10 (Arti)facts about Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Believe it or not, it has been over 30 years since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade swung on to the big screen for the first time with its spirited adventure full of daring stunts, thrilling special effects, and a myriad of intriguing locations.

The third installment of director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas’ Indiana Jones franchise may have taken five years to get off the ground but it soared to all-new heights upon its release in 1989, as it quickly became the highest-grossing movie worldwide that year.

With a production budget of $48 million, The Last Crusade spanned across multiple continents during its breakneck filming schedule, with a substantial portion of the expenses going towards a variety of vehicles and elaborate set pieces that the franchise has become known for.

So dust off your fedoras, crack your bullwhips, and pass us your “tickets please” as we invite you to duck and weave your way through this Holy Grail list of behind-the-scenes secrets and surprises (but hopefully no snakes) from the original trilogy-capper.

10. 2,000 Rats Were Specially Bred For The Venetian Catacombs Scene

After receiving his father’s secret journal in the post, Indy heads straight for Italy to meet up with the brazenly flirtatious Dr. Elsa Schneider, who initially assists in his quest to locate the Holy Grail, but as they venture down into the ancient catacombs of Venice, they quickly discover there is more than just chemistry between them.

In actual fact, the underground tunnels are infested with rats – thousands of them – all of which were specially bred for this skin-crawling scene. The producers reportedly ordered the disease-free rodents from the same company that previously supplied snakes and critters on set, and then substituted them out for mechanical rats during the torching scene.

Rats. Why did it have to be rats?

9. Several Early Drafts Of The Screenplay Involved A Haunted Castle

The Last Crusade featured everything from cars to camels but it also very nearly included ghosts, too. Before moving forward with the father-son rescue mission to retrieve the Holy Grail, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas reviewed several different draft iterations for the main storyline as part of an extended development process.

One particular script treatment proposed by Lucas, titled Indiana Jones and the Monkey King, followed Indy on an adventure to Scotland, where he encountered a shroud of ghouls inside a haunted castle before embarking on an expedition to Africa in search of the Fountain of Youth. However, Spielberg rejected the idea of a ghost story, having recently wrapped on the supernatural horror film Poltergeist.

All in good spirits though!

8. Harrison Ford’s Real-Life Chin Scar Was Incorporated Into The Story

Harrison Ford’s distinctive chin scar was cleverly built into the character backstory of Indiana Jones. The Last Crusade opens with a prologue scene showing a young Indy, played by River Phoenix, making a rookie error as he cracks his bullwhip to protect himself from a circus lion – a mishap that causes the signature blemish beneath his bottom lip.

This visual characteristic is in fact a genuine scar that belongs to Ford, which he picked up in a serious automobile accident many, many years earlier. It is believed that he was on his way to an interview when he suddenly lost control of his car while fumbling to put his seatbelt on, causing him to crash straight into a telephone pole.

Another narrow escape!

7. Harrison Ford And Sean Connery Ditched Their Pants For One Scene

Midway through the rip-roaring threequel, Indiana and his father Henry hitch a ride on a German blimp, taking a moment to have a drink and converse with one another while seated at a dining table. Surrounded by other passengers in fur coats and hats, they both appear to be dressed for the occasion, or at least that’s how it looks to the average moviegoer.

In reality, the two actors chose to ditch their slacks in an effort to keep cool on the overheated set. According to reports, Sean Connery removed his trousers, knowing the bottom-half of his ensemble wouldn’t be in shot, and Harrison Ford followed suit for the scene, which was filmed in the height of the summer.

Like father, like son.

6. Nazi Extras Were Asked To Cross Their Fingers Behind Their Backs

Drawn from the pages of history, one scene takes place at a Nazi rally in Berlin, where a ferocious book burning is in process. Indy is buffeted through a swarm of citizens as frenzy mounts among the enormous crowd, who are waving flags and banners in a rhythmic zombie-like motion while performing the Sieg Heil arm salute.

Surprisingly though, this is not the only hand gesture that the extras were asked to execute for the scene. Director Steven Spielberg jokingly suggested that all of the background actors should place their left arm behind their backs and cross their fingers simultaneously.

Serious multitasking!

5. Most Of The Nazi Uniforms Worn At The Berlin Rally Are Authentic

They say that looks can be deceiving but we assure you there’s nothing deceptive about the uniforms worn by the Nazis in the scene at the Berlin book burning rally. In fact, the majority of the outfits are authentic World War II garments that were obtained somewhere in Eastern Europe prior to production.

According to The Making of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade featurette, costume designer Anthony Powell carefully studied historical photographs of Nazi uniforms and then shared his research pictures, sketches, and drawings with co-costume designer Joanna Johnston. With her team, she proceeded to comb the continent and track down as many suits as possible.

Talk about the real deal.

4. Harrison Ford Performed Almost All Of His Own Stunts On Set

Harrison Ford is many things: a skilled carpenter, a private pilot, and an award-winning actor, to name just a few. But with the Indiana Jones franchise he also added “stuntman” to his ever-growing list, as he insisted on giving his regular stunt double, Vic Armstrong, some downtime on the set of Indiana Jones’ third adventure.

Impressively, Ford was the one who saddled up for the high-octane chase scene wherein Indy rides a horse at speed on the tail of a German tank before dropping down on to the military truck to face his enemies in combat. Ford then ends up swinging from the cannon of the armored vehicle, as the driver tries to crush his body up against the rocky canyon wall.

At one point during production, Armstrong actually pulled Ford aside to ask him to let him “do some work” because the actor was taking on so many of the action sequences himself. Armstrong later said, “If he wasn’t such a great actor, he would have made a really great stuntman.”

And for that, we tip our fedora to him.

3. The Tank Chase Scene Was Originally Meant To Be Much Shorter

George Lucas reportedly wanted a tank to be written into the script, so Steven Spielberg set about writing a short sequence for a tank chase, which he projected would take approximately two days to shoot. Sean Connery, who plays a main part in the scene, revealed that filming stretched to 10 days, as the storyboard quickly became an action-packed centerpiece.

Spielberg decided that the energetic sequence needed to be quite story-based to give audiences an opportunity to see the comedy that sometimes comes from reality, as Indy and Henry work together to help each other out of a jam. He later admitted that he had more fun drafting up the storyboards for the sequence than filming it.

And that’s about the long and the short of it.

2. A Ghostwriter Was Hired To Rewrite The Indy/Henry Dialogue

With the relationship between Indiana Jones and his estranged father playing a significant part in the story, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas decided to hire a ghostwriter to review the dialogue and improve the quality of their interactions.

It was renowned playwright Tom Stoppard who was brought on board to pen the fresh lines, and even though he didn’t receive a writing credit, he was paid $120,000 for rewriting the material. After the movie’s release and subsequent success, however, he received a further $1 million as a bonus for his work.

“It was an emotional story, but I didn’t want to get sentimental. Their disconnection from each other was the basis for a lot of comedy, and it gave Tom Stoppard, who was uncredited, a lot to write. Tom is pretty much responsible for every line of dialogue,” Spielberg said in an article published by Empire.

Well, the secret’s out now!

1. Sean Connery Improvised The Line “She Talks In Her Sleep”

Outside of the scripted dialogue, Sean Connery delivered one of the standout lines of the movie in a moment of pure improvisation. The Scottish actor, playing Professor Henry Jones, ad libbed the line: “She talks in her sleep,” as a response to Indy asking how he knew that Elsa was an ally to the Germans.

Julian Glover, who plays the main antagonist Walter Donovan, said that when Connery tossed out the quip they had to stop filming, as everybody just fell on the floor in hysterics. Spielberg said, “Well, that’s in,” and staying true to his word, it survived the final cut.

No one was going to sleep on that.

Do you remember the first time that you watched Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade? What is your favorite Indy (arti)fact from our list? Keep the conversation going over at side.show/geekgroup, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!