Years before audiences were first introduced to Indiana Jones, the titular character of a movie franchise now going on its 40th year, the character was just an idea inside “Star Wars” director George Lucas’ head. In 1978, Lucas got together with his friend, director Steven Spielberg, and screenwriter Larry Kasdan to start fleshing out the story that would become “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Lucas, who pitched the movie as “James Bond but better,” wasn’t entirely set on the character’s name during this meeting. While it appears that Jones was always on the tip of the director’s tongue, he was also considering the name “Indiana Smith.”
Here’s a transcript of Lucas, Spielberg, and Kasdan’s 1978 story conference. Lucas was explaining how the main character has to escape when Kasdan asks him the character’s name:
Lucas: The other thing we have to do, he has to hide this thing somewhere or they’d take it. The one he picked up in Shang Hai We assume at this point they know that this is the guy and they want to kill him, what they also have to do is get this thing back. He hides it on his person. We can make it as big or as small as we want. If it’s a big stone thing, then it’s going to be a little difficult. We hide it, and he carries on the airplane a little box about the right size that he’s very protective of. He sets it on the seat next to him. When all the people are getting out very quietly, somebody comes over and picks up the box. Where did everybody go? Some bastard stole my lunch.
Spielberg: Where does he meet the girl then, Nepal?
Lucas: Yes. She is running this American hostel and bar. Rick’s Place, in the middle of Nepal in some little village.
Kasdan: Do you have a name for this person?
Lucas: I do for our leader.
Spielberg: I hate this, but go ahead.
Lucas: Indiana Smith. It has to be unique. It’s a character. Very Americana square. He was born in Indiana.
Kasdan: What does she call him, Indy?
Lucas: That’s what I was thinking. Or Jones. Then people can call him Jones.
Lucas’ original vision for Indiana Smith, err, Jones, was to make it like a Bond movie that was set in the 1930s. Lucas saw one big difference between the James Bond franchise and his vision for the future of Indiana Jones: the Jones series was going to be way more realistic. This was before, of course, Lucas and Spielberg had Indy survive a nuclear blast inside of a refrigerator.
Lucas said in 1978:
That’s another important concept of the movie — that it be totally believable. It’s a spaghetti western, only it takes place in the thirties. Or it’s James Bond and it takes place in the thirties. Except James Bond tends to get a little outrageous at times. We’re going to take the unrealistic side of it off, and make it more like the Clint Eastwood westerns. The thing with this is, we want to make a very believable character. We want him to be extremely good at what he does, as is the Clint Eastwood character or the James Bond character. James Bond and the man with no name were very good at what they did. They were very, fast with a gun, they were very slick, they were very professional. They were Supermen.
While Lucas and Spielberg may have set out with intentions of making a more realistic Bond, some critics argued that they
jumped the shark nuked the fridge with a scene in the fourth installment of the series.
The Discovery channel show “DCode” tried to figure out if Indiana could have truly survived this blast: