“It was virtually a relay race to accomplish as many exciting setups as possible before sundown made us stop shooting,” Spielberg wrote further. “And also to get the hell out of there, because none of us liked it there.” On top of the heat and the sand, there was the fact that most of the crew ended up with food poisoning. “Some of the local food put a majority of the group through gastric agony,” Spielberg wrote, although he himself lucked out because he’d stuck to eating the food he’d brought with him.
Maybe the hardest part, however, was timing things right so the sunlight would look as good as possible. That digging scene where you can see the characters as silhouettes against the giant orange desert sun is a beautiful shot, popping up constantly in compilations of beautifully-filmed moments in cinema, but it was a moment that had to be filmed during a short, specific period of time. As Spielberg explained, “I felt a little conspicuous jumping up and down and screaming, ‘We’re losing the light! We’re losing the light!’ The rest of the British crew just sat there looking up at the sun and quite agreeing with me.”
The scariest moment for Spielberg was when Harrison Ford nearly got his leg crushed while filming the scene where Indy fought the buff Nazi by the moving plane, but ironically it was the heat and sand that staved off disaster: “The only thing that saved his leg from shattering in a hundred pieces was the fact that it was so hot that the rubber was soft and pliable and the ground concrete pad was covered over with two inches of sand … there was enough give between the rubber and the sand that Harrison completely escaped any harm.”