Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our one hundred and eighth guest was the author of the Making of Indiana Jones as well as The Making of Star Wars – Jonathan Rinzler.
Lightsabre – Welcome back to Lightsabre. You’ve got the new Making of Indiana Jones book coming out. How long have you been an Indiana Jones fan? Since the very beginning I guess.
JR – Yeah, like I say in the introduction notes it was kind of like my experience with Star Wars. I was a movie fan but I was never really up on what was coming out, these things kind of came upon me in a surprising way. In those cases I was taken to a preview, really by accident. I hadn’t heard of Indiana Jones or anything and a friend of mine had preview tickets for a theatre in San Francisco, so we just went having no idea what we were about to see, and had this incredible ride. As Spielberg says, he wanted to make it like a Disneyland ride, and that’s what the first movie was like, it was just great. And so I’ve been a fan ever since.
JR – Well probably Indy being chased by the boulder. That was a pretty memorable visual.
Lightsabre – It was an extraordinary film for its time, as an action movie.
JR – Yeah, as George says he couldn’t figure out why people weren’t making those kind of movies anymore, and I think the box office has shown that even through a remedial ability to make a movie where it’s a fun movie where you like the heroes, there’s a certain amount of comedy, people love that stuff. And yet there are very few of them.
Lightsabre – Do you think that when they came to make Temple of Doom, obviously the pressure was on to match Raiders, do you think they succeeded?
JR – Well I enjoyed it, and then of course there was a certain amount of critical backlash, and I know that Spielberg even says in the book that the best thing that came out of that movie for him was meeting Kate Capshaw, who became his wife. I think they all had kind of mixed feelings about that. George says that he was going through a tough time when they were making it and they made a series of decisions that didn’t seem that dark when they were making them but the combination of decisions turned it into a much darker film. And the general point of view seems to be that people like the first and third better than the second, but I still think the second is a very good movie.
JR – Well I went down there but really Laurent Bouzereau was handling the interviews and doing the behind the scenes things for the DVD as well as one or two other purposes, so he was really the contact for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and quite frankly I couldn’t have done both, it would have killed me. Because unlike the Star Wars books where we have three years, Spielberg works incredibly quickly, he’s legendary for his speed and this movie went into production and was finished in half the time. In book terms we had a third of the time. And so I was busy trying to finish the three archival sections of the film while he was in Los Angeles, New Mexico and so on dealing with the interviews. And so I was kind of writing everything simultaneously. I went down there and spent one full day, which was great, soaking up the atmosphere. I just told someone else, it was childhood dreams coming true. George introduced me to Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford was stood right over there dressed as Indiana Jones, Shia LeBeouf was there, Cate Blanchett, all the great sets. It was a pretty unforgettable day.
Lightsabre – You obviously had to go back into the Lucasfilm archives to research the previous three movies. Were you surprised by what you found in there, did you find stuff that you just didn’t expect to find?
JR – You never know what you’re going to find exactly. I always know that there’s going to be something good because most people go to Skywalker Ranch, if they’re lucky they get a tour of the props, the gallery so to speak and that stuff is great, but a lot of the really good stuff resides in cardboard boxes in a different part of Skywalker Ranch. Not quite so glamorous, and it literally takes hours of going through that stuff. And you know you’re going to find something good. In this case I think one of the finds was finding George’s notes on two old Jim Steranko drawings that George had liked and said ‘Well, these are kind of the direction I want but instead of the gun put a bullwhip, instead of these pants put on these straight pants, instead of this hat put on a fedora like the one in Treasure of the Sierra Madre.’ You’ll see that when the book comes out. Then I got to talk to Jim Steranko about those drawings, so that was pretty interesting. And then there were just lots and lots of tidbits. Finding the original memo’s that Kathy Kennedy sent to Steven Spielberg about the original casting of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Literally a day-by-day of who went before the camera, the whole drama behind the casting for the first film.
Lightsabre – Were you surprised then by the amount of stuff in the archives, because with Star Wars there seems to be legions of things still out there. I once heard that of all the Star Wars drawings Ralph McQuarrie had done we’ve only seen two out of ten. Was there a depth of stuff for Indiana Jones as well?
JR – Well Star Wars is different to Indiana Jones because Star Wars is a made-up universe. Every little thing has to be made up, whereas Indiana Jones although it takes place in the thirties is basically the real world, so there’s a more finite quantity of art and drawings and models. There’s less because of the nature of the beast. I did find some really cool drawings of the early temple in Raiders that they scrapped in pre-production because they realised that A they couldn’t afford it and B they didn’t need to be able to afford it (laughs). And it’s always interesting going through the progress reports and reading about all the different trials and tribulations that people forget about but which are reported by the Production Manager, as they need to for their own organisational purposes.
JR – It came about because there was a fourth movie. There was no planning, it was like ‘here are the books we’re doing’ and in the morning I’d wake up at five or six and work on my book, which I was writing, and during the day I’d edit all the Indiana Jones books I was doing, plus the Star Wars books and towards the end plus the Clone Wars books. It was a very exhausting experience. When I was done in January, late December I got on a plane and went to Mexico and was touring the Yucatan, the kind of temples you’d expect Indiana Jones to explore, so that was a great end to that period.
Lightsabre – So now that the book is on its way, there’s a whole swathe of Indy novels and books coming. Is there a novel programme, fiction continuations of the stories. What are you planning, I know there’s a lot of tie-ins with Crystal Skull?
JR – Well there’s a lot of tie-ins, and already there’s a lot of books that are out there right now, we have the Lost Journal, DK’s Ultimate Guide, How to Be Indy Handbook. But I don’t think I can say what our future plans are, I think there’s a marketing plan and we need to stick to those plans.
Lightsabre – So going forward with Indiana Jones, do you think there’s going to be more Indiana Jones, but I guess you can’t answer that, it’s a crazy question really?
JR – Yeah, I have no idea.
Lightsabre – It’s too early to say until it comes out. You mentioned the Clone Wars as well, are your hopes high for that as well? There seems to be a good building of attention for the film, people seem very aware of it.
JR – It’s really interesting, I don’t think anybody could have predicted that a Star Wars film would come out as an animated movie. We’ve seen a lot of the cartoons, and I haven’t actually seen the movie per se, I know the story but it’s looking real good. They’ve really taken a lot of care, a lot more care than what goes in to your average animated TV show.
Lightsabre – So you guys weren’t expecting it to become a movie? In fandom we were surprised that he decided to do a movie, it seemed to have really come out of the blue. It’s going to be exciting to see it on the big screen again for sure.
JR – Yeah, but a lot of stuff George does happens organically. I’ve been working with him on a book, which I think we’re announcing fairly soon, it’s been fascinating to watch just how this project started, and changed into one thing, got bigger and in general his projects tend to get bigger. If there’s one general rule I’d say that’s it.
Lightsabre – So anything else lined up for yourself? You’ve had a really interesting couple of years with Making of Star Wars and Making of Revenge of the Sith, and now the Indy book and Clone Wars. What’s next?
JR – Well I can’t really say. As a company we’ve never really had two major movies out in the same summer, so it’s a pretty exciting time.
Lightsabre – Yeah, we did a piece on Lightsabre when the Clone Wars movie was announced and we thought back and the only time there was an Indy and a Star Wars film here in Europe was when Temple of Doom and Caravan of Courage came out in 1984. So it’s been 24 years since we’ve had both in the same year. It’s quite a big thing.
Lightsabre – Really?
JR – Yes, you guys are privileged.
Lightsabre – When we spoke the very first time at the end of the interview you mentioned Making of Star Wars and when we spoke specifically about Making of Star Wars you mentioned Making of Indy, but also there’s the thought of Making of Empire and Jedi. Any more news on that.
JR – Well with the Making of Star Wars I couldn’t say it because we didn’t know how well the book would do, but since the book did so well and in fact it made the New York Times best seller list, so I think we’re pretty sure there’ll be an Empire Strikes Back book, and if we do it will be in the same format as the Star Wars book.
Lightsabre – Well I’m very much looking forward to that.
JR – Yeah, it’s not a done deal but I don’t see why we wouldn’t do it.
Lightsabre – The fans are out there, we all want it.
JR – Yeah, for a lot of fans that’s their favourite film. I like the first one, but I like Empire too.
Lightsabre – I don’t think he put a foot wrong really, especially with the first three. Thanks very much for your time Jon.
JR – Alright Mark, it was nice talking to you again.
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 18th May 2008.