Raiders of the Lost Ark Brainstorming Sessions

From the New Yorker:

So I was gobsmacked to discover, recently, that over several days in 1978, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and the screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan worked through an idea Lucas had for a film called “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and they recorded the sessions. And there’s a transcript. And it’s online.

After “Star Wars” opened, in 1977, Lucas had sought refuge in Hawaii, and it was on the beach there that he first pitched Spielberg the idea for a film that would recapture the rollicking adventures and Orientalist locales of the matinee serials of Lucas’s youth. Spielberg, who had already enjoyed huge success with “Jaws,” was interested. Having enlisted Kasdan to write the script, they assembled in a little house in Sherman Oaks that belonged to Lucas’s assistant, and, over several days, concocted the film.

Lucas walked into the meeting with an outline of the story, but he wanted to flesh it out with his writer and director. In the transcript, he begins by articulating a recipe for the contemporary blockbuster: the picture will consist of one big set piece after another.

“And each cliffhanger is better than the one before,” Spielberg adds, warming to the idea. “What we’re doing here, really, is designing a ride at Disneyland.”

The hero, Lucas explains, is a globe-trotting archaeologist, “a bounty hunter of antiquities.” He’s a professor, a Ph.D.—“People call him doctor.” But he’s a little “rough and tumble.” As the men hash out the Jones iconography, they refer, incessantly, to other films, invoking Eastwood, Bond, and Mifune. He will dress like Bogart in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” Lucas says: “the khaki pants…the leather jacket. That sort of felt hat.” Oh, and also? “A bullwhip.” He’ll carry it “rolled up,” Lucas continues. “Like a snake that’s coiled up behind him.”

“I like that,” Spielberg says. “The doctor with the bullwhip.”

After establishing his hero, Lucas proceeds to walk through the film’s plot, beat by beat. There’s the opening sequence in South America, which Lucas describes as “misty and primeval, ‘King Kong’-ish.”

The complete 90 page transcript is here (pdf)

And here is a 13 minute supercut of shots from Raiders and their inspirations: