“George and Steven had seen every other actor in town,” recalled Tom Selleck. “Finally, they got around to me. With a part I would have killed for … ” But Magnum intervened. Selleck merged both heroes in the 1988 Magnum episode called … Legend of the Lost Art. Complete with hat, whip, booby traps and a McGuffin chased by everyone.

(© Belisarius Productions/Glenn A Larson Productions/Universal TV, 1988)




“I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go.”


Steven Spielberg . 1980

Dreaming up a hero

“Better than Bond!”

was easy enough.

“ I didn’t actually write any drafts of it,” said director Philip Kaufman. “George Lucas and I sat down to write a story. I had the idea of the lost ark. George had the idea of the Indiana Jones character. We talked for about six weeks and then I got an offer to do another movie. About four years later, I got a call from George saying that he and  Spielberg  talked about the project on a beach in Hawaii, and would I mind if Steven did it? I said fine, and that’s what happened.”

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had been  building sandcastles together on an Hawaiian beach as Star Wars and Close Encounters transformed Hollywood in the summer of 1977.   Finding Indy was not so easy. “Here’s a suggestion,” said Spielberg. “Harrison!”  ”No,” said Lucas, “he’s in two of my films.  [American  Graffiti and Star Wars].  I don’t want him  to be my Bobby De Niro.” 

Dr Henry Jones Jr .  Their  final choice from 200 actors turned into  a problem  of Magnum proportions.  “George and Steven had seen every other actor in  town,” recalled Tom Selleck.  “Finally,  they got around to me.  With a part I would have killed for.”   Wearing an all too tight leather jacket, Selleck tested with Sean Young as Marion.  “They were really, really good,” said Lucas.

Tom was also  the right price .  But…  “I’d already  done the Magnum PI pilot and when they offered me Raiders,  CBS picked  up my option.  The network tried to talk them into delaying it, but it didn’t work.”

There is a variation of this  tale..  Selleck felt that  the Vietnam Navy Seal vet, Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV, was created as a TV James Bond, flawless, perfect, with visiting stewardesses to match on each arm. Selleck loathed that premise.  “I’m tired of playing what I look like.” Having loved working with James Garner on two Rockford Files your average episodes in the late  70s, Selleck suggested Magnum  should be more like Jim Rockford,   your average  Joe Blue Collar type –  it would attract more male viewers, he said. The suits refused, OK, said Selleck, I’ll go off and make Raiders. Bye now!

Actually, Selleck could have made the film  – and the TV series.

Due to Screen Actors/Writers Guild strikes, Magnum, PI eventually started shooting two weeks after Raiders wrapped. “I was sitting around in Hawaii waiting for the series to start while the film wrapped – I nearly committed suicide,” commented Selleck.  “I felt a sense of accomplishment in that  I tested for  the part and  got it.  I can’t imagine anybody doing a  better  job  than  Ford.  It’s his movie, his accomplishment.”

The man who was Magnum and so nearly Indy, finally played both by merging them in the eighth season and almost  last (158th) episode, called  Legend of the Lost Art, 1988, a parody complete with hat, whip, booby traps and an  ancient scroll as the McGuffin that everyone is after: Magnum, one of his  exes, a mysterious foreigner and a double agent (Margaret Colin, Kebir Bedi, Anthony Newley).

The search went on… John Beck (who had already lost Superman), Jeff Bridges, John Shea, Peter Coyote, Nick Mancuso, Tim Matheson, Sam Neill (Steven called him back for the Jurassic Park movies), Nick Nolte. There were also more surprising suggestions: Chevy Chase, Steve Martin (who went straight in Pennies From Heaven, instead), Bill Murray (Saturday Night Live was in the way), Jack Nicholson…  and according to him in 2011, John Travolta.

And Spielberg could never land Gene Hackman  Not for Jaws, not for Close Encounters, not for Indy. 

Peter Coyote recalled attending a routine Spielberg video-casting session.

“Steven was sitting cross-legged on the couch.

I tried to walk in my sort of innately heroic fashion

– and tripped over a light!My test was absurd.

They said:  ‘Put this hat on.’ So, I put the hat on.

They said something like:  ‘Look cocky!

So, I looked cocky.”

Then, Steven and I sat around and talked about…I don’t know what, bikers or something.I was very impressed – Steven Spielberg, right? Sitting there giving 100% attention to a schmuck who’d just tripped over his lamp and destroyed his office!” Coyote did the next one, instead, ET.  “Not that Spielberg remembered me!”

With less than than a month to go before shooting started,  Harrison Ford  got a call from George.  “He asked me to read a acript as quickly as possible and then get over to Steven Spielberg’s house and talk to Steven. I read the scripy s quickly as I could. I saw a great opportunity in a fun movie. The part was offered to me and I accepted.“

Ford became Indy…  looking much like Alan Ladd  in China, 1942, Ronald Reagan in Hong Kong, 1951, and Charlton Heston in Secret of the Incas, 1953… with a brown leather jacket, fedora, chinos, shoulder bag and revolver.  Ladd’s was also another Paramount hero called Jones. David Jones.   Reagan even had a cute Chinse kid sidekick, Danny Chang as Wei Lin  – much like Jonathan Ke Quan as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1983. 

Dr Rene Belloq .  For Indy’s archeologist rival, Spielberg naturally wanted a Frenchman.  Paris casting icon Dominque Besnehard went to met him at the  Plaza Athenee, found a young American in the foyer and asked what time Mr Spielberg might arrive. “But it’s me – c’est moi!”   He met with  Jean-Louis Trintignant, who passed, and asked to see Delon, who was a no-show  – naturellement!– at their rendezvous. No matter, Spielberg really wanted Jacques Dutronc, coolly handsome singer-actor husband of singer Françoise Hardy, and the director’s  choice  as “the best screen actor in the world,” according to one magazine.  (A French mag, bien sur). But the handsome singer-actor’s Engleesh was not up to snuff.  Another French star, Jean-Pierre Cassel, and Italy’s  Giancarlo Gianninii were also unsuitable for American ears.

Jonathan Pryce turned down Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits while waiting for Spielbergian approval. Instead, Belloq became a career-making role for  Paul Freeman and his (said Spielberg) striking eyes.  The stage star was big news in the UK at the time due to his journalist investigating the  July 1977 execution of an Arab princess, Mishaal bint Fahd bin Mohammed,  and her adulterous lover, in the controversial  docu-drama, Death of a Princess, TV, 1980. (Lucas invited him, back for two TV episodes of  his Young Indiana Jones Chroniclet in the erarl;y 90s).

Marion Ravenwood .  Spielberg talked with  Debra Winger, a close friend (and the voice of ET).. He also saw Amy Irving  – not difficult, they shared the same bed. Amy did not seem to know what the importance of what was being planned  as she chose this moment to leave Spielberg.  Meanwhile, he  had  been agreeably impressed by Karen Allen in Animal  House –  her loved her Irene Dunne/Carole Lombard qualities – and tested her with one of her co-stars  from that 1977 farce, Tim Matheson. And again with John Shea.  She won. They lost.

And, breaking their rule, the guys invited back for Indy IV finale – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 2007.

Toht .  “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,” said Klaus Kinski. Like, who else?  Kinski took devilish delight in rejecting name directors (a term he hated) like Fellini and Spielberg. In this case, he preferred a better pay-day for Venom and  starring (and many suggest, having real sex) in a Franco-Japanese sex film, Fruits of  Passion.   Roman Polanski also passed (hardly keen on playing Nazis). 

Because he reminded the director of Peter Lorre, Scots actor Michael Sheard   auditioned  (and was given a tiny role of a U-boat skipper;  he was promoted to Hitler for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 1988, the third of four times he played Adolf – he was also twice cast as Himmler!). Sheard’s good friend, Ronald Lacey, was contemplating becoming  an agent when suggested for the sadistic Nazi interrogator, with a mere 14 lines.. As with Freeman, the film saved Lacey’s  career; he completed  a further 48 screen roles in the ten years up to his 1991 death. 

Sallah .  Spielberg wanted Danny DeVito  – except  he was as tied to his TV show (Taxi) as Selleck was to his. Diminutive Danny  more or less played the role in his Indyesque movies with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner: Romancing The Stone, Jewel of the Nile, 1984/5.  Kevork Malikyan had impressed Spielberg  in Midnight Express but  he turned up an hour late for their meeting due to heavy traffic. Finally, Sallah proved th making of the third Indy Brit – John Rhys-Davies.

Oh,  the magic of working for Spielberg!


Nothing shocks me. I’m  a scientist. 



Steven Spielberg . 1983


Saint Spielberg’s first sequel (actually, a prequel) and apart from meeting his future (second)  wife on it, he did not enjoy it much.  Nor did anyone else.  For once, George Lucas had no story credit – but he most certainly dictated the tone of the episode.   Dark. Very dark.    He was in the middle of a divorce (his excuse), so it ended up… gruesome. He’d done much the same for the then second Star Wars (Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back). Spielberg did his best to lighten   up the proceedings’ darker passages.

Welcome tothe first Hollywood movie where the three main characters – human, every one – are named after… dogs…  Indiana, as known throughout the planet, was George Lucas’ dog, Willie is Spielberg’s and even the irksome little Short Round kid got his monicker from the pooch  of co-scenarist  Willard Huyck – although to be fair, he pinched it from the orphan lad played  by William Chun  in Sam Fuller’s  in The Steel Helmet, 1950.

Willie Scott .   She was going to be Marion Ravenwood again.  An encore for the splendid Karen Allen. That was the Spielberg plan.  Lucas, however, said Indy should have a different leading lady (like James Bond does) in every  outing.  This worked greatly to Spielberg’s advantage, as he would discover…

So move over Marion and hello Willie…  Spielberg saw heaps of gifls for the all singing, all dancing, all fighting heroine. The choice came down to two. Sharon Stone had made more films;  Kate Capshaw, just the one. Spielberg chose Kate – and wed her. What else for a woman who sang and danced, got covered in 2,000 bugs, tried to tussle with a large snake, learned how to scream and received a black eye for his art. Stone later Indianaed around Richard Chamberlain in two (copy-Indy) (sub-Indy) Allen Quartermain films.

Kate later lost Casino to Sharon. AndKaren came back as Marion when Lucas broke his rule for the fourth and final (or clearly,  Harrison  Ford’s final) Indy venture, Indiana Jones and the Search For Still More Loot… no, no,,,    and the Kingdom of the Lost Crystal, 2007.

Mola Ram .  Shaving his head a la Brynner, Amrish Puri apparently started a whole new career as a villain in Bollywood.  Victor Banerjee passed on the part – in order to make A Passage To India for David Lean.  Lean or Spielberg? No contest!

  Indiana?!  We named the dog, Indiana!



Steven Spielberg . 1988

Spielberg’s favourite… it’s the father-son thing.  “And this time, he’s bringing his dad” said the poster.  And could there be a better  father figure than… 007!

Well, yes, according to Lucas.  He wanted another  Oscar-winner as Dr Henry Jones Snr –  the venerable John Houseman, veteran of Orson Welles’ hot days, and now about as stodgy and boring as yesterdays hamburgers. No, George, said Spielberg,   “Indiana’s father has to be James Bond!” Even if Sean Connery  was only a dozen years older than Harrison  Ford. 

The director was right.  The best duo since Laurel and Hardy!“Almost moving, ” said  Hal Hinson in The Washington Post.

Exuberance was back and while the first film is probably the best of the bunch, this is the most satisfying.  Spielberg takes charge, moving away from Lucas’ dark side to the bright side of Bond.  He even brought back Denholm Elliott and John Rhys-Davies to add extra light as  Marcus Brody and Sallah.   (After eleven other screen roles, Elliott died of AIDS in 1992).

Dr  Elsa Schneider .  Best known at the time for two UK TV series – To Have and To Hold, 1986, and Streets Apart, 1988-1989 – Amanda Redman was the perfect  choice for  the art historian, a rose wannabe caught between two thorns – Jones, pere et fils.    Redman fled, however, on hearing about the scene with… rats!  The fact that 2,000 of the buggers had been bred for the movie – disease-free, of course  – did little to stop her swift exit.  Rats were rats. No, thank you!  Pity, With Redman aboard, Elsa would have been been far less of a femme fatale caricature.

Spelberg then met the Dublin blonde Alison Doody. Harrison Ford was not as pleased about her as he had been about Kate Capshaw for  Temple of Doom)  “I can’t act with someone called Doody!”  So, he didn’t. Kept his best work for his scenes with Sean.

Colonel Vogel .  Location, location.  location…It just so  happened that producer Robert Watts was a neighbour of the Royal Shakespeare Company actor Julian Glover which is how he  was recommended for General Maximilian Veers  in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back in 1979.  This time he  was up for the Gestapo cliché: “for which I was eminently suited.”  He lost the test. But Spielberg had this thing about using Bond people. He remembered Glover as the villain Artistotle Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only – and  had Watts invite him back to test for  the more deceptive US Nazi,  Walter Donovan.  

“I did this terribly phony interview with a ghastly American accent  – and got it!  One of the happiest experiences of my life.”   (Even if Spielberg  called him Jonathan during the DVD bonus).  Mrs  Donovan was played, according to the credits, by Mrs Glover (actress Isla Blair).  And Michael Byrne thoroughly enjoyed himself as  Vogel.   Glover, however , holds the record for being the only actor to work  in Bond, Doctor Who, Indy Jones and Star Wars adventures. 

The Holy Grail Knight .   Thinking (too) big again, Lucas wanted Laurence Olivier as the knight.  He was was too ill.  Robert Edison substituted, looking – and sounding – extremely Larryish.    Olivier died two months after the film’s opening in May 1989. 


Oh, Marion, you had to go and get yourself kidnapped.



Steven Spielberg . 2007 

Now this one is just downright embarrassing…  And greedy.  A film made by Hollywoodians who never look in the mirror, much less their birth certificates, and who really don’t need any more money.   But we see them all the time, going one more time to the well – Schwarzenegger, Stallone, John Wayne.  One time too many.

This thoroughly disappointing  exercise took  so long to set up that a girl born two years after  the last chapter was now old enough at 17 to play Slugger, slugging  Shia LaBeouf in the diner. She is  Sasha Spielberg, daughter of Spielberg and Kate Capshaw.

The proof that Lucas and Spielberg had run the well dry was that it took them 19 years  – 19 years! –  to come up with a story. You will notice, I did not say: script. 

There ahd beern a script – by Frank Darabont.  Spielberg loved it. He called it   the besty draft of anything since Raiders.   Darabonbt loved that. ”That’s really high praise and gave me a real sense of accomplishment, especially when you love the material you’re working on as much as I love the Indiana Jones films.”

Lucas disliked it. ‘And then he resets it to zero,” said Darabopnt, ”when Spielberg is ready to shoot it that coming year, [which] is a real kick to the nuts. You can only waste so much time and so many years of your life on experiences like that, you can only get so emotionally invested and have the rug pulled out from under you before you say: Enough of that.”

They couldn’t even find  a great title!  Lucas wanted –  his dark side is often suicidal – Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men.  Or, Indiana Jones and the Attack of the Giant Ants  (the scene wasamong Spielberg’s nods to The Ten Commandments). Also registered in 2007 were Indiana Jones and The City of  Godsand The Destroyer of Worldsand The Fourth Corner of the Earthand The Lost City of Gold…  and Quest for the Covenant.

Scenarist David Koepp suggested:  Indiana Jones and the Son of Indiana Jones.  

Harrison Ford told them  it had to be shot before 2008 or forget it.  Ford here,  is 65. That is to say 13 years older than Sean Connery when he played Indy’s father in 1988.

At least, Ford never dyed his hair and refused too many stunt doubles.  Because, he felt that  Indy’s appeal lay in  his resourcefulness, not in  his youth. The same could be said of the Indy matrix, James Bond, except  no single actor tried to play him across 26 years – even though it often looked that way during Roger Moore’s tenure. 

So, yes, there were jokes about the hero’s age. “What are you, like 80?” said  the kid who is probably his kid (Shia LaBeouf). Fine, said Ford, he relished tackling “the American paranoia about aging.”  Except he didn’t. Nor did Lucas or Spielberg.  As  critic Peter Travers put it in Rolling Stone: “There was a chance here to show Indy getting smacked by time and the perils of intimacy and commitment. But those stunts leave real bruises.” 

Ford accepted what the Lucas storyline threw at him. So did Spielberg.  Although not entirely in agreement with the script, he agreed to shoot George’s vision.  That’s what friends are for… “When he writes a story he believes in,” he told Empire magazine, “even if I don’t believe in it,  I’m going to shoot the movie the way George envisaged it.” (Lucas could have done that, himself). 

Spielberg insisted, however, and got his way, on  one point: about changing the baddies from Nazis (again!) to Russians. As, by now the much lauded, respectable and respected  Oscar-winning director of Schindler’s List, he could  not make light about Nazis ever again.  So no more autographs for Indy from A Hitler. In fact, no more Hitler.

At lest the told old buddies  (Lucas was now 63 to Spielberg’s 61) finally understood that Karen  Allen had been Indy’s  finest partner and revived her character of Marion Ravenwood –  an old flame with rather more fire left in  the grat that poor Indy had.

Sean Connery knew better and effortless passed on reprising Henry Jones Sr.  Retirement, he said, was more enjoyable.  Anyway, the cockamamie idea was simply to have  have Dad, Sallah,  Short Round and Willie Scott attending  Indy and Marion’s wedding.

Sean was seen in a framed photo on Indy’s desk. Featured in other photos strewn around in the decor dressing were  Denholm Elliott (Marcus) , John Rhys-Davies (Sallah), Kate Capshaw (Willie Scott),  and a digitalised shot of Sean  and River Phoenix as Jones, pere et fils, circa 1912.  

Colonel Doctor Irina Spalko .  Age had everything to do with who should play the Soviet uber-villainess.  Candidates ranged from Michelle Yeoh from  Tomorrow Never Dies, 1996 ; Spielberg loved Bond films and sounded her out  during  his production of  Memoirs of a Geisha, 2004.  By the time the film began Michelle was 45.  Other  suggestions had been Virginia Madsen,  46,   Scarlett Joahnnson, 23, an Natalie Portman, 26.  Then Spielberg found Cate Blanchett, 38, was at a loose end  (he’d wanted her in Minority Report)  and inspired by Rosa Klebb  (Bond again – guess whose idea that was?), Cate turned Irina into a multi-accented pantomime dame.

As if to underline this mishandling lof a simpe enough project, it was the first of the quartet failing to gain an Oscar nomination.  Added to which Indy never uttered his signature line, “Trust me.”  Good, because we soon  found out that we couldn’t.  What he did say was: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”  (Yeah, right). 

If you don’t believe me,  here’s Peter Travers again. From Rolling Stone, May 2008:  “Crystal Skull is hit-and-miss like the clunky 1984 sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And instead of the elegiac tone that lifted 1989’s presumptive valedictory, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, [Spielberg and Lucas] have gotten sillier…Audiences looking for emotional resonance in Indy 4 are doomed to the temple of disappointment. Spielberg and Lucas aren’t upping their creative game –  they’re taking care of business.”