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15 Facts About ‘Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade’ So Fascinating They Belong In A Damn Museum

The Indiana Jones films are ranked in this order: Raiders, Last Crusade, Temple Of Doom. Including Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull would be an insult to the original trilogy.

The third Indiana Jones film was done both to fulfill a three-picture contract Steven Spielberg had with George Lucas, and to make-up for some of the criticism Temple Of Doom received. In the opinion of both the film’s star and many of the fans, Last Crusade has the most depth of the trilogy. The whip cracking, Nazi fighting, archaeology adventure was still there, but with the third film, audiences were shown how Indiana came to be the college professor with a knack for Nazi fighting. The addition of Sean Connery as Indy’s father gave the movie an extra dose of humor and a connection to Spielberg’s inspiration for the series — James Bond.

With the movie celebrating its 25th anniversary and a fifth film on the way — not to mention Temple of Doom celebrating its own anniversary — here are 15 facts you might not know about one of the greatest adventure movies ever made.

1. The original story involved a haunted castle. George Lucas’ original story for the third Indiana Jones film involved a haunted castle. Spielberg had just finished Poltergeist though and didn’t want to do another ghost story. Lucas suggested a storyline built around the Holy Grail, but Spielberg didn’t think the idea was strong enough and wanted a father and son story. As Spielberg tells it, the compromise was a father and son story about chasing down the Holy Grail.

“The dad thing was my idea. The Grail doesn’t offer a lot of special effects and doesn’t promise a huge physical climax. I just thought that the Grail that everybody seeks could be a metaphor for a son seeking reconciliation with a father and a father seeking reconciliation with a son.”

2. Producers knew right away that they wanted Sean Connery for the part of Indy’s father. Connery was initially skeptical about the role because he’s only 12 years older than Harrison Ford. But being that James Bond was the original inspiration for the character, producers were set on bagging Connery. Once Connery was on board, he and Harrison Ford had instant chemistry and Ford was thrilled at the chance to work with the acting legend:

“It was just really great to work with an actor who doesn’t give a shit. I don’t mean about the craft, but about his ego. We just clicked.”

3. Harrison Ford and Sean Connery ditched their pants. The scene with Indiana and his father dinning on-board the German blimp is supposed to take place in the winter, but was filmed in the middle of the summer. Both Connery and Ford ditched their pants in order to keep cool and avoid profusely sweating during the scene.

4. The third film is Harrison Ford’s favorite. Ford felt that having Sean Connery in the movie and fleshing out Indiana’s past gave the film an added sophistication. In the making of video, Ford admits that the film’s locations made it the most fun to shoot of the three movies.

5. Harrison Ford recommended River Phoenix for the film. Ford and Phoenix had previously worked together on The Mosquito Coast and the actor told Spielberg that Phoenix looked like him as a teenager more than any other actor being considered for the part of young Indy.

6. Producers ordered up the births of 2,000 rats. Rounding up a horde of rats for the catacombs wasn’t the easiest of tasks. Producers had to ensure that all the rats would be disease free and let their animal handlers know months in advance about the scene, so the rats could be breed to meet the production demands. Mechanical rats were created for the torching scene.

7. Some of the Nazi uniforms in the film were the authentic thing. Costume designer Anthony Powell studied photographs of Nazi uniforms and then combed Eastern Europe with his team to track down as many uniforms as possible for the film.

8. Spielberg had the Nazi extras cross their fingers. During the scene with the huge Nazi rally in Berlin, Spielberg jokingly told all the extras that they had better have their left arm behind their back and fingers crossed while doing the Sieg Heil arm salute.

9. No seagulls were harmed or even used in the film. The beach scene where Sean Connery uses his umbrella to scare a flock of seagulls into the Nazi fighter plane was a bit tricky, because seagulls can’t really be trained. In order to create the illusion of a scattering flock of gulls, producers placed a flock of dummy birds on the beach with a small group of doves concealed under a sheet. When the time came, the flock of doves were released along with handfuls of white feathers being thrown into the air.

10. The tank chase scene was supposed to be much shorter. It was George Lucas who wanted to have an old tank somewhere in the movie, so Steven Spielberg set about writing a short storyboard with it to be shot over two days. According to Sean Connery, the two days soon stretched to eight because Lucas and Spielberg kept finding new action sequences and comedy scenes they wanted to incorporate in with the tank.

11. Harrison Ford’s face was never in any danger of being ripped apart by the tank tracks. Two tanks were used for the action sequence, one a 28 ton steel real-deal and the other a much lighter tank — if their is such a thing — that was pulled by truck and used for the close-up action scenes. This tank had polyurethane tracks that never touched the ground, allowing Harrison Ford to put his face on the moving tracks without any fear of having his face ripped off.

12. Ford did some of the tank stunt scenes himself. One of the many exciting tank scenes involves Indy hanging from the cannon on the tank as the driver tries to crush him against the canyon wall. Ford did this scene himself as crew members walked along the cliff’s edge, dropping shovels of dirt on him to add to the scene’s intensity.

13. Uncredited screenwriter, Tom Stoppard made major bank for his re-writes. Stoppard wrote most of the dialogue between Indy and Henry and was paid $120,000 before the film’s release. Following its success, he was given a bonus of $1 million.

14. Sean Connery improvised the line “She talks in her sleep.” According to actor Julian Glover, Connery tossed out the line about Elsa talking in her sleep on the spot:

My favourite memory is Sean making up that line, “She talks in her sleep.” It was on the spot. Harrison said, “How did you know she’s a Nazi?” and he said that, and they had to stop filming. Everybody just fell on the floor and Steven said, “Well, that’s in.”

15. The famous motorcycle race wasn’t even part of the initial script. It seems odd to think that the Nazi motorcycle race almost didn’t happen, but it was only added to give a boost of action to the second half of the film, as explained by Spielberg:

“We had a great preview. Nobody wanted to change anything except George and me. The studio was ecstatic and the audience gave us a bunch of unprecedented scores. But George and I were troubled that the end of the second act was rather word-heavy, so we concocted a couple of new set-pieces – especially the motorcycle chase, which we shot up near where George lives in Northern California.”

Sources: Empire, IMDB, YouTube

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