Raiders of the Lost Ark in search for relic Ark of the Covenant
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The film franchise celebrated its fortieth anniversary this year. Meanwhile its indefatigable leading man has been battling global pandemics and personal injuries to film his fifth and final outing as the grouchy whip-cracking hero, which is hoped to hit screens in July next year. The leading man will be 80 next July and shows few signs of slowing down, however a shocking personal crisis on set while filming the first instalment almost laid him low and forced a radical and iconic reshoot of a classic scene.
Ford has ruggedly stridden across the big screen for well over forty years, whether in space, across rope bridges or fleeing enormous boulders. As Indy, his whip has often rescued him from desperate scrapes and a fantastic entire scene was planned around his trusty weapon for Raiders.
Some of the greatest moments in cinemas have come from improvisation during a scene, usually in the form of dialogue. In this way were born Jaws’ “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” Taxi Driver’s “You talkin’ to me? ” and Ford’s own dry “I know” response to Leia’s declaration of love in The Empire Strikes Back.
However, the inspired improvisation in Raiders was all about the action, not the words.
The original plans were for Indy to have a tense and drawn-out fight with a local sword-wielding warrior in a North African bazaar whiel he wasearchig for girlfriend Marian. Unfortunately, Harrison was horribly ill that day.
He said: “We were shooting in Tunisia, and the script had a scene in which I fight a swordsman, an expert swordsman, it was meant to be the ultimate duel between sword and whip. And I was suffering from dysentery, really, found it inconvenient to be out of my trailer for more than 10 minutes at a time. We’d done a brief rehearsal of the scene the night before we were meant to shoot it, and both Steve [Spielberg] and I realised it would take two or three days to shoot this.”
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Ford added: “And it was the last thing we were meant to shoot in Tunisia before we left to shoot in England. And the scene before this in the film included a whip fight against five bad guys that were trying to kidnap Marion, so I thought it was a bit redundant.
“I was puzzling how to get out of this three days of shooting, so when I got to set I proposed to Steven that we just shoot the son a b***h.
“Steve said: ‘I was thinking that as well.’ So he drew his sword, the poor guy was a wonderful British stuntman who had practised his sword skills for months in order to do this job, and was quite surprised by the idea that we would dispatch him in five minutes.
“But he flourished his sword, I pulled out my gun and shot him, and then we went back to England.”
The film’s producer, Frank Marshall, added: “The key there is, when you’re given that challenge, solving it gets you to a better place and gets you to a better idea.”
It was just one iconic moment in a movie that kicked off the blockbuster 1980s in thrilling style. Costing just $20million to film, Raiders of the Lost Ark went on to take $390million at the global box office. Following on the heels of 1977’s Star Wars and 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back it established Ford as one of the biggest stars of his generation – and one who could always be relied on to subvert any expectations about Hollywood heroes.
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