‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ Producer Reveals Backstory of Film’s Famous Gun vs. Sword Scene | Producer Oscar Roundtable

Oscar-nominated producer Frank Marshall, the man behind such epochal movies as Back to the Future, the Indiana Jones series and The Goonies, revealed the story behind one of the most iconic moments in film during The Hollywood Reporter’s Producer Roundtable.

Marshall holds producing credits on a number of films this year, including Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, the latest Jason Bourne installment and Clint Eastwood’s Sully. As part of the roundtable discussion, Marshall joined La La Land producer Marc Platt, Jackie producer Darren Aronofsky, Fences producer Todd Black, Silence producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff and Manchester by the Sea producer Matt Damon.

During the interview, Marshall recounted the tale, after a bit of prodding, of the famous Raiders of the Lost Ark scene in which Harrison Ford’s Indie takes down a sword-spinning baddie with a nonchalant gunshot.

“We had been shooting in Tunisia in 130 degrees for six weeks and we had three days left,” Marshall said. “We were supposed to shoot this huge fight between the whip and the sword. It took the whole morning to shoot just three storyboards.”

At lunch, Marshall went to talk to director Spielberg to explain that production was taking longer than anticipated. The brief meeting turned out to be the impetus for Hollywood history. 

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Ford was “not feeling well,” and talk emerged to nix the big fight in lieu of something a bit quicker, although it’s unclear whose idea it actually was.

“Nobody will say who said what,” Damon said at the roundtable, chiming in. 

“Somehow, somebody said, ‘I’ve got this gun, why don’t I just use it?'” Marshall recalled.

Whoever the instigator, the idea got the ball rolling quickly. “After lunch, we did three shots, and we were two days ahead of schedule, and it’s the biggest moment in the movie,” said Marshall.

The producer was quick to glean the lesson from the anecdote. “The key there is, when you’re given that challenge, solving it gets you to a better place and gets you to a better idea.”

More roundtables featuring actors and actresses, screenwriters, songwriters, directors, composers, and documentary filmmakers will continue to roll out throughout February in print and online. Tune in to new episodes of Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter starting Jan. 15 on Sundance TV and look for clips at THR.com/topic/roundtables with full episodes on THR.com after broadcast.