Steven Spielberg Had Indiana Jones Producers Scrambling With A Last Minute Idea

Anyone who knows anything about the production of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" will know the troubles endured by director Steven Spielberg and company. Even before filming got underway, there were issues with casting. Initially, Tom Selleck was handed the role of Dr. Henry Jones Jr., before leaving due to his commitment to "Magnum P.I.," prompting rushed redesigns of the character that better suited his replacement, Harrison Ford. Once Ford was on board, however, it seemed as though Spielberg's action-adventure classic could finally get underway without any issues.

Unfortunately, that was just the start of the challenges faced by the "Raiders" crew. There are far too many examples to list here, but you can take your pick of the debacles that befell the production: the six hundred thirsty extras that threw the "Raiders" set into chaos, an outbreak of dysentery, the real pythons that took bites out of multiple actors ... the list goes on.

But what's interesting is that a lot of the problems weren't caused by external factors, but a young Spielberg himself. The director has written about allowing Harrison Ford to do his own stunts and remarked that he's amazed the actor and his stunt team made it out of the "Raiders" shoot alive, even going as far as to claim that he was an "idiot" for letting Ford perform the famous boulder run scene. It wasn't just risking the crew's life, either. On the less dramatic side, Spielberg had some very specific ideas about the film, some of which occurred to him while shooting, such as when he was suddenly struck by a vision for the perfect opening shot.

The iconic Indiana Jones opening that set a franchise trend

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" famously opens with Indy and his crew trekking through what is supposed to be the Peruvian jungle (but was actually various Hawaiian locales) to the Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors. There, he retrieves the golden idol, which was really a prop made by production designer Norman Reynolds based on a cheap souvenir. The following sequence, in which Indy outruns a giant boulder to escape the temple, became a classic moment in cinema history — which despite Steven Spielberg's guilt, at least means it was worth having Harrison Ford actually running from a 300-pound rock.

But even before any of this plays out, there's another classic moment. The first shot of the movie is almost as well-known as the temple scene itself, with the Paramount logo dissolving into a shot of a real-life mountain. Hawaii's Kalalea Mountain, on the island of Kauai, stood in for what was supposed to be a Peruvian peak (retroactively named Mt. Shubet in the 2008 book "The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones"). It's one of the best-manipulated versions of studio logos ever and started a tradition that carried on through the Indiana Jones franchise, whereby each successive movie incorporated the Paramount mountain into its first shot. But according to an Entertainment Weekly article, actually creating these few seconds of film history was yet another scramble for the "Raiders" crew.

As noted in EW's list of "Raiders" revelations, the dissolve of the Paramount logo to the Kalalea Mountain was actually a last-minute addition to filming. Producer Frank Marshall recalled how the trek through the Peruvian jungle was filmed in "8 to 10" different areas around Hawaii, and that during filming in the country, Spielberg suddenly had the idea for the mountain fade-in.

Making the Paramount dissolve was harder than it seems

As Frank Marshall told EW, the idea to fade from the Paramount logo to the real-life mountain was an idea Steven Spielberg "kind of sprung on [the crew]," which meant the producer was tasked with tracking down a suitable summit by setting off on his own venture across Kauai.

In a behind-the-scenes featurette, Spielberg spoke about the moment in question and evidently didn't recall it being all that stressful. The director said, "I just thought it would be fun to start with the Paramount mountain," going on to explain that when he was young his first company was called "Playmount Productions" which used a mountain for its logo painted by Spielberg himself. But Marshall, who elaborated on his search for the perfect peak in the featurette, clearly didn't have all that much "fun." The producer said:

"We were setting up in Kauai, and [Spielberg] called me over and he said, 'Look, I need to find a mountain. I need you to go find a mountain that looks like the Paramount logo, where we can shoot.' And I went, 'Okay.' And because it was sort of a last-minute request and we didn't have CGI to fail back on, I had to drive around the whole island until I found a location that would work for us, and for a few extra pineapples, we got it."

Considering the cinematographer on "Raiders" was mere steps away from a cliff–plunging death at one point, driving around an exotic island doesn't sound like the worst part of the production, especially since it led to an all-time classic shot.