20 fascinating facts about the origins of Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is set to close the book on a much-loved movie franchise. The 80-year-old Harrison Ford once again steps up (very likely for the last time) as the whip-cracking, fedora-hatted Indy who first blazed a trail on the big screen in 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark.

For the first time in the franchise's rich and storied history, Indy is not being steered by director Steven Spielberg. Instead, Logan helmer James Mangold is dramatising Indy's latest adventure, which teams him with his goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) as he battles insurgent Nazi scientist Voller (Mads Mikkelsen).

The Indiana Jones series has gifted us with classic moments and lines that are too numerous to mention here. The franchise is cherished by an entire generation of moviegoers, and yet Indy's origin is as rife with as many secrets and surprises as the tombs that he raids. Here is the story of how he went from pipedream to reality in the exhilarating Raiders of the Lost Ark.


  • The Indiana Jones franchise arose out of a conversation between close friends Steven Spielberg and George Lucas in the late 1970s

  • Spielberg was riding high off the commercial and critical success of Jaws (1975) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

  • Lucas was vacationing in Hawaii with his then-wife to avoid the possible critical backlash to Star Wars: A New Hope (also released in 1977)

  • Lucas invited Spielberg to Hawaii for some R&R where the latter revealed that he'd always wanted to make a James Bond movie

  • Lucas, however, suggested that he and Spielberg build a movie around their own heroic creation


  • In fact, Lucas had been developing a character of his own since 1973

  • The character was initially called Indiana Smith and was inspired by the classic adventure serials Lucas had enjoyed in his youth

  • In 1975, before the pioneering release of A New Hope, Lucas had worked with filmmaker Philip Kaufman on a script

  • Initially, Lucas had envisioned Kaufman directing the movie but Kaufman was unable to commit and the job went to Spielberg

  • The name Indiana Smith was changed to Indiana Jones at Spielberg's insistence, because he disliked the similarity to Steve McQueen character Nevada Smith from 1966


  • Scriptwriting duties fell to Lawrence Kasdan who had already impressed Spielberg and who would later scribe the Lucas-backed Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

  • Lucas agreed to hire Kasdan after reading his script for Continental Divide (eventually released in 1981, the same year as Raiders of the Lost Ark)

  • It was Kasdan's job to link together various set pieces that Spielberg and Lucas had devised, and Kasdan found it challenging to plausibly propel Indiana Jones from one side of the world to the other

  • Kasdan's first draft of what was to become Raiders of the Lost Ark was completed in August 1978, deriving influence from classic movies including Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (1954)

  • Spielberg requested that the script be trimmed down and the final script draft was completed by November 1979, during which time Spielberg had completed his World War II spoof 1941 (1979)


  • Lucas had envisioned the Indiana Jones character as something of a playboy and kung fu expert, but Spielberg and Kasdan insisted he remain an adventurer and archaeologist

  • Many elements of the script were dropped and later translated into Raiders sequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), including the mine car chase

  • Lucas lacked the money to back the movie himself and studios were reluctant to hire Spielberg in the wake of the critically derided 1941, which had gone significantly over budget

  • Eventually, Lucas reached a deal with Paramount and studio head Michael Eisner, and Spielberg was hired as director with Lucas taking story credit and eventually acting as second-unit director

  • Kasdan took a screenplay credit and the story was credited to Lucas and Philip Kaufman


Has that stirred up enough nostalgic memories for you? Then click the link below and catch what is possibly Indy's final big-screen adventure on June 30th.