Ever since Raiders Of The Lost Ark excited and delighted audiences in 1981, Indiana Jones has remained an enduring and beloved cultural institution. Although Harrison Ford also cut an iconic figure as Han Solo in the Star Wars films, nobody else can say they are Indiana Jones.
And while the series has seen some highs and lows over the years, each step of the way took a staggering amount of time, effort, and money to come to life. And with so many moving parts to each production, it's an outright guarantee that such a blockbuster series would produce a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes facts.
Steven Spielberg made a sacrifice to do The Last Crusade
Spielberg had made a promise to his friend and Indiana Jones collaborator George Lucas that he would see their plans to make the franchise a trilogy through. But as Far Out Magazine, this pledge introduced a scheduling conflict that forced him to abandon directing the 1988 smash hit Rain Man.
In Spielberg's words, "When I saw that I was going to go past January 12th and that I would have to step down from Indy 3, the promise I made to George was more important than making Rain Man. So, with great regret, because I really wanted to work with Dustin and Tom, I stepped down from the movie."
Kate Capshaw needed a little help with the bugs
In a behind-the-scenes documentary chronicling the making of Indiana Jones And the Temple Of Doom, Kate Capshaw discussed how nervous she was about the prospect of getting multiple buckets of large insects poured all over her.
Prior to filming, she wondered if there was a sedative she could take to "keep from freaking out." And while she didn't specify what she did get her hands on, it was apparently potent enough that she could stay serene for the whole day's shooting.
Harrison Ford nearly lost a leg in Raiders Of The Lost Ark
According to SlashFilm, Ford mistimed a dodging roll during the fistfight near the moving plane in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, which left his leg pinned under the wheel. Although this accident tore a ligament in his left leg, his injury would have been even more serious if the day wasn't hot enough to soften the rubber in the plane's tire.
As Ford said, "I'm not normally a worrier. I know they're not going to kill the main character in a 20-million-dollar film. I also know Indy wouldn't look good with a peg leg. I was a lot more careful about stunt work after that!"
Harrison Ford's body was ready for Crystal Skull
In an interview with The Georgia Straight, costume designer Bernie Pollack discussed how easy to work with and collaborative he found Harrison Ford on Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. But one aspect of their time together he was jokingly bitter about was how well Ford had kept in shape in the 18 years between The Last Crusade and Crystal Skull.
As Pollack put it after the production acquired the original Indiana Jones costume from the Lucasfilm archives, "He walked right into it. It's rather angering."
Temple Of Doom's darkness came from divorce
Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom carries a little infamy as one of the darkest and most violent chapters of the Indiana Jones franchise, and much of its tone was influenced by the divorces that both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were going through at the time.
As Empire Magazine quoted Lucas as saying, "It ended up darker than we thought it would be. Once we got out of our bad moods, which went on for a year or two, we kind of looked at it and went, 'Mmmmm, we certainly took it to the extreme.'"
Chris Pratt was "scared away" from playing Indiana Jones
As Entertainment Weekly reported, rumors circulated that after Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny, other actors such as Chris Pratt or Phoebe Waller-Bridge would replace Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. However, Ford put such talk to rest when he said, "I'm Indiana Jones. When I'm gone, he's gone. It's easy."
But if a studio does try to reboot the franchise without him, they won't find a collaborator in Chris Pratt. He said in response to this statement, "Am I gonna get haunted by the ghost of Harrison Ford one day when he dies if I play?"
This actor trained for months for a fight that didn't happen
The original plan for Raiders Of The Lost Ark included an epic fight scene between this swordsman (played by Terry Richards) and Indiana Jones while the latter was trying to rescue Marion Ravenwood. Richard practiced his swordplay for months just for this one scene, but nature had other plans for him.
According to Entertainment Tonight, that was because Ford was one of many within the cast who contracted dysentery while on location in Tunisia. So while he felt bad for Richards, he suggested that his character just shoot the swordsman, an idea Steven Spielberg loved.
The Last Crusade was originally going to be a ghost story
According to Collider, George Lucas's original idea for Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade would have seen the hero explore a haunted castle.
However, this idea ended up being scrapped because Steven Spielberg had recently wrapped production on Poltergeist and didn't want to repeat himself with another movie that centered around ghosts.
Ke Huy Quan never expected to be Short Round
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Quan mentioned that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were having trouble finding the right child to play Short Round in Temple Of Doom until they held a casting call in Chinatown, Los Angeles. But while Quan attended, it was to help his brother audition rather than try out for the part himself.
He said, "I was kind of coaching him behind the camera, and the casting director saw me and asked if I wanted to try."
Sean Connery was supposed to come back for Crystal Skull
Although Sean Connery retired from acting after 2003's The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, he considered returning for Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. But according to The Hollywood Reporter, he told Steven Spielberg to kill the character off instead after hearing about what the director had in mind.
Connery said, "It was not that generous a part, worth getting back into the harness and go for. And they had taken the story in a different line anyway, so the father of Indy was kind of really not that important."
Karen Allen was sworn to secrecy
In November 2022, Showbiz411 asked Karen Allen if she was going to be in the then-upcoming finale of the Indiana Jones franchise, Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny.
But her response was a little more evasive than expected. She said, "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you! Seriously, I can't say a word."
Alison Doody secured the role of Elsa thanks to rats
In an interview for the BBC, actress Amanda Redman was once offered the role of Elsa Schneider in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, but the part went to Alison Doody after she turned it down. And Redman's refusal came down to one specific scene.
She said, "It included a scene where rats would be crawling over my head. I really can't bear rats, so that was that."
Shia LaBeouf accidentally ensured he wouldn't be back
While speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, LaBeouf discussed how his criticisms of Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull after its release burned a bridge with Steven Spielberg. And it's for that reason that he now bears some regret for his statements.
The actor said, "[Spielberg] told me there's a time to be a human being and have an opinion, and there's a time to sell cars. It brought me freedom, but it also killed my spirits because this was a dude I looked up to like a sensei."
There's a subtle sci-fi Easter Egg in Raiders Of The Lost Ark
When Indiana Jones first discovers the Ark of the Covenant inside the Well Of Souls in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, there's a clever reference to George Lucas's other massive franchise in the background.
One of the engravings on the wall behind Indy bears the image of an ancient Egyptian encountering R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars. They always say the space opera took place a long time ago, right?
The Last Crusade initially made Indiana Jones too creepy
According to Collider, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade was originally going to be Indiana Jones And The Monkey King.
In a script penned by Chris Columbus, Indiana Jones was supposed to meet the Monkey King from the classic Chinese novel Journey To The West and sleep with a teaching assistant named Betsy. But since the relationship ended up making Indy seem far too sleazy, Betsy was scrapped along with the Monkey King.
George Lucas thought of Raiders while avoiding Star Wars
As The New York Times reported, George Lucas skipped the Star Wars premiere to go on vacation in Hawaii. There, he happened to run into Steven Spielberg and told him about his plans to revive classic adventure films for modern audiences.
For his part, Spielberg admitted he had always wanted to make a James Bond movie but wanted one without the gadgets due to the frustrations he had with his mechanical shark and UFOs in Jaws and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Spielberg recalled, "So George told me the story of Raiders and said there wouldn't be a single piece of metalware in the entire movie."
Temple of Doom was not well-received in India
According to SlashFilm, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg based their depiction of India in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom on adventure films they enjoyed in their youth, like Gunga Din and The Stranglers of Bombay.
However, these films were known for their brutish and sensationalized characterization of Indian culture, which affected how Temple of Doom framed the subcontinent. As such, the film was banned in Indian theaters upon release.
Kate Capshaw's fears scrapped a Temple Of Doom scene
Although a scene featuring Willie Scott interacting with a snake did make it into Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, she was supposed to share a scene with an even larger one. But as a behind-the-scenes documentary revealed, she couldn't go near that snake without experiencing severe panic attacks.
This led Steven Spielberg to cut the scene, and he joked, "I think she probably, years and years later, married me for that."
Harrison Ford doesn't share Indy's snake phobia
During a Reddit Q&A session in 2014, a fan asked Harrison Ford how he felt about snakes. After all, one would be hard-pressed to find a more famous snake hater than Indiana Jones.
But to the fan's likely surprise, Ford's response was, "I actually like snakes! When I was young, I was a boy scout nature camp counselor, and one of our projects was collecting snakes and creating an environment for them, so I'm quite familiar with snakes and think they're fantastic creatures."
River Phoenix's Harrison Ford impressions got him a job
While working with Ford in the 1986 movie The Mosquito Coast, Phoenix mentioned making a habit of imitating him. As Far Out Magazine quoted Phoenix as saying, "I kept a close eye on Harrison, and I noticed some of his traits, and when he would turn around, I would sometimes mimic him and get a few laughs."
Obviously, Ford remembered these impressions because just a few years later, Spielberg offered Phoenix the chance to play Indiana Jones in a flashback in The Last Crusade when he was still a Boy Scout.
Temple Of Doom's mine cart sounds came from Disneyland
According to The Disneyland Encyclopedia, the rumbling of the mine carts from the famous chase scene in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom was captured by going to Disneyland and recording the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Not only were the small trains in the beloved Disney ride a similar size to the mine carts, but they can make quite a racket when the music and other sound effects are turned off.
The Last Crusade incorporated Harrison Ford's real scar
In one of the flashbacks featuring River Phoenix in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, Young Indy gives himself a wound on his chin with an errant whip crack. This wound corresponds with the scar Ford has in the same place in real life.
As The New York Post reported, Ford received the scar after suffering a car accident in 1964. After he crashed into a telephone pole, his face slammed into the steering wheel and eventually left a scar.
The Last Crusade also explained Indy's name
In Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, Henry Jones Sr. revealed that Indy's chosen name comes from his childhood dog, Indiana.
According to The Denver Art Museum, this line served as George Lucas's admission that he named the character after his beloved Alaskan Malamute of the same name. Since she was there while he wrote the first Star Wars movie, she was also the inspiration for Chewbacca.
The man-eating ants in Crystal Skull were a leftover
Although the tense chase scene in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull involving a horde of deadly ants is one of the more memorable parts of the movie, it wasn't originally supposed to be in it.
According to IGN, the creatures were recycled from a script for The Last Crusade that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas ended up abandoning.
Temple Of Doom once had a chase on China's Great Wall
As John Baxter wrote in Mythmaker: The Life And Work Of George Lucas, Lucas wanted an early version of Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom to open with Indiana Jones chasing a villain across the Great Wall of China on a motorcycle.
However, his hopes were dashed when the Chinese government denied Paramount Pictures permission to film in the nation.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark has a special congressional honor
In 1999, Raiders Of The Lost Ark was added to the Library Of Congress's National Film Registry, which lists the movies the cultural institution considers significant enough to ensure their preservation.
It remains the only Indiana Jones movie ever to receive this honor, which a film has to be historically, culturally, or aesthetically groundbreaking to achieve.
Steven Spielberg has since disowned Temple Of Doom
As The Daily Star reported, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom is perhaps the most polarizing movie in the series, as its dark tone was a jarring surprise for audiences and critics. And looking back, it seems the movie didn't work for Steven Spielberg any more than its harshest critics.
In his words, "I wasn't happy with the second film at all. It was too dark, too subterranean, and much too horrific. I thought it out-poltered Poltergeist."
Harrison Ford had to outrun that boulder ten times
In an interview with the American Society Of Cinematographers, Steven Spielberg revealed that Harrison Ford put himself at genuine risk in the Raiders Of The Lost Ark scene where Indy runs from the boulder. Because although it was made of fiberglass and wood, the boulder still weighed about 300 pounds.
As Spielberg put it, "There were five shots of the rock from five different angles — each one done separately, each one done twice — so Harrison had to race the rock ten times. He won ten times — and beat the odds. He was lucky — and I was an idiot for letting him try it."
Temple Of Doom practically birthed the PG-13 rating
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the MPAA noted Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom's darker tone and disturbing imagery just as much as audiences and critics would upon release. However, the association didn't believe the film was graphic enough to warrant an R rating, which led them to rate Temple of Doom PG.
However, when Spielberg couldn't fault parents for reacting angrily to this somewhat misleading rating and that of the movie Gremlins, he asked then-MPAA President Jack Valenti to create an intermediate rating between PG and R. And before Spielberg knew it, the PG-13 rating was born.
They wanted Laurence Olivier In The Last Crusade
The faithful Grail Knight who guards the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade has a significant role in the story. The movie's producers initially wanted that role to be filled by legendary actor Laurence Olivier.
But according to ScreenRant, Olivier's health had declined too severely to accept the part, and he would pass away a few months after The Last Crusade was released in 1989.