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“Fortune And Glory, Kid. Fortune And Glory.”
Following the success of Raiders Of The Lost Ark in June 1981, director Steven Spielberg met with executive producer George Lucas to flesh out ideas for a second installment.
Lucas suggested that the second film take place in a haunted castle in Scotland, but Spielberg deemed the idea too similar to Poltergeist, the spooky 1982 horror film he wrote and produced while making E.T. (The haunted castle was reworked into a spiritual temple in India.)
Initially, Spielberg wanted Indy’s love interest, Marion, to come back for the second film; he wanted to feature her archeologist father, Abner Ravenwood. But Lucas and Spielberg ultimately decided that Indy’s companions should change from film to film.
Lucas had pitched other ideas that were later discarded: One involved an opening sequence that featured Indy being chased on a motorcycle along the Great Wall of China. The Chinese government rejected the production’s request to shoot on the Great Wall, so the opening sequence location was rewritten as the Club Obi-Wan Shanghai nightclub.
Later, when Spielberg and the screenwriters were having trouble coming up with an opening scene for the film, Lucas suggested they consider a musical sequence for the opening from a script called Radioland Murders that he, Huyck, and Katz had been developing since the 70s. According to Spielberg –
“George’s idea was to start the movie with a musical number. He wanted to do a Busby Berkeley dance number. At all our story meetings he would say, ‘Hey, Steven, you always said you wanted to shoot musicals.’ I thought, ‘Yeah, that could be fun.'”
The first ideas Lucas presented for Temple Of Doom involved scenes that were cut from Raiders, including the mine cart chase and the skydiving raft sequences.
In Raiders, the mine cart sequence would have taken place in the climax after the Ark is opened, and would have shown Indy and Marion, loading the Ark on a mine cart to escape with the rest of the Nazis in close pursuit.
The raft sequence in Raiders would have taken place before Indy got to Nepal to meet Marion, and involved Indy using the raft as a parachute, except he would land in the snowy Himalayas and ride all the way down to Marion’s bar after the plane was sabotaged by the Nazis.
Modified versions of both sequences ended up in Temple Of Doom.
“Hey, Lady! You Call Him Dr. Jones!”
With a proposed plot involving child slaves, human sacrifice, and evil cults, Temple Of Doom is decidedly darker in tone than its predecessor. Lucas wanted a downbeat mood similar to the one in his Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back.
In retrospect, he and Spielberg attributed the extremely dark themes in Temple Of Doom to their respective broken marriages that both happened around the same time the movie was being developed.
What they had in mind was so dark, in fact, that Raiders Of The Lost Ark screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan turned down their offer to pen the second film. Kasdan said –
“I just thought it was horrible. It’s so mean,”
“There’s nothing pleasant about it. I think Temple Of Doom represents a chaotic period in both their lives, and the movie is very ugly and mean-spirited.”
Even Lucas came to somewhat regret how dark their movie was –
“Part of it was I was going through a divorce, Steven had just broken up and we were not in a good mood, so we decided on something a little more edgy. It ended up darker than we thought it would be. Once we got out of our bad moods, which went on for a year or two, we kind of looked at it and went, ‘Mmmmm, we certainly took it to the extreme.’ But that’s kind of what we wanted to do, for better or worse.”
After Kasdan passed on the film, Lucas approached Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz (American Graffiti) to pen the screenplay for “Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Death” which was later changed.
The duo took primary inspiration for the story from the 1939 RKO film Gunga Din starring Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. In that film, three British army adventurers combat a murderous cult called the Thuggee in colonial India.
Kate Capshaw played the role of a nightclub singer and general damsel-in-distress Willie Scott. It was also Capshaw’s second-ever acting job, and her naturally brown hair was dyed blonde to distinguish her from Marion Ravenwood in Raiders.
The filmmakers molded their new female lead after Katharine Hepburn’s performance in The African Queen and Irene Dunne’s performance in A Guy Named Joe.
For the humor in the famous dinner sequence, the filmmakers drew on Abbott & Costello and the series of films derived from The Thin Man.
However, Capshaw later revealed that she really didn’t like the character, stating that Willie was –
“not much more than a dumb screaming blonde.”
She did like director Steven Spielberg though, and the pair later married in 1991. They have been together ever since and they now have five children together.
Spielberg and casting director Mike Fenton were having trouble finding the right young actor for Short Round, so they put out an open casting call at an elementary school in Los Angeles and indirectly found actor Ke Huy Quan.
Quan’s mother had brought in his older brother to read for the part of Short Round, but during the screen test, the younger Ke began telling his brother what to do, which caught the eye of producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall.
They asked him to do his own taped audition for Spielberg. It was so good that they invited the youngster to audition with Ford himself.
Spielberg said –
“I just loved [Quan’s] personality. I thought he was like a 50-year-old man trapped in a 12-year-old’s body.”
Amrish Puri played the menacing Mola Ram, and the actor shaved his head for the role beforehand. It created such an impression that Puri kept his head bald and in doing so became one of India’s most popular film villains.
“Mola Ram! Prepare To Meet Kali, In Hell!”
According to Ford’s stunt double, Vic Armstrong, Spielberg was absolutely terrified of the rope bridge (which was strung over a real 200ft deep gorge) and kept vowing to get over his fear and walk across it every day.
In the end, he never did, opting instead to drive a mile and a half to get to the other side. The bridge was actually strong enough for the entire crew to walk across, and the scene where Indy cuts the bridge in half had to be done in one take.
A bizarre prank occurred when Ford was filming the whipping scene where he’s chained up and being tortured. Barbra Streisand was filming nearby and arrived on set dressed in a leather dominatrix outfit.
She started to whip him for making Hanover Street and for making all of his ‘Jedi’ money before Carrie Fisher suddenly appears to rescue Ford and gives him a Leia-style kiss for good measure.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers were unable to get permission to shoot scenes in India. The Indian government requested a copy of the script beforehand and demanded that the word ‘Maharajah’ be removed for fear that the content would not reflect their culture.
The python that Willie accidentally mistakes for an elephant trunk had to be smuggled into the country for filming. The animal handler, Michael Culling, booked himself and the snake into hotel rooms under the names ‘Mr. and Mrs. Longfellow.’
There are quite a few famous cameos in the film. Lucas and Spielberg play missionaries in the airport scene at the beginning, whilst producer Frank Marshall appears as a tourist in the background.
Dan Aykroyd has a small role, although you never see his face, but when Indy, Short Round, and Willie get to the airfield, he’s the officer that takes them to the plane.
Ford suffered a severe spinal disc herniation during filming. Lucas later stated –
“He could barely stand up, yet he was there every day so shooting would not stop. He was in incomprehensible pain, but he was still trying to make it happen.”
Ford inevitably had to stop shooting and was flown to the US for surgery. Armstrong stood in for him for five weeks, with Ford filming the necessary close-ups on his return to the set.
The Indian village shaman was played by D.R.Nanayakkara, who didn’t speak a word of English. He delivered his lines phonetically by mimicking Steven Spielberg, who was giving him prompts off-camera. The pauses in his dialogue were not part of the role but instead Nanayakkara waiting for his next line.
In response to some of the more violent sequences in the film, and with similar complaints about Gremlins, Spielberg suggested that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) alter its rating system, which it did within two months of the film’s release, creating a new PG-13 rating.
The Temple Of Doom was released to financial success but initial reviews were mixed, criticising its dark tone. Since 1984 however, critical opinion has improved, citing the film’s intensity and imagination.
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