bible's chronology, this would mean Shishak invaded around 926 B.C., five years after the death of Solomon.
The only Indiana Jones movie where his name doesn't appear in the title. Though re-releases of the movie on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray are titled Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark on the front covers.
Because of his commitment to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harrison Ford was unable to play Han Solo in the NPR radio dramatization of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). The role was taken over by Perry King, who had been among those auditioning for the part in the movie before Ford was cast.
In 1999, Raiders of the Lost Ark was added to the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress. It is the only film from the Indiana Jones franchise to have been inducted. Films are chosen for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
A fiberglass boulder twenty-two feet (seven meters) in diameter was made for the scene where Indiana escapes from the temple. Steven Spielberg was so impressed by Production Designer Norman Reynolds's realization of his idea that he gave the boulder a more prominent role in the film, and told Reynolds to let the boulder roll another fifty feet (fifteen meters).
The Air East Asia airliner that Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood take to Cairo is an example of the iconic Douglas DC-3. One of the most significant aircraft of all time, the DC-3 and its military variant (the C-47) were produced from 1936 to 1950.
The Luftwaffe aircraft upon which the Ark was scheduled to be transported on was neither a Blohm & Voss nor a Horten inspired design. It would appear that the aircraft in the film was closely based on an unrealised, Arado paper project which was allocated the RLM number 8-239 and would have been known as the Arado Ar 239 had a prototype been ordered.
Despite his third billing in such a hugely successful film and playing the main villain in it, Paul Freeman did not become a major name actor. He was even a "pointless answer" in the British television quiz show Pointless (2009) when it did a category on actors in Raiders of the Lost Ark (a "pointless answer" meaning that a hundred members of the British public were asked to name actors in the film and nobody said Paul Freeman).
The March 2004 issue of "Vanity Fair" contained an article about three South Mississippi boys named Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala, and Jayson Lamb who, in the summer of 1981, started videotaping a homemade remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark staring themselves and their elementary and middle school classmates. Their movie project continued on and off for seven years and several thousands of dollars, finally resulting in a near shotforshot, lowbudget, unauthorized recreation of the original film, albeit one in which the actors age from 12 to 17 and back again between scenes. Nowprofessional filmmaker Eli Roth (who went on to direct Cabin Fever) saw a muchpassedaround copy of the remake at NYU Film School and was instrumental in having it screened at Harry Knowles' film festival in Austin, Texas, and eventually getting a copy to Steven Spielberg, who wrote Strompolos, Zala, and Lamb a complimentary letter in 2002. After the "Vanity Fair" article was published, their story was optioned as a movie by producer Scott Rudin for a rumored midsix figuresironically, under the auspices of Paramount, the studio that released Raiders of the Lost Ark in the first place.
During Indiana's escape from the natives in the beginning of the film, he has his pilot start the plane in the water. When the engine starts, it is the same sound used as blaster shots from the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars saga.
Filming of Jones boarding a Boeing Clipper flying-boat was complicated by the lack of a surviving aircraft. Eventually, a post-war British Short Solent flying-boat formerly owned by Howard Hughes was located in California and substituted.
Ishaq Bux is crediting in the end titles as playing Omar, but it is nearly impossible to spot him in the film. If you pay attention during the Well of the Souls scene, he's the portly digger with the short white beard in a medium shot with Nazis behind him.
According to the documentary Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner (2007), Harrison Ford's performance as Indiana Jones in this film was so good that mere excerpts from before it was actually released in the cinemas persuaded the makers of Blade Runner (1982) that he was ideal to play Rick Deckard in the film. Dustin Hoffman had previously been the front-runner for several months.
In the original draft, Toht and Deitrich are named Belzig and Schleimann. Also in that draft, Toht/Belzig is in the rear car during the desert chase, and goes off the cliff with it. Deitrich is not present for the opening of the Ark, which takes place inside a Tabernacle tent. Instead he is outside, and is killed while pursuing Indy and Marion in their escape.
Producers limited the onscreen blood from gunshots during the truck chase by using fine red dust instead of liquid fake blood. Unfortunately, the only red dust available for the squibs was Cayenne Pepper, which caused a lot of suffering for the stunt crew.
The insert scene where the small capuchin monkey gives the Nazi salute to the German spies was part of the film's post-production pickup schedule, an allotted time to re-shoot or tweak scenes from the principal production shoot, supervised by George Lucas at Elstree Studios in London. Although the animal trainers had trained the monkey to perform the move prior to the shoot, they couldn't get the monkey to do it during a take. At first, the animal trainers were tapping the monkey on the head to get a reaction, but days dragged on, and the monkey didn't do the proper salute. Finally, they resorted to dangling grapes with fishing line just off camera to provoke the monkey, and that was what got the little actor to do a good take. The final shot in the film is the monkey reaching for the grapes just above the frame.
Versatile but not-so-well-known German actor Wolf Kahler played the cold, ruthless Nazi military commander Colonel Dietrich, who assists in the seizure of the Ark. In Barry Lyndon (1975), he played a completely opposite role as the dandy German aristocrat, Prince of Tubingen, with make-up and cheek rouge of the eighteenth century.
The Life magazine read by Toht on the plane to Nepal is dated November 30, 1936, which is also the day the social activist Abbie Hoffman was born. Steven Spielberg would years later be initially slated to direct a project about Hoffman and his fellow defendants in the Chicago Seven.
The Disney Springs lifestyle center at Walt Disney World has a tie-in cocktail lounge named for Fred Sorenson's character Jock, giving him the last name of Lindsey and stating that he settled in central Florida in 1938.
This was Lawrence Kasdan's first script for George Lucas. He was actually recommended for the job by Steven Spielberg. Upon their first meeting, he warned Kasdan that Lucas would try to hire him for the sequel to American Graffiti, and told him not to take it. The story at that point was little more than a description of the character (the fedora, jacket, and whip), and the "McGuffin" of going after the Ark of the Covenant. The rest of the details were developed during a long weekend spent together by Spielberg, Lucas, and Kasdan. Upon receiving the first draft, but before even reading it, Lucas asked him to write The Empire Strikes Back as well.
The William Hootkins character is named "Major Eaton" which is a running joke since Star Wars (1977) of naming Hootkins characters after his obese physical trait (in Valentino he was Mr. Fatty, in Star Wars he was Porkins, in Plums Plots and Plans he was Dr. Pretzel, in Hanover Street he was Beef, and in BBC2 Playhouse he was Mr. Bowles).
The opening logo says "A Paramount Picture," a common feature for Paramount releases prior to 1968, but out of use by the time this film was released. Since 1968, it has only appeared on the Indiana Jones films released in the 1980s as an homage to classic film releases.
Indiana Jones has two Herbert Johnson Poet hats in this film. He has a grey dress hat (seen in the shot of him boarding the plane to Nepal, and in the ending scene on the steps of the Capital building) and the iconic brown "work" hat.
There is a character in Frank Herbert's Dune saga called "Duncan Idaho", which follows a similar logic of naming a hero with a state. However, set in space in a far-away future, this doesn't make quite as much sense.
Frank Marshall: Pilot of the flying wing. All the stuntmen were sick on the day that Marion hits the pilot of the Flying Wing over the head, so Producer Frank Marshall agreed to do it. Unfortunately for him, the shot took three days, and a lot of it involved him sitting in a cockpit that was in excess of one hundred degrees.
Dennis Muren: Appears as a Nazi spy who is tracking Indiana Jones on the airplane. Only his eyes can be seen, though, as most of his face is hidden behind the magazine he's reading, which is Life volume 1 number 2 (November 30, 1936), which has pages 42-43 dedicated to the water color paintings of Adolf Hitler.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas argued over who Indiana's companion should be. One idea was that she was to be a Nazi spy. After discarding that idea, they couldn't decide if they wanted the character to be Indiana's former mentor, or an old lover. It was Lawrence Kasdan's idea to combine the two ideas, by making her the daughter of Indiana's teacher. The idea of Indiana traveling with a Nazi spy was re-used for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
Although there is a fan theory that Indiana Jones has no impact on the plot (the Nazis found the Ark and opened it despite his attempted intervention) this fails to account for Marion. Had he not shown up, the Nazis would have killed her. He saved her life again when the Ark was opened and he told her to close her eyes, something she wouldn't have done had he not been there.
The submarine pen on the island where the Ark is taken and finally opened is not a set, but in fact an actual German U-Boat pen left over from World War II in La Rochelle, France. Producer Robert Watts was so amazed at how preserved the submarine pen was (even down to the graffiti on the walls) that he described it as "an actual set in existence".
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas disagreed on the character of Indiana Jones. Although Lucas saw him as a 007-like playboy, Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan felt the character's academic and adventurer elements made him complex enough. Spielberg had a darker vision of Jones, interpreting him as an alcoholic, similar to Humphrey Bogart's character Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). This characterization fell away during the later drafts, though elements survive (especially Jones's response Marion's "death").
According to the novelization, the writing on the headpiece of the Staff of Ra included a specific warning not to look into the Ark. This is why Indiana and Marion survive the conflagration at the end, simply by closing their eyes. It may be an allusion to 1 Samuel 6:19, where God "smote" the men of Beth Shemesh for looking into the Ark.
In a 2001 "Making of" special, it was revealed that the effects used in the three antagonists' rather gruesome deaths (Dietrich, Toht, and Belloq) were a vacuum machine, a time-lapsed heat gun and a shotgun, respectively. When the movie was submitted for an MPAA rating, it was given a rating of "R" because of the exploding head. In order to lower the rating, flames were superimposed over this image. The result was the appearance of a head exploding behind a dense curtain of flames. The rating was lowered to "PG" (at the time, the PG-13 rating did not exist).
As scripted, the scene where Indiana and Marcus meet with the Army Intelligence officials in Washington, D.C., was to be followed immediately by the Ark being stored in the warehouse. The filmmakers realized there was no resolution for Indiana's relationship with Marion, and the new scene was written. It was filmed on the steps of San Francisco's City Hall.
The melting of Toht's head was done by exposing a gelatine and plaster model of Ronald Lacey's head to a heat lamp with an under-cranked camera. Dietrich's crushed head was a hollow model from which air was withdrawn.
Numerous characters die as a direct result of Indiana Jones's actions (or omission of action), but he only deliberately kills eight people (1. He shoots the Mongolian in the bar. (2. He shoots the Egyptian swordsman. (3. and 4. He shoots two Arabs on the truck carrying explosives. (5. 6. and 7. He runs the Nazis in the utility vehicle off a cliff. (8. He runs over the Nazi with the truck. By those guidelines, it's possible that Marion intentionally kills more people than Indiana. She shoots the Sherpa in the bar and a bunch of Nazis from the tail gun of the plane. It's unclear exactly how many Nazis she kills, but there are at least seven in the back of the transport, and she appears to kill them all, which would at least tie her body count with Indiana's.
In the scene where Jones threatens the ark with a bazooka, a fly can be seen crawling into Belloq's mouth, and then flying away (Though the editing team removed a few frames to make it appear as though Belloq had inadvertently eaten the fly. This was a prank played on the Paul Freeman character because "Frogs eat flies.").
Lawrence Kasdan is known for disliking improvisation by actors. One such improvisation was having Indy shoot the swordsman. The final film that Kasdan wrote for Ford was Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), in which Ford is killed by a swordsman.