One of the most memorable scenes of “Raiders of the Lost Arks” takes place when Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood (played by Harrison Ford and Karen Allen) find themselves stuck in the “Well of Souls” surrounded by snakes.
Indiana Jones hates snakes, and apparently, so did some of the people working on the film.
George Lucas, who came up with the story for the movie, said one reason he didn’t want to direct the film is that he didn’t want to deal with all of the snakes. Allen, who was only wearing a light dress in the scene, wasn’t too happy with being surrounded by snakes either.
So how many snakes are we talking here?
Spielberg initially brought in about 2,000 snakes for the scene, but he soon realized that he couldn’t get any wide shots without showing how much ground wasn’t covered in snakes. So, he made a few calls and got another 4,500 snakes delivered to the set.
Cinephilia & Beyond writes:
“When Indy finds the Well he discovers that the whole place is inhabited by snakes. Spielberg wasn’t pleased with the number of snakes they had on the set (about 2000) and ordered 4500 more from Denmark in order to achieve the horror the script so well described.”
While the vast majority of snakes for this scene were non-venomous, there were a few shots that required Indiana Jones to come face-to-face with a cobra. Allen described some of the snake problems in a behind-the-scenes video you can view below.
Allen: “It didn’t occur to me that we were going to have thousands of snakes around us. And I think maybe the first time I said something to Steven about he said oh we’re going to have mechanical snakes and once we started shooting the film it became clear that the mechanical snakes didn’t work… So we abandoned that and all of a sudden this call went out that we need four or five thousand snakes.
Spielberg (in archival footage): Get as many snakes here as you can in the shortest period of time.
Interestingly, Allen points out in the the above video that many of the “snakes” in the film were not snakes at all, but legless (and importantly, harmless) lizards that resemble snakes. That makes the final snake count a little blurrier, but we can’t deny the eerie effects in the scene.