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Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) battles Nazis in Paramount's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." The Lucasfilm Ltd. production was directed by Steven Spielberg.
After locations for filming have been selected, recreating the '30s-era settings of an Indiana Jones movie begins with Steven Spielberg making storyboards of his visualization of the screenplay. Sketch artists create more detailed drawings from Spielberg's sketches, which production designer Elliot Scott refers to in developing the film's sets.
Scott's main objective with each setting was to devise the one that would best enhance the action of the scene: "The background to all the films is logical and realistic. We go to a great deal of trouble to make everything as real as we can, using such details as authentic Latin inscriptions on tablets."
The craftsmen collaborating with the art directors include carpenters, plasterers, scenic artists, and special effects artists.
Three-time Oscar winning costume designer Anthony Powell researches extensively for the apparel he creates, visiting museums and studying in his own research library, which he has been building for 30 years.
"What clothes go through on an action picture is phenomenal," Powell relates. "Every time Harrison falls down a ravine he will need a change of costume. There are also stunt men and doubles who have the same requirements. You need six of everything."
Harrison Ford performs many of his own stunts in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," while those that would have placed him in jeopardy of sustaining an injury were delegated to stunt men with stunt co-ordinator Vic Armstrong doubling for Harrison Ford. Armstrong also doubled for Ford during the making of the first two Indiana Jones movies.
"Harrison's participation in the stunts is what makes them so exciting and enjoyable to moviegoers," Armstrong says. "It enables characterization in the context of the stunt. In some action films stunts and acting never come together."
"Some of the best character nuances of Indy's personality come during an action sequence--an expression after a punch, a shrug after a gag--it's part of the same panache," Steven Spielberg states.
"I know in making these movies I'm going to get dirty, bruised, and bumped around a lot," Ford admits.
The most difficult stunts in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" included Indy's leap from a horse onto a moving tank. "I had to travel ten or 11 feet sideways from a galloping horse, moving head first and landing on the back of the tank," Armstrong says. In another scene Armstrong and Gabe Cronelly, doubling Indy and his father respectively, take part in the crash landing of a biplane.
The filmmakers did their work the hard way for the best results, filming stunts primarily without the blue screen process or traveling mattes. "It was like putting the clock back," Douglas Slocombe observed during the filming of a scene set on the top of a train, "but it brings something extra to the movie."
"Stunts are an integral part of the Indiana Jones movies," Frank Marshall observes. "A great deal of the action derives from the stunts, so we take a lot of time to storyboard and plan them. The trick is to have them look dangerous and incredibly hard--how did they do that?--but actually they're very safe. They're quite simple to do--they just require a lot of hard work."
"The most common challenge in effects is not to come up with brand new techniques, but to find new ways of using old ones," comments Michael McAlister, visual effects supervisor for "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." McAlister was one of the four filmmakers who won an Oscar for the special effects in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."
"All effects area geared to the story," McAlister says. "They enable it to be told the way Steven wants to tell it." He reveals that altogether 80 shots in the film involve an eclectic variety of visual effects, including blue screen, matte paintings, and creature puppet effects combined with computer graphics in a process he calls "morphing technique," in which there is a metamorphosis of one image changing and blending into another.
The creation of the visual effects began during principal photography with the filming of backgrounds and blue screen live-action photography. Similar to the building of the soundtracks and the editing of the film, the effects are accomplished during post production.
In the movie, Indy must interpret a series of riddles to avoid certain painful death, and the object of these riddles was usually carried out with special effects.
"Many of the effects in this film broaden the scope of danger in a scene," McAlister states, "and some, like the aerial chase sequence, couldn't have been done without visual effects."