Forty years ago on June 12, 1981, in movie theaters across the U.S.A. and Canada, the house lights went down and the moody notes of John Williams’ score introduced the first visual silhouette of Indiana Jones. As the protagonist of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the archaeologist and global adventurer was fashioned in the model of the old B-movie serial heroes. But as brought to life by actor Harrison Ford, director Steven Spielberg and writer/executive producer George Lucas, Indy (as he became known) was a grounded, gritty and self-deprecating hero who managed to charm men and women around the globe.
Raiders of the Lost Ark went on to become a huge summer blockbuster and won four Academy Awards. More importantly, because of its success Indy returned to cinemas for three more adventures (and a prequel TV series), with a fifth film starring Ford currently in production. And while Dr. Jones endures, Raiders arguably remains the pinnacle movie in the franchise because of how timeless its story, action sequences and all of its characters have proven to be across four decades. It also continues to be a film that inspires fans worldwide.
In particular, Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood and Paul Freeman’s Belloq are the feisty sidekick and suave adversary, respectively, but they imbued so much into their roles that you can’t imagine Raiders of the Lost Ark without them.
As Indy’s on and off again paramour, Allen gave audiences a character who was almost tougher than Indy. She drank, punched and strategized her way out of so many no-win situations in the movie that she practically gave the “damsel in distress” trope a black eye. Still a working actor, she reprised the Ravenwood character in 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but she tells IGN that Raiders is still the movie that elicits the most spontaneous reactions from people who recognize her and want to share their favorite scenes.
“People love the moment where I punch Indy in the jaw,” she laughs when asked which scene she hears about the most. “And people love the whole thing of me slapping the little shot glass down and this idea of people battling each other to see who can stay conscious with one more shot of whiskey. And there’s people who love the moment where I laughed so hard, I fall off my chair because I’m getting drunk. And the same with Paul.”
As Belloq, Freeman presented audiences an antagonist who was the external antithesis of Indy, with his cultured accent and refined linen suits. But as the narrative unspooled and their escalating game of antiquity one-upmanship continues, it was clear the two men shared the same unquenchable spirit for knowledge. They were perfectly positioned as the yin-yang of their field, which begs the question of why no other installments ever pitted them against one another in a prequel.
“There was some talk immediately after Raiders about making the next one a prequel in which Belloq and Indiana would go against each other again,” Freeman tells IGN from a call to his home in France. “But I think, probably for very good reasons … Harrison didn’t want to do that. And so, it didn’t happen.”
Coming off a quarantine year into the 40th anniversary for Raiders, both actors are especially warm about remembering their time shooting the film and how it’s impacted their lives since.
For Freeman, who is also still working (most recently in the series Absentia), admits he only thinks of Raiders when he comes across it on TV. “If I happen to see it, and I’m in the mood, I might sit and watch it,” he says. But most often, it gets thrust back into his consciousness via the most unexpected places. “I was very grateful for it [when I] was on a business trip [and] stopped by border control in St. Petersburg years ago,” he laughs. “I was going to work and having a bit of trouble. And the [agent] says, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark?!’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘Go through.’ So, it pays off!”
With Allen, it’s been a more surprising realization of how much Marion Ravenwood has meant to girls and women. “It’s interesting, about 20 or 25 years ago, I started hearing from young women who had seen the film when they were children,” the actress muses. “They would come to me and tell me how Marion, as a character, changed their lives. Or, changed their view of themselves as a woman, a female in the world, and how much that character meant to them. It somehow came as a surprise to me.”
She says that she always loved the character for her independent spirit and toughness but she hadn’t registered her impact until she started to get those firsthand fan stories. “I was very, very moved by that,” she says. “I love that she has become this symbol of a strong, independent woman. That means a lot. My grandmother always said to me when I was a kid, ‘Karen, you must aspire to what you admire.’ And it’s become this little motto for me, like a little thing that I held very close because I adored my grandmother. So, I felt like often when I would choose roles, that would be the thing I would think: Do I admire this person? Whether it was a strong person or not a strong person, but do I admire something in who they are? And I was often offered roles of characters who I just really thought, ‘I don’t like who this woman is. I don’t like how she’s being treated.’ I would back away from those characters but Marion was kind of the epitome. I aspire to be more like Marion.”
The Indiana Jones 4-Movie Collection is available now in a new 4K Ultra HD set from Lucasfilm Ltd. and Paramount Home Entertainment.
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