CLASSIC SCENE REPLAY: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) confronts a seemingly deadly and unbeatable swordsman (Terry Richards). But this is not a hero who gives up, either in the script or in the ‘real’ world, behind the scenes. Kevin Cravedi gives an insight to a truly classic and much imitated scene that sums up both the INDIANA JONES character AND the actor playing him.
Improvisation! Innovation! Imagination! Inimitable.
Fact: The ‘do not bring a knife to a gun fight’ scene from the first Indiana Jones movie, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), where Indiana Jones shoots the swordsman in Cairo was never intended to happen.
Indiana Jones was supposed to have a long sword fight with the black masked swordsman in Cairo. The reason the take never progressed was because Harrison Ford was suffering from dysentery during the shoot of the movie. Ford stated in a Q&A hosted by Hero Complex’s Geoff Boucher,
“I had chosen to eat native food, unlike Steven who went to Tunisia with a steamer trunk full of Spaghettios, and I had suffered mightily for that. I was no longer capable of staying out of my trailer for more than it took to expose a role of film, which was 10 minutes, and then I would have to flee back there for sanitary facilities.”
Cinema gained a classic scene, by accident. But pity the poor stuntman individual playing the swordsman. He had trained a lot so that he could showcase his skills. It was hard for Harrison Ford and Spielberg to let him down.
“But this guy had trained and trained and trained, and we had to tell him that he was gonna die.”
Ford spoke with Steven Spielberg explaining that he just simply could do that long of a take, and if there was any way to shorten the scene. The only remedy for this scene were if Indiana Jones took out a gun and ‘just shot the guy’. None of the crew knew that this change had been made.
When the scene took, the entire crew on scene were laughing hysterically. That scene is regarded as among the best scene in the entire movie. It’s also among the most copied of action film beats (a superior Kung Fu artist / swordsman /acrobat etc is bested by a single punch /shot etc). Indeed, the INDIANA JONES series even copied its own joke once!
Kevin Cravedi is a freelance writer and a huge fan of the INDIANA JONES series. Another version of this article is available.