Story Of The Scene: 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' Steven Spielberg (1981)

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The Independent Culture

After three months of filming in Tunisia, Steven Spielberg and the crew of Raiders of the Lost Ark were beginning to feel the heat. Spielberg was still licking his wounds from one of his rare box-office failures - 1941, a dismal Second World War comedy which had bombed the previous year. He's said to have taken crates of comfort food to get him through the shoot - cans and cans of spaghetti hoops to be exact. If he was going to recreate the comic-book adventures of his childhood, he was jolly well going to eat kids' food as well. It was probably why he was the only person on set who didn't get a bad case of gippy tummy.

After three months of filming in Tunisia, Steven Spielberg and the crew of Raiders of the Lost Ark were beginning to feel the heat. Spielberg was still licking his wounds from one of his rare box-office failures - 1941, a dismal Second World War comedy which had bombed the previous year. He's said to have taken crates of comfort food to get him through the shoot - cans and cans of spaghetti hoops to be exact. If he was going to recreate the comic-book adventures of his childhood, he was jolly well going to eat kids' food as well. It was probably why he was the only person on set who didn't get a bad case of gippy tummy.

Raiders of the Lost Ark began as a holiday conversation between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in 1977. On the beach in Hawaii the two reminisced about the TV and comic-book adventures of their childhood. Lucas mentioned his idea for a similar-themed film. What about the Biblical Ark of the Covenant falling into the hands of Hitler's agents shortly before the outbreak of the war?

By the time a working script had been hammered out, the character that was to be known as Indiana Jones, the grizzled self-mocking archaeologist action hero, was key to the movie. Nick Nolte passed on the role, and Tom Selleck too. Harrison Ford was eventually cast. He was perfect as Indiana - thoroughly old-school, tetchy and macho. He may not actually be a Robert Mitchum or a Humphrey Bogart, but at least he could suggest them.

In one of the most famous scenes in the movie, an assassin dressed in black confronts Indiana in a souk in Cairo. Marion, played by Karen Allen, is about to be abducted after she unwisely hides in a convenient rattan basket. Indy hasn't much time. But the looming Arab swordsman has plenty of time. He loops his gleaming scimitar in skilful arcs of light. He is going to take great delight in showing his skill at killing this infidel American. Indy, on the other hand, doesn't even bother to reach for his bullwhip, his usual weapon of choice. Without the merest hint of fair play, he shoots the swordsman down with his pistol.

As it happens, the script had allowed for an extended period of choreographed fighting. But Harrison Ford had other things on his mind. He needed to use the lavatory. He had diarrhoea. This comically improvised scene proved such a hit with the director, he junked the written scene and left it in.

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