WHEN THE SHOOTING STARTSFilming on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom began on 18th April 1983 on location in Sri Lanka and in Macao. When the Chinese sequence was safely in the can, the Macao unit joined the crew in Kandy and, with the two crews working side by side, the location work was wrapped in three weeks. From that lush setting, the cast and crew came back to earth with a bump, spending the next twelve weeks toiling through the British summer at EMI’s Elstree Studios at Borehamwood, just outside London.
|Director Spielberg and his two principal actors arrive at |
London's Heathrow Airport for the studio shooting
of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Like Raiders before it Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is packed to overflowing with complex and dangerous stunt work. The ‘one mishap’ very nearly shuttered production on the movie when Harrison Ford fell from an elephant and aggravated an old back injury – with a third of the picture still to be completed! Ford was jetted back to Los Angeles to undergo emergency laser surgery and filming was halted while the star recuperated.
|Riding an elephant (and falling from one) are all in a day's|
work for the average action movie star.
‘I’m now as fit as a fiddle,’ he said, ‘but I could never have done it without Vic Armstrong. Guys like Vic are invisible. They never get any credit. Nobody ever interviews them.’
Armstrong had worked with Ford several times before, on Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blade Runner and Return of the Jedi, doubling for Ford when the going got too rough. Armstrong was philosophical about Ford's remarks.
‘We have to be invisible,’ he conceded, ‘if people are going to believe in the film.’
|Peas in a pod ... Vic Armstrong (left!) was often mistaken |
for Harrison Ford on set
THAT’S A WRAP!When Steven Spielberg called ‘Cut!’ for the last time on 8th September 1983, it’s unlikely that he would have realised just how literally that order could be taken. As with Raiders, certain scenes had been cut from the screenplay before and during shooting, obviously with Spielberg’s blessing, but when Temple of Doom was presented to the censors, the word ‘cut’ began to take on sinister overtones.
On the plus side, the scenes that had been excised from Raiders had been modified and incorporated into Temple of Doom.
‘The idea of the plane crash and then jumping out of the door in a life raft had, at one time, been in the original,’ confirmed Huyck.
‘The other thing was the mine car,’ added Katz. ‘George had thought of the mine car race for Raiders. But I don’t know how it was written or what happened to it. He wanted a roller coaster ride.’ And he got one!
|Though much of the mine-car roller coaster scene was shot |
with miniatures, some of it was filmed full size,
with Harrison Ford and Ke Huy Quan riding the truck.
‘We had a snake scene that Kate wouldn’t do,’ explained Huyck. ‘They had a boa constrictor and they had trained it. For weeks in advance, she had been trying to psyche herself up for this. She said she touched it and, the first time, it sort of ... undulated. And she thought she was going to die. She started sweating. Then they tried to put it on her shoulders to show her what it would be like, and she just freaked out. Steven (Spielberg) was sort of ashen and said, “That’s all right.”’
‘It was a very funny scene,’ added Katz, ‘because there she is, being strangled by a snake, and Indy is just helplessly standing there!’
‘So they didn’t do it,’ continued Huyck. ‘Kate just couldn’t do it. That’s when Steve said, “Okay, if you’re not going to do this, there’s no way you’re not going to do the bug scene.”’
But Lucas, never one to waste a good idea, did recycle the sequence for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, almost twenty-five years later.
Another cut, involving the child Maharajah, ended up causing the film to be a little less clear than it should have been. It comes as something of a surprise to audiences to discover, late in the film, that the young monarch is under the control of the Thuggees. A couple of explanatory scenes had been written, but had never been filmed. During the banquet sequence, the prime minister Chattar Lal is seen talking to the shadowy figure of Mola Ram in the gardens outside the Palace. Later, Indy is teaching the young Maharajah how to use his whip. When the child comes to try it himself, he gets it wrong and hurts himself. Short Round laughs and a scuffle follows. During the scrap, Short Round sees the Maharajah’s eyes glow red, and understands something weird is going on. Presumably these scenes were taken out, sacrificing clarity for pace, as the dinner sequence was long in itself.
A far different kettle of cuts was the chunk of Temple of Doom hacked out by overzealous censors in their never-ending quest to protect those who share their sensitive dispositions, but not their incorruptibility. The film was given a PG rating for its American release and immediately came under fire from journalists and parents’ associations across the country.
‘The movie,’ said The New York Times, ‘in addition to being endearingly disgusting, is violent in ways that may scare the wits out of some young patrons.’
Parents who had taken their young children to early preview screenings said their offspring were particularly disturbed by the scene in which Mola Ram tears the still-beating heart from the chest of a living sacrifice victim and the victim’s subsequent immersion in boiling lava. The PG rating was called into question in some quarters, and the distributing company, Paramount, added a warning line to the newspaper ads, which read: ‘This film may be too intense for younger children’.
|OK, this probably is a bit intense for eight year olds ...|
Harrison Ford took such criticisms in his stride. ‘This is a completely moral tale,’ said the actor, ‘and in order to have a moral resolve, evil must be seen to inflict pain. The end of the movie is proof of the viability of goodness.’
|... and, of course, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom does|
provide the statutory Happy Ending.
And while the critics and the audiences were chewing over Temple of Doom, Ford was moving onto another of his ‘small time’ films, Witness. ‘It’s a calculated departure,’ stated Ford. ‘This movie is the story of an Amish woman and a Philadelphia cop and the intelligence of the script gives me some wonderful cloth to cut.’
And despite their earlier denials, Spielberg announced in the early part of 1984 that he would be directing the third Indiana Jones film, and Ford, too, had been signed for the project. ‘Playing Indy,’ said Ford, ‘is just a fun thing to do!’
WHAT NEXT FOR THE HARRISON FORD STORY?Where I go next with this blog is something I have to think about. My original plan was to put the whole of The Harrison Ford Story online. In my day job, I manage websites and in that arena, the conventional wisdom is that no one wants to read extended chunks of text on a screen. We all find it difficult and we all read far slower from a screen than we do from the printed page. And The Harrison Ford Story can be bought in its printed form very inexpensively online from Amazon.co.uk or from any number of online retailers.
So I'm probably doing everyone, myself included, a disservice by continuing down this route. I have no evidence that anyone is reading this, so I think I'll hold off for a while - unless you tell me differently.
Alan McKenzie, Aug 2013