“Raiders Of The Lost Ark” started life as a series of elaborate set piece ideas in the mind of George Lucas. Those ideas were fleshed out once Steven Spielberg came onboard and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan had filled in the gaps with narrative during a slapdash writing process. However, actually committing that ambitious script to screen required some ambitious stunts. From the legendary boulder chase scene during the climax of the Peruvian temple sequence, to the tense truck chase in the Tunisian desert, “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” was a masterclass in doing action right.
Harrison Ford, who was given an unusual amount of creative control, was characteristically keen to get involved in as much of the film’s action as possible. As his stunt double Vic Armstrong told Empire in 2021, “Harrison is Indiana Jones. He wanted to do all his stunts.” And while the actor did as much as he could, ultimately the film’s stunts were so dangerous there was a real risk of death, which prompted stunt gaffer J.R. Randall to step in and hold Ford back.
As Spielberg recalled in Paul Honeyford’s biography of Ford:
“There are four or five very risky scenes that Terry Leonard, J.R. Randall, and Vic Armstrong did for him. J.R. Randall was our stunt gaffer, and he wouldn’t let Harrison do any stunts that were potentially fatal. But Harrison did most everything else. Anything that simply promised serious injury or total disability, Harrison did; anything that promised death through fatal miscalculation, Terry, Vic, and J.R. did.”
Aside from being impressed by Ford’s willingness to perform his own stunts, the director was relieved that everyone was still breathing once filming was done: “That’s the most amazing thing about the ‘Raiders’ saga — everybody survived.”