The Indiana Jones Films That Never Were

Indiana Jones 5 is happening and there might already be one too many. But what about the Indy movies that never were?

This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.

Indiana Jones 5 is definitely happening! This is what is accomplished when Disney sees a very lucrative reason to bypass the system that created the past four Indiana Jones pictures. Until very recently, for each installment to go forward, it required a degree of agreement amongst three people who don’t seem to have a habit of agreeing very much. Basically until the Lucasfilm purchase by the House of Mouse, Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford and George Lucas all had to say yes or else the project stalled, and a different approach was taken.

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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…

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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 house ride. 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, however, 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. But for Spielberg, it just felt like retreading old ground. The haunted mansion 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 from 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 toward 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. 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.

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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 originally hired Jeb Stuart to write the script for him before passing on the mantle to the late Jeffrey Boam (who had co-written The Last Crusade).

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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 instead of walking down the aisle, McGregor 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 clock ticks away, with the assumption being that 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’ defense, 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, Independence Day then 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.

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Indiana Jones and the Lost Continent

Rumors 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 rumored 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 rumors 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.

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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 favored option for the fourth Indiana Jones movie, but it wasn’t one – as we’ll come to see – that found favor 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 had 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.

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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 confirmed 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 clearly, it’s a project that’s had some work done on it.

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Currently, nothing is really known about the film other than its 2019 release date, and that Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg are set to return. A story rumor cropped up a few years back where 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 got to that story is if Harrison Ford bought a ticket to see Russell Crowe’s last 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…

This article first ran on Jan. 31, 2014.