As a young aspiring filmmaker, Steven Spielberg really wanted to direct a James Bond movie. After his successes with JAWS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, he even reached out to the 007 camp but as he told The Independent, “I called up Cubby (producer Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli) and offered my services but he didn’t think I was right for the part.”
So, as the legend goes, Spielberg went on vacation with his friend George Lucas in the summer of 1977. Lucas’ breakthrough smash hit STAR WARS had just been released, and Spielberg had just completed CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, due to be released later that year. While building a sand castle on the beach at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (hey, this is how the legend goes), Spielberg told Lucas his dream of making a James Bond movie and how it would probably never come to be.
Then Lucas told his friend he had an idea that was better than Bond.
In a later interview, Lucas explained, “So I said, 'Well, look, Steven, I’ve got a James Bond film. It’s great - it’s just like James Bond but even better. I told him the story about this archeologist and said it was like a Saturday-matinee serial, that he just got into one mess after another. And Steven said, ‘Fantastic, let's do this!’”
Lucas’ character was named Indiana Smith – after his dog’s name. Spielberg disliked the name but agreed it should be an all-American moniker, so they settled on Indiana Jones.
This simple beach chat led to one of the biggest movie franchises in history with RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK , INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE dominating the ‘80s box office.
LAST CRUSADE, the third entry, was especially notable as it featured Sean Connery as Indy’s father, Henry Jones, which brought the Bond connection full circle. Although he was only 12 years older than series star Harrison Ford, Connery convincingly owned the role, playing against type as a nebbish bookworm, and the part introduced the actor to younger generations who had never seen any of the seven films in which he portrayed the suave super spy, 007.
As Spielberg later said to Empire Magazine, “Who else but Bond could have been worthy enough to play Indiana Jones’s dad?”
Spielberg never did direct a Bond film, repeatedly saying in interviews that with his colossal career, “they can’t afford me.”
Connery retired from acting in 2003, but he did consider returning when the fourth Indiana Jones film was in development later in the decade.
He ended up issuing this statement: “If anything could have pulled me out of retirement, it would have been an Indiana Jones film, but in the end, retirement is just too damned much fun.”
Connery’s role was reduced to his picture being seen on Jones’ desk along with Denholm Elliot (Indy's mentor Marcus Brody) in an early scene. As INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL is far from a fan favorite, maybe Connery made the right decision.
In the scheme of things, Connery’s role as Indiana Jones’ dad is a small part of his lengthy legacy, but it’s still a crucial one as it connects the franchises in a major way. Undoubtedly, many kids sought out Connery’s Bond movies after seeing LAST CRUSADE, and went from there to discover his other work which is getting spotlighted right now on the sad event of the great actor’s death.
In conclusion, Spielberg didn’t get what he wanted (making his own James Bond film), but he sure got what he needed (co-creating an iconic character that was almost as good - sorry, Lucas, but it’s true).
One last tidbit is that Connery’s Henry Jones Sr. reveals that his son’s name is Henry Jones Jr., and that their dog’s name was Indiana (obviously inspired by Lucas's dog). This leads to Indy's long-time pal, Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) to mock him for being named after a dog. A few lines later, the original trilogy is done.
R.I.P. Sean Connery (1930-2020)
R.I.P. Sean Connery (1930-2020)