Since The Transcript of George Lucas’ brainstorming sessions with Steven Spielberg and writer Lawrence Kasdan was released online as a .pdf, I’ve been perusing it. It’s basically these two 1978 wunderkinds are telling Kasdan how they want the story to be, and Kasdan himself shows tremendous grok of their concepts, and even makes many suggestions that end up in the final product, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I am an unabashed fan of that film, and usually include it in my favorites whenever asked. I remember winning some radio call-in contest, and I had won tickets to this weirdly named movie I had no idea about. This was pre-marketing days, so yeah. I went to this premiere event, and was completely blown away. And this transcript shows how the authors started out wanting to tell a certain story, and they really had the bones to begin with and kept the structure basically the same. But the drama is in the elements that they are talking about that didn’t make it to the final draft, and how they kind of wrangle the thing around until it resembles what we all know and love. Example, the action sequence in Mongolia:
Lucas: She takes the pendant off and puts it on (the table). She starts writing the note and the Germans come in. (Indy) comes in and they have a fight. In the middle of the fight they knock over the table and the little box breaks open. The pendant goes rolling across the floor. Immediately you think someone is going to see it. It’s sitting out there. You’re afraid one of the Germans is going to notice it.
Kasdan: I love the idea of fire. When it rolls across the floor, it could roll into the fire. You don’t think it’s going to burn up, but he has to retrieve it…I’d love it if he burns down her only stake in the world, which is the inn.
Spielberg: That’s a good idea.
Kasdan: The pendant might lead him to the fire. He uses the fire.
Lucas: The Nazis should do that. Let’s have the Nazis cause the fire. He’s the one who brought the Nazis there, so it’s his fault anyway. I like the idea of doing the old branding iron scene before he bursts in.
Spielberg: I love the branding iron stuff. It’s a red hot poker.
Lucas: That’s what starts the poker. It starts immediately on the fight. When he comes in he knocks the poker out of their hands. The poker goes into the curtains and immediately starts the fire. They fight. The box gets knocked off the table. One of the Nazis sees the pendant as it falls, and starts to go for it. He gets hit in the head with a falling beam or something. When it’s all over, they end up with the pendant and a pile of rubble. She says, “You’re going to be a long time paying for this.” Then he feels obligated to bring her along, since he does feel sort of guilty.
Spielberg: She can say, “Charlie, you’re my ticket home.” Wouldn’t the Germans pull guns and start shooting?
Lucas: Yes, but he comes in and uses his whip. He also maybe has a gun.
Spielberg: There should be one big Nazi, the torture guy, 6′ 6″ weighing 290 pounds, wearing this huge overcoat.
Lucas: And you have the local yokels, the two guys with the Tommy Guns and the furry overcoats, yak coats, just off the border war, or whatever.
Spielberg: This Nazi is struggling with our hero, and they’re kind of rolling on the ground, and one of these henchmen is standing at the door trying to get a clear shot because they keep moving. Two of the other Germans who are struggling with the other girl say, “Shoot both of them.” The German who’s rolling around with our hero panics, pulls out his own gun and shoots the guy with the Tommy Gun, kills them both to save himself.
Kasdan: All the bad guys in this movie are so vile, they turn on themselves. Now they’re standing on rubble.
Lucas: Cut to Cairo.