Steven Spielberg and George Lucas once teamed up to tell one of cinema's most beloved and fun stories: Raiders of the Lost Ark. The hero Indiana Jones is still well-known, and John Williams's music remains synonymous with the professor's epic tale. Putting together an adventure film is now safer and easier, thanks to digital technology. In 1980, however, Spielberg and the rest of the crew had to create everything by hand, leading to some wild and spontaneous filmmaking. Scenes were delayed, added, and reworked as the RotLA crew tackled new challenges every day.
The story behind the scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark is almost as fun and exciting as the film itself. It was born from the brilliantly chaotic world of cinematography that was present in the '80s and became one of the best movies of all time.
Toht, an antagonist in RotLA, is already an unsettling presence with his high-pitched giggling and burned hand. But Spielberg originally wanted him to be even creepier with a mechanical hand that could turn into an automatic-firing device or projectile torch - a look he described as "heavy-metal."
Lucas eventually talked Spielberg out of the idea by convincing him it was too close to science-fiction for what they had intended.
The opening sequence to RotLA is often hailed as one of cinema's best, and the giant boulder that Indy runs from is part of movie history. The scene was originally supposed to be brief, featuring Indy immediately before he exits the temple. Spielberg, however, loved the boulder so much he delayed filming and requested that its track be extended another 50 feet.
The RotLA crew obliged and the extended version made it into the film.
The infamous "Well of Souls" filled with thousands of snakes took a long time to start shooting. When Spielberg arrived on the set he felt the 2,000 snakes didn't fill up enough of the floor and asked for more. The crew flew in as many as 4.500 more snakes from all over Europe and used hoses to fill in the gaps.
Production team members noticed the movie's stock of anti-venom had expired, and they needed time to locate more. When the shoot began, Vivian Kubrick - the daughter of famed director Stanley Kubrick - visited the set and called the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) to ensure the snakes were safe.
When all was said and done, the scene had undergone a delay of several days.
When the Ark of the Covenant opens, it exacts a punishment against the villains - a scene that has haunted young audiences for decades. Originally the sequence was an uncensored view of Belloq deflating. The MPAA felt Spielberg was already pushing the PG rating to its limit and, with no PG-13 rating at the time, they were ready to hand down an R.
Spielberg and the other crew members placated the MPAA by superimposing a thick pillar of flame over Belloq's face to hide some of the effects.