Monday, June 01, 2015

Unearthed transcript reveals the origins of Indiana Jones

The National Geographic Museum downtown recently opened an exhibit about Indiana Jones and the films' connections to actual history. This had us thinking about our favorite tenured action hero. Coincidentally, a link has been making the rounds revealing how Indy got his start – and what he might have been in an early draft.

In 1978, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and writer Lawrence Kasdan sat down to discuss who Indiana Jones was and what his films would be like. Barnes & Noble's Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog provides a good summary of the most interesting parts of a transcript of that meeting, first posted online in 2009. There's mentions of scrapped characters, like an elderly mentor for Indiana who previously assumed the mantle of daring renegade archaeologist. Indiana was also very briefly inspired by Columbo's Peter Falk, and several ideas from the back-and-forth about his adventures ended up in later movies, spinoffs, and media.

(You can also see some of the unfortunately dated politics and language on display when the writers talk about adding "exotic" characters. Nearly forty years have passed since this meeting.)

This transcript is an insightful slice of film development that offers insights into how three of the brightest minds in movies conjured such a memorable character. Only the general idea of an archaeologist in serialized adventures was fully formed; the rest needed hours of discussion. The full conversation is worth committing a day to read. And relevant to the exhibit, it shows how the directors and writers connected real history to a fantastical movie setting.

The finished product is, of course, available in the collection (HU DVD 3251).

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