All of you aspiring screenwriters better slap on your fedoras, limber up your bullwhips and head for Mystery Man on Film, who has somehow managed to score a complete transcript of the story conferences conducted by producer George Lucas, director Steven Spielberg and scriptwriter Lawrence Kasdan as they prepared to work up the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark.
As Mystery Man points out, one of the most interesting things about the conferences is that Lucas and Spielberg were mainly concerned with establishing the hero’s character before anything else:
Lucas: I think basically he’s very cynical about the whole thing. Maybe he thinks that most archeologists are just full of shit, and that somebody’s going to rip this stuff off anyway. Better that he rips it off and gets it to a museum where people can study it and rip it off right. That’s the key also. He knows how to enter a tomb without destroying it. He knows what’s important. He knows not to go in there like a bull in a china shop and destroy half the stuff that’s valuable . . . It’s such an odd juxtaposition, especially going around. The first sequence is in the jungle and you see him in action. You see him going through the whole thing. And the next sequence after that you see him back in Washington or New York, back in the museum. Where he’s in a totally academic thing, turning over this thing that he’s got. Then in the rest of the movie you see him back in his bullwhip mode. You understand that there’s more to him. Plus, it justifies later things that he… the fact that he’s sort of an intelligent guy. Peter Falk is one way of looking at him, a Humphrey Bogart character. The fact that he’s sort of scruffy and, not the right image, but…
Spielberg: Peter’s too scruffy.
Lucas: Yes. We’ll figure a way of laying that out in his personality so it’s easily identifiable.
Columbo as Indiana Jones? The mind reels.
You may not particularly like Kasdan’s work — or, for that matter, Lucas and Spielberg’s — but the level of detail and insider juice makes this a must-read for anyone with an interest in screenwriting. I mean, Syd Field ain’t even coming close to this.