In a recent interview with Empire magazine, Steven Spielberg made it pretty clear that he wasn't 100 percent thrilled with the results of 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.' Anyone who has followed the saga of the fourth Indiana Jones film since the release of 1989's 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,' shouldn't be too surprised by this admission. As J.W. Rinzler's 'The Complete Making of Indiana Jones' illustrates, the reason that it took 19 years in-between films is pretty clear: George Lucas wanted aliens, and both Harrison Ford and Spielberg did not. The film went through multiple titles -- 'Indiana Jones and the Saucermen from Mars' and 'Indiana Jones and The Atomic Ants' being two of the more elaborate -- while, at almost every step, the project would get thrown off course by Lucas' insistence on aliens.
You see, just like how Lucas looks at 'Star Wars' as a homage to his beloved 'Flash Gordon' serials, he also looked at Indiana Jones as a homage to the swashbuckling-adventure serials that were prevalent at the time when the Jones' stories took place -- which, to Lucas, made sense, because the first three films all took place in the 1930s. Here's where things get complicated: Lucas felt that since the fourth film took place in the 1950s, it should involve aliens, because serials from that time were wont to include such things. Spielberg and Ford thought that this, for a lack of a better term, was horseshit.
Lucas was stubbornly adamant, even rejecting a script from Frank Darabont that Spielberg loved. The reason the film even got made at all is that Spielberg harped on the Crystal Skull idea, which Lucas had already shown interest in exploring. (He almost featured them in an episode of the 'Young Indiana Jones' television show.) Spielberg convinced Lucas to do the skulls, but Lucas' stubbornness meant that aliens -- or, as they were retitled, "inter-dimensional beings," or whatever -- still were included in some way. At this point, Ford and Spielberg basically just gave up and decided, If we're ever making one of these, well, this is as non-alien as it's going to get, or, in other words, screw it. But, that doesn't mean along the way, pretty much everyone involved hasn't voiced their displeasure at Lucas for being so stubborn on this alien issue. In honor of this new Spielberg quote, here's a brief history of people blaming George Lucas for 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.'
Harrison Ford in the early 1990s (EW): "No way am I being in a Steve Spielberg movie like that."
Steven Spielberg in the early 1990s (EW): "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know.''
M. Night Shyamalan in August, 2002 (Scifi Weekly): "I was asked, but it didn't work out ... with everybody. It was a tricky, tricky thing to get four of us together at the same time on the same page. ... It was just a tricky time. I didn't think it was the right thing for me to do. I mean it was, that's the movie that above everything I think has affected me. 'Raiders' was kind of, like, hey, fulfillment of a childhood fantasy to kind of say, 'God, I'll do that one,' and ... in a way, ... an amazing circle would have come. But it didn't work out. ... I sat with each of them. Separately."
Frank Darabont in April, 2007 (MTV): "I spent a year of very determined effort on something I was very excited about, working very closely with Steven Spielberg and coming up with a result that I and he felt was terrific. He wanted to direct it as his next movie, and then suddenly the whole thing goes down in flames because George Lucas doesn't like the script.
"I told him he was crazy. I said, 'You have a fantastic script. I think you're insane, George.' You can say things like that to George, and he doesn't even blink. He's one of the most stubborn men I know."
Steven Spielberg in January, 2008 (Vanity Fair): "And I quite liked Frank's script, but George and I had a disagreement over it, and George and I have always agreed to agree. So when we take each other's temperatures, if I really am passionate about something, George will give in to me, and if George is really passionate about something, I'll pretty much go his way."
Shia LaBeouf in May, 2010 (LA Times): Speaking on behalf of himself and Harrison Ford, "We had major discussions. He wasn't happy with it either. Look, the movie could have been updated. There was a reason it wasn't universally accepted."
Steven Spielberg in October, 2011 (Empire): "I'm very happy with the movie. I always have been... I sympathize with people who didn't like the MacGuffin because I never liked the MacGuffin. George and I had big arguments about the MacGuffin. I didn't want these things to be either aliens or inter-dimensional beings. But I am loyal to my best friend. When he writes a story he believes in - even if I don't believe in it - I'm going to shoot the movie the way George envisaged it. I'll add my own touches, I'll bring my own cast in, I'll shoot the way I want to shoot it, but I will always defer to George as the storyteller of the Indy series. I will never fight him on that."
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[Photo: Everett Collection]