RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
Story Conference Transcript
(January 23 - 27, 1978)
George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Lawrence Kasdan
In the early 1970s young film maker George Lucas - at the time an editor and documentarian working under creative “older brother” Francis Ford Coppola, had just completed his first theatrical feature - THX-1138, and was embarking on his second - AMERICAN GRAFFITTI, when he decided his next project would be a “throw back” adventure to the glory days of yesteryear’s Republic-style thriller diller adventure serials. Intending to couch said adventure in deep ceded Jungian psychological archtypes he debated whether to go with an intergalactic set actioner or an old school 1930s / 40s era style ZORRO'S FIGHTING LEGION-like cliffhanger. The space set adventure won out, and STAR WARS became one of the most successful films in cinema history.
A nervous wreck after STAR WARS troubled production shoot, Lucas was vacationing in Hawaii with good friend (and creative younger brother) Steven Spielberg as the first days results came in on his galactic opus - which exceeded all expectations! Now able to relax for the first time in months he asked Spielberg - who had just completed his own soon-to-become classic science fiction epic CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, what he had next up on his creative agenda. And when Spielberg replied that he’d always wanted to direct a James Bond film, Lucas knew the time was right to pull that other cliffhanger story treatment, entitled RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, our from his proverbial sleeve.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK Pre-Production Concept Art by Jim Steranko
fast moving pulp-style adventure yarn of an archeologist / borderline
grave robber who becomes embroiled in an intercontinental race against
agents of Adolf Hitler to find the biblical Ark of the Covenant (because
der Fuhrer believes it contains mystical powers which can benefit his army),
RAIDERS’ hero, Indiana Smith (later renamed “Jones“), would be part Bond
/ part TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE and CASABLANCA Bogart, and all late
1970s / early 80s tongue-in-cheek post modern homage to a “kind” of
character … rather than a totally realistic character in and of himself.
Lucas, Spielberg & Kasdan remember the legendary RAIDERS story sessions (2003)
In an attempt to hone in on the proper tonal quality for their
film, Lucas and Spielberg - along with Lucas’ original collaborator on
the project, writer / director Phillip Kaufman (who would later become
famous for THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, THE RIGHT STUFF and THE UNBEARABLE
LIGHTNESS OF BEING), would bring in “hot new kid on the block”
screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan.
Spielberg had become so enamored with Kasdan's fresh and clever borderline
“wise-assed” writing voice, he had recently picked up the young scribe's spec script CONTINENTAL
DIVIDE, and was concurrently producing it as a feature starring John Belushi and Blair Brown as RAIDERS went before the cameras.
Kasdan would later stake his own claim to 1980s / 90s cinematic fame as
screenwriter of Lucas' STAR WARS follow-ups THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI, and as
writer / director of the soon-to-be classics BODY HEAT, THE BIG CHILL and
SILVERADO. He'd also return to that "galaxy far far away" as co-scriptor of the upcoming STAR WARS: EPISODES VII, VIII and IX along with the first of the new series' eagerly anticipated spin off films. But in late January 1978 the three-headed creative beast that was Lucas,
Spielberg, and Kasdan would gather to toss ideas into the cauldron for
what would eventually emerge as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK’s narrative
Lucas and Kasdan on the set of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Recorded to tape the brainstorming session was later
transcribed, and the existence of this transcription has become
something of a “Holy Grail” (the subject of a later Indiana Jones quest) to writers and film fans alike.
As such it is with a great deal of pride and pleasure that the Write Stuff presents, from the GullCottage / Sandlot's personal archives,
the complete written transcription of those legendary Lucas / Spielberg / Kasdan
Following the end of the official story transcripts (on
page 117) are ten additional pages of transcribed research
discussion between production liaison / researcher Deborah Fine (THE
GODFATHER PT. II, APOCALYPSE NOW, THE BLACK STALLION), Phillip Kaufman
and Lawrence Kasdan.
A very special shout-out and thanks to Bob Cho.