M. SCOTT MORRIS: Hanging out with a trio of geniuses

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

The great confluence of tubes, electrodes and Kardashians known as the Internet has offered up a wonderful gift.
It probably won’t change any lives, but it’s pretty cool. I think so, at least.
I was surfing on my computer about a week ago and discovered a link to a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” story conference.
From Jan. 23-27, 1978, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan gathered for tape-recorded sessions, where they dreamed up one of the most enjoyable films of all time.
The transcript shows these storytelling masters in action, as they create a character movie fans have come to know and love over the years. Their initial ideas about Indiana Jones are close, but he’s not exactly the guy Harrison Ford portrays on the big screen.
“He has a tendency to get into situations where there are taboos, voodoos, things, especially when you start dealing with pyramids you get into all that,” Lucas says. “So he sort of studies it because he’s gotten mixed up with it. A study of ancient religions and voodoo and all that kind of stuff. He’s a guy who sort of checks out ghosts and psychic phenomenon in connection with the kind of things he does. He’s a sort of archeological exorcist.”
Indy gets his iconic bullwhip early in the process.
“I like that,” Spielberg says. “The doctor with the bullwhip.”
Lucas sees practical applications for the bullwhip, like fighting and swinging over chasms. Spielberg sees comic potential: “You can knock somebody’s belt off and the guy’s pants fall down.”
For a time, Lucas suggests Indy’s love interest should be “a Marlene Dietrich tavern singer spy. A German lady singer. She’s really a double agent. She knows what the Nazis are doing, and where they are. He gets mixed up with her. She wants him to make her his partner. They sort of have an affair right away.”
The character evolves several pages later, and Marion (Karen Allen) starts to emerge.
“Let’s say her father is there. Her father may have been his mentor,” Kasdan says. “He has been working on some unrelated project. But it was her father who discovered the first fragment of the map. She has it. Her father dies. That’s why he’s going to Nepal, to get it from her. That’s why they know each other. That’s why she’s reluctant to part with it. Does any of this sound possible?”
“Sounds possible,” Lucas says.
From the beginning, these geniuses knew they weren’t making high art. They were making fun.
“What we’re just doing here, really, is designing a ride at Disneyland,” Spielberg says.
The Internet came through for me this time. If you want to learn more about Indy’s origins, search for “Raiders Story Conference.” It’s truly amazing how many things Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan get wrong on their way to getting things right. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.
M. SCOTT MORRIS is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at scott.morris@journalinc.com or (662) 678-1589.