The Indiana Jones films that never were

Feature Simon Brew 31 Jan 2014 - 07:04
Indiana Jones

There are currently four Indiana Jones movies, and some might say that's one too many. But what about the Indy movies that never were?

For a new Indiana Jones movie to go forward, it requires a degree of agreement amongst three people who don't seem to have a habit of agreeing very much. Basically, Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford and George Lucas all have to say yes, else the project stalls, and a different approach is taken.

As a consequence of this, there's a trail of unmade Indiana Jones films that failed to get the necessary unanimous agreement. The ingredients of some of them would find their way into others, and some ideas would never be returned to. Here then is a whistle-stop tour of the Indiana Jones movies that never were...

Indiana Jones and the Haunted Mansion

We'll start with the one we know the least about. One of George Lucas' suggestions for a third Indiana Jones movie was to send Indy into a haunted mansion. Full details of this never really came to light, but a screenplay was written for it. That was done by Diane Thomas, who had penned Romancing The Stone.

Spielberg resisted this approach in the end though, feeling that it went too close to one of his earlier films, Poltergeist. It wasn't that Indiana Jones movies hadn't done ghosts and the supernatural to some extent before. For Spielberg, it just felt like retreading old ground. The haunted house idea was nixed.

Indiana Jones And The Monkey King (aka Indiana Jones And The Garden Of Life)

This was another idea initiated by George Lucas for a third Indiana Jones movie, and Chris Columbus - at the time hot off his work penning Gremlins and The Goonies - was ultimately hired to tackle a couple of drafts of the film.

This particular adventure would have kicked off in Scotland in 1937, with Indy investigating ghostly murders. But it would be a conversation with Marcus Brody that really set things in motion, as he points Indy towards Africa, to meet with a zoologist called Clare Clarke. In turn, she happens to have discovered a 200-year old pygmy by the name of Tyki. Tyki would go on to give Indy a scroll with the directions to a lost city on. Naturally enough, Nazis block the way to said lost city. The plan for the lost city was for it to contain the Fountain of Youth.

Indy actually gets killed in this one, only to be brought back to life by Tyki in what's called the garden of immortal peaches (and if you're not pure of heart and eat a peach, then death awaits). Also, in one draft, Indy is forced by the Monkey King, who had migrated into a villain by that point, to play chess with real people as the pieces.

One nice addition to this, that ties back into Indy's teaching, is that the plan was to have one of his students stow away with him on the trip. That was one of the ingredients that never found its way into a future Indy movie, however.

This one did get to the point of location scouting, but eventually, Lucas and Spielberg would shelve the idea, feeling that the script was a little too far-fetched, and in danger of racially stereotyping some of its characters. Stung in particular by such accusations against Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, this was something that Spielberg and Lucas were both particularly sensitive to.

Furthermore, the draft of the script that would go on to leak online suggested a very, very expensive movie. On the upside, Chris Columbus' writing was praised for capturing the tone of Indy (although his character work wasn't), but Spielberg admitted that when he read the script "I began to feel very old - too old to direct it anyway".

(Daily Script has a link to an apparent draft of the film, here.)

Indiana Jones And The Saucermen From Mars

Following the success of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, George Lucas would develop an idea or two that could have seen a fourth Indy adventure in cinemas in the 1990s. One that got quite far into the writing process was Indiana Jones And The Saucermen From Mars, an idea that Lucas started working on in 1993. He hired Jeb Stuart originally to write the script for him, before passing on the mantle to the late Jeffrey Boam (who had co-written The Last Crusade).

In this one, Indy very nearly gets married at the start to a linguist by the name of Dr Elaine McGregor. Amongst the guests at the wedding would have been Marion, Willie, Sallah and his father, but McGregor, instead of walking down the aisle, hops into a car on the big day and disappears. The search is thus on to find her.

Turns out she's working on the discovery of alien bodies and a strange stone cylinder. Indy and McGregor crack the code on said cylinder, which turns out to be coordinates leading them to a mountain. Russian spies want in though, and as Indy tries to rescue Elaine from one of their planes, a flying saucer appears. A further alien encounter sees a truck being lifted off the ground. Meanwhile, a mysterious countdown ticks down, with the assumption being it's a bomb.

And so the story progresses, until the eventual departure of the flying saucers and aliens - after teaching some nasty people lessons by, er, killing them - leaving Indy and Elaine free to go off and get married. Short Round was set to give them a lift in a car at the end of the film too.

A couple of things, then. Firstly, this shows that aliens were part of the thinking long before the script to Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull was completed. Secondly, in George Lucas' defence, that does tie in to the kind of serials he was watching that influenced him to come up with the Indiana Jones adventures in the first place.

So why did this one fall apart, while Crystal Skull didn't? Notwithstanding the fact that it migrated in part into what would be the fourth Indiana Jones film (the aliens, the fact that it opened in Nevada), it was more a case of timing. Both Spielberg and Ford weren't said to be keen on using aliens as a plot device, but by 1995, Jeffrey Boam had shaped it into a script that convinced them it might work. However, then Independence Day happened, and almost instantly killed the project. The similarities were too great.

Lucas would, as history shows, hold onto the idea of those aliens though. Jeffrey Boam would sadly pass away in 2000, at the age of just 53.

Indiana Jones And The Lost Continent

Rumours suggesting that a big screen Indiana Jones movie would see him on a quest to find the lost city of Atlantis were not in short supply in the 1990s, primarily because, we'd suggest, of the excellent computer game, Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis, that was released in 1992.

It was wrongly assumed that this would be the precursor for a movie, but the closest Indy got to exploring Atlantis on the big screen was in a project with a slightly different name.

Indiana Jones And The Lost Continent was a rumoured project for which little substantive evidence exists. The story goes that Spielberg and Harrison Ford wanted the narrative to go one way, whilst George Lucas wanted it to go the other. Given that this was after the success of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, all three needed to be in agreement for the project to progress. That weren't, so it didn't.

There were casting rumours for this one, but again, we've nothing of substance to support them. Indy was set to have a brother according to one or two reports (I seem to remember Kevin Costner's name being mooted in a tabloid once upon a time, but that might just be my Kevin Costner fetish at work again). Tom Selleck's name was banded about too, although that's likely to be something to do with the fact that he was the original choice for Indiana Jones more than anything concrete. Another story suggested that Sandra Bullock would play an archaeology student in the movie, and that it was set to be her character who came across, by accident, the path to Atlantis.

From what we can tell, this all never got much further than web chatter though...

Indiana Jones And The City Of Gods

If there's one potentially great Indiana Jones movie that never was, then perhaps this is it. Penned by Frank Darabont, this was Steven Spielberg's favoured option for the fourth Indiana Jones movie, but it wasn't one - as we'll come to see - that found favour with George Lucas. That's a shame, as it did tie together lots of Lucas' suggestions and wishes, but eventually, he'd reject Darabont's work after two or three drafts have been written. The script was being worked on from mid-2000 through until the end of 2003. It also picked up elements of Indiana Jones And The Saucermen From Mars.

Across the drafts that Darabont wrote, at one stage he reportedly - and this wasn't confirmed - included a 13-year old daughter for Indy and Marion. Spielberg had introduced such a character for the first Jurassic Park sequel, and didn't want to go down that particular avenue again.

Darabont set his script in the 1950s, and introduced us to an Indiana Jones who was 20 years past his best days. He still conducts research expeditions, and thanks to the antics of a Russian colleague by the name of Yuri, he finds himself in possession of one of the infamous 13 crystal skulls. Yep, those ones.

Darabont brought back Marion, as the person who recruited Yuri to try and get hold of said skull in the first place. And we learn that Marion is married, and on a quest to find the lost City of the Gods. The skull is the key to getting at said city's secrets.

At the City of the Gods, aliens appear when the skull is attached to the necessary skeleton. But here, the aliens anoint Indy and the four people accompanying him 'the five chosen ones'. As thanks for helping bring some mummified remains back to life, they get one wish granted each.

In true Indiana Jones movie style, some of them pick the wrong wish and end up dead. Indy, meanwhile, wishes for Marion, and ends up alive. Cue everything starting to disintegrate, the survivors pegging it, and a flying saucer coming out of the ground. When it subsequently crashes, it takes the City of the Gods with it in the explosion that ensues. Indy and Marion go back to America and then get married. Nobody called Mutt is ever mentioned.

One of Darabont's drafts leaked online. Well, it's assumed to be his, and he's never denied or admitted it either way. It's been praised for its fast-moving actions sequences, and for successfully bringing the alien story into Indiana Jones in a far less clunky way than we'd eventually see. Former Nazis were in the mix too, as well as a Cold War feel.

So why didn't this one happen? That'd be down to George Lucas this time. Whilst Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg were said to love what Darabont had done, Lucas was never sold on it. He took over the script himself, and brought other writers on to work with it too. Darabont would describe his time on the project as "a tremendous disappointment and a waste of a year", noting that "suddenly the whole thing goes down in flames because George Lucas doesn't like the script".

According to an interview he gave to MTV back in 2007, Darabont confronted George Lucas over the matter. "I told him he was crazy", Darabont said. "You have a fantastic script. I think you’re insane, George... You can say things like that to George, and he doesn’t even blink. He’s one of the most stubborn men I know". When asked whether he'd publish his script, he said that "at this point I don't give much of a damn what George thinks, but I wouldn't want to harm my friendship with Steven".

Darabont did still introduce ingredients that would make it into Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. But it's clear it was very far removed from the version he'd originally drafted.

Indiana Jones 5

Since Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull was released, going on to become the biggest grossing movie in the series at the box office, there's been no shortage of speculation with regards a fifth movie. The rights now fully reside with Disney, and the earliest we'd see another movie is in two to three years time. And clearly, it's a project that's had some work done on it.

That work has been done behind closed doors however, and so whilst George Lucas, producer Frank Marshall and Harrison Ford have all admitted in interviews over the years that development work is underway, nothing concrete has emerged. The main story rumour cropped up a few years back, when it was suggested that the MacGuffin this time had something to do with the Bermuda Triangle. However, Alan Horn - the chairman of Walt Disney Studios - said as late as December 2013 that there was still no story in place.

The Fakes

There have been a few fan scripts that arrived online over the years, that for a while were regarded as the real deal. The most prominent was perhaps Indiana Jones And The Sons Of Darkness, which would have been Indy versus the Russians in the race to discover Noah's Ark's remains. The closest Indy will ever get to that story is if Harrison Ford buys a ticket to see Russell Crowe's next movie. Another fake script turned out to be an adventure about Indy finding the Garden Of Eden. Several more would crop up, and we suspect will continue to do so...

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Disqus - noscript

I read the Frank Darbont Script, his final draft before he left. It's very similar to Crystal Skull, but had even more fantastical elements, like GIANT animals and bugs as they got closer to the temple cos of radiation or something. I think Indy gets eaten by a giant snake or something. I also don't think there was a Mac shouting 'Jonesy!' all the time... It wasn't much better, if at all than the final film.

Hahahaha! Nice photoshopping guys!
Bravo!

Indy always worked best when it was a religious quest so maybe the Spear of Destiny or Noahs Ark might be the way to go , as for villains forget the Russians go for Templars or Illuminati

Personally I could go for just one more round with Indy

Harrison Ford is just too old. It's like watching your Granddad on screen, his whole demeanour is just too grumpy with his old sense of humour long gone. The best we can hope for now is a beautifully crafted 'Nathan Drake" movie based on the Uncharted series, as he is basically an Indy clone, but much more interesting than the turd that arrived in the Crystal Skull.
Let Indy go, Bring on the Drake.

*takes a bow*

Like the spear of destiny (the holy lance?), eden and atlantis. In terms of replacement, why not add indy to the warehouse 13 crew, and continue the franchise via crossover. 13 is ending this year, so I would he perfect to see a big screen or 13 version. Indy could be still alive courtesy of the apple of adam and becomes a caretaker, imagine his banter with arty, whilst, pete, myka, claudia snd steve search for one of the above or...the Bermuda triangle, el dorado, the yeti or christ's crown of thorns/cross

Indiana Jones is Cinema Gold and a new film shouldn't be released unless it's properly realised - and with a 3 man committee of Speilberg, Ford and Lucas making the decisions, I fear time will run out before anything goes ahead.
With Disney buying out Lucasfilm I think they will be looking to pass on the Franchise to a younger generation, like they intend to do with Star Wars - but unfortunately this would have to involve Shia Lebeouf, who has probably pissed on his chips.
IMO they missed the best opportunity to keep the franchise alive in the early 90's when River Phoenix was still alive, Ford was still young enough to carry it off and the popular story of the Fate of Atlantis could have kept the momentum going.

I'll agree with that. The trouble with Crystal Skull or any alien storylines is that they totally contradict the religious stories! If you believe the word of God (as is the basis of the 1st + 3rd film), then aliens do not exist!

Where exactly does it say in the bible thou shalt be no green men ?

Any half educated person knows that according to the bible we are the only life created by God! Philistine!

I always liked the plot of the old Lucasfilm game "Indy and the Fate of Atlantis". You can guess what that's about.

I remember Kevin Costner mentioned as his brother too.

For me, through all the novels, comic books and scripts, the best ones have been religious-based. Not one alien story has rung true. Personally, I think a hunt for Shangri-la or the Garden of Eden would be good. Indy could stay there at the end and never die or something.

Yeah, but the bible is just a bunch of old tosh, so don't worry about it.

You'd think Indy would be a bit more religious given that he's twice seen proof of the existence of God with his own eyes.

I'm NOT, but clearly the Indiana Jones universe does! I think you are a little too dumb to see the point!

And yet you still don't understand my comment about how the alien storylines contradict the earlier films!

Your point is irrelevant. Indiana Jones is fictional. Or are you a little too dumb to see it?

Monkey King sounds like it's far and away the best one...
that sounds like a proper, interesting Indy movie.
I like it when Indy goes to exotic places with bizarre characters, not when he just goes to somewhere normal.

The Lost Continent sounds good, if they made it like Fate of Atlantis, that would be great.
There was a really creepy vibe when Indy finds out that they're like demon aliens or whatever in the game, and I think that would have worked really well on film.

Haunted Mansion sounds like it wouldn't really work as an Indy movie, but maybe.

Saucermen From Mars and The City Of Gods both sound pretty bad.
I don't want to see stuff where Indy gets married, just put him into some interesting places and have some adventures, and go right into the middle of stuff happening.

City of Gods sounds like it would be better than Crystal Skull, but not by much.
I thought Crystal Skull was ok really, but there is so much more scope for an awesome Indy movie.

They kinda did with the Young Indiana Jones series in the early '90s. I grant you, it felt like TV, and the guy from Powder didn't have the same gravitas or personality quirks as a young Harrison Ford would have, but it certainly felt like they were keeping the franchise alive, in one form or another.

Oh Lucas. Shakes head!

Eh? I had nothing to do with your comment about aliens.

I've read City of the Gods; it really was great.

And SPOILERS for The Monkey King:

Indy rides a rhino into battle against a giant tank. True story.

How? The.whole point is that in the 30s

Indy meets Buddah. Top of the box office.

Daaaayum...
I just started reading the Monkey script and it's fantastic so far...

Indy has done aliens, perhaps indie 5 can combine Alantis, the haunted house and garden of life and throw in a bunch of aliens, now that would be a good movie. If they added in something as big and important as the discovery that Aleins exist, they can't go back to just myths and magic.

Well, I've heard the rumors of an Indy reboot with a young actor.being tossed around. It would eliminate Ford, Lucas and Spielberg from the equation. Like the Star Trek, Star Wars reboots. A clean slate.

Both your points are irrelevant. Indiana Jones is fictional, therefore there's no need to wach any of these films. And because of that, there is no point in this conversation either, or in having any kind of opinion about these matters. Arguing about fiction is just foolish. Let's just stick to observing the real world instead of watching movies. And if we have to watch something, let it rather be documentaries.

So all this article does is to confirm one thing. What a total dick George Lucas is.
He nearly derailed Star Wars, he certainly stopped better Indie films being made.
He should have just come up with the ideas for the Star Wars universe then gone and crawled back up his own ass.
I hope to god he has nothing to do with the new Star Wars stuff coming out.

I also have a draft called Indiana Jones and the Sons of Darkness by Jeffrey Boam in which Marion's 10(?) year old son Abner finds out from a book jacket that Henry Jones Jr. may be his father and takes off to meet him but gets abducted by Russians who are searching for a skull embedded in the weck of Noah's Ark. That skull will be put together with other bones from various significant bodies to rebuild either Hitler of the Antichrist. Been a decade or more since I read it. It was okay, except for some creepy scenes with the Russian team and the boy.

Well I'm highly educated so I guess I've pushed past that particalur take on it :-). I'm sure there is enough scope that God could have created 'man' elsewhere in the universe too. Bible has some good stuff it but also some questionable stuff too. Fiction while fiction normally bases in fact. I did find the addition of aliens jarring and that is fair game for discussion. I mean you can't have Luke Skywalker drop into Indy 4 with a light sabre and a death star and say that's all fiction it's fair game.

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