"Snakes are moving in force up the pillar toward Indy's dwindling torch. Indy grasps the pillar for dear life, grimaces with exertion and pushes against the wall with all he's got." From the script Raiders of the Lost Ark Written by Lawrence Kasdan
“It’s a hell of a way to make a living.”
Stuntman Terry Leonard
Raiders of the Lost Ark is ranked #11 on AFl’s 100 Year…100 Thrills and #2 on Empires The 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time (just after The Godfather). The movie picked up nine Oscar-nominations and won four. The movie’s score won a Grammy for Best Album. Even a program about the movie—Great Movie Stunts: “Raiders of the Lost Ark”— won an Emmy. (And with all that critical acclaim, it also made $389 million at the box office back in 1981.)
The film really is a tour de force of stunts. The stunt I remember most from that film was when Indiana Jones in hanging on to the front of the truck and ends up crawling underneath it to the back. The stuntman doubling for Harrison Ford at that point was Terry Leonard. I was reminded when I watch the above video yesterday that Leonard visited my film school (Columbia College—Hollywood) in the 80s to do a stunt workshop with students. Here’s a clip where Leonard and Raiders’ stunt coordinator Glenn Randall Jr. discuss horse stunts and why horses usually fall to their left.
Yesterday was my 1,600 post on this blog and I don’t recall ever writing a post on stunt work so as a tribute to all of the stunt men and women over the years who’ve helped bring the words of writers to life we’ll take a little detour today to spotlight that important role in filmmaking.
“Tunisia was a tough location, everybody was ill. It was just excruciatingly hot and we had to stop shooting at two o’clock when it reached 120 degrees. You didn’t even sweat; all you had was salt on your arms because it evaporated before it hit the air.”
Vic Armstrong on working on Raiders of the Lost Ark
From his book The True Adventures of the World’s Greatest Stuntman
Another book on stunts is Hal Needham’s Stuntman!: My Car Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life. Needham was a stuntman and stunt coordinator for four decades but he was also a director of Smokey and the Bandit, The Cannonball Run, and a film about a stuntman Hooper.
“When people see my movies, I want to get their adrenaline flowing; if I don’t, I haven’t done my job. Hooper was the story of a stuntman, so I wanted to put in every stunt I could dream up—a motorcycle sliding under a moving semi, car jumps, fire, flights, high falls.”
And as a reminder that stunt work can be fatal, here’s the documentary on Dar Robinson (1947-1986). The closing credits of Lethal Weapon read:” This picture is dedicated to the memory of Dar Robinson / one of the motion picture industry’s greatest stuntmen.”
Here’s the complete links to the documentary narrated by Harrison Ford on the stunts on Raiders of the Lost Ark, which also serves as a sweeping overview of the history of stunt work:
P.S. If you’d like a live action taste of the movie check out Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney MGM Studios in Florida.