This die-hard Indy fan had the chance to sit down with Karen Allen, the woman behind the classic character, to celebrate the Sept. 18 release of Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures, and to geek out about all things Indy. She may have even given even the most stalwart dissenters a reason to like the polarizing Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Hollywood: When you first got involved in Raiders of the Lost Ark, did you think it would be as huge as it was?
Karen Allen: I was an admirer of Steven [Spielberg] because I had seen… honestly, Jaws kind of just scared the crap out of me. I can look at it and see that it’s a really, really well-made film, but I’ve never been able to enjoy going back in the water ever since. (Laughter) I loved swimming in the ocean, but he sort of ruined it for me. But I had just seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind and I was very, very inspired by that film. I had grown up in the era where everything that came from outer space was evil and wanted to like eat us and blow us up or do something horrible to us. And I loved the story of something coming from another world, another planet, another galaxy and actually being something that had a desire to communicate and not be destructive. And I was very excited by the film and the message of the film. And I was a big fan of George Lucas’ too.
So the thought that I was going to get to work with the two of them in their very first collaboration was fantastic and I had read the script. At the point that they had asked me to be in the film, they gave me a copy of the script to read and I was quite fascinated by the script … It’s interesting. Usually, I’ll be given a script and then I can really study it for a while, you get a chance to really read it, and read it, and read it, but this one was messengered to me while I was working on a film up in Northern California. I was allowed to read it one time and then it was taken back. It’s funny I haven’t even thought about this for a very long time, but I think, I almost woke up the next day and I wasn’t quite sure what I’d read. I thought, what was that? I read it. I was engaged in it. And I though wow, this is such an interesting film and an interesting character, but I almost couldn’t remember what it was about. And there was a period of time before I was given back the script, because everybody was so secretive. I had to say “yes” and they had to say “yes” and all that.
I’ve always seen Marion as an incredible female character. She’s not typical, she’s got this unique way about her. Have you ever considered or noticed the impact her character has had on other female characters, if any?
I know, talking to younger generations of actresses who’ve kind of come up to me and said, “You know, that character made so much of a difference to me” in terms of suddenly seeing a broader spectrum of the kinds of characters that were possible, the kind of roles they wanted to play. They felt they were reading a lot of films and television scripts in which the female characters were being channeled into this very narrow idea of what a woman was and what a woman could be in a film. And suddenly, Marion and other characters around that same time sort of broke that all open. I think actresses really wanted very much to embody characters who had more to them than being the girlfriend or the foil of the male character – [characters] who were more refined.
That’s what makes the romance between Indy and Marion so classic – the fact that Marion isn’t just some girl. Do you count their romance among some of the Great Love Stories?
It certainly is a very poignant love story. There’s a huge gap in it between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and I find myself really interested in knowing what went on in between – how they went their separate ways and what really happened. I feel like there is something, because Indiana Jones is the character that he is, he’s so in his own world. He is, in a sense, resistant to romance. He puts up such a fight, and I think that there is something very ultimately sweet about him suddenly realizing that he’s in love with her.
Unlike a lot of really romantic stories where we get to see the core of the relationship, I think it is a much more, I don’t really have the right word for it. We kind of miss all the really intimate pieces and somehow or other, we end up believing that they’re destined to be together. And sometimes, you’ll see a love story where you’ll see a lot between the characters but you don’t really feel that they’re destined to be together. So I think that’s kind of – there’s something that works there.
Was completing that love story part of your decision to be a part of the fourth movie?
I’m not sure I would even say, I guess I did make a decision, but I was so quite moved that they had written my character back into the story and written her back in this particular way, that I don’t even think it ever occurred to me that I could say anything other than “Yes.” I wanted to be a part of it, for sure. I can’t imagine what they would have done with my character that I would have said, “Oh gee, I don’t think so.” I can’t think of a scenario in which that would have been possible. (Laughs) But fortunately, that wasn’t at all the case. I was just delighted to come back into the story.
You’ve undoubtedly come across lots of fans since the film came out, have any interactions resulted in something that was meaningful or impactful, or even just memorable?
One of my favorite little moments with a fan was when I was here in New York at the Paris Theater. They wanted to show Raiders of the Lost Ark on the big screen and the Paris Theater decided they wanted to show it three nights in a row and they asked me if I would come to New York and do a Q&A after the screening all three nights. And I said, “Yes, of course. I’d love to.” I was sitting in front of the audience one night and this little girl raised her hand, she was probably around seven. And she said, “I have a question!” and she said, “Is it hard to act when there’s music playing that loud?” (Laughs)
And I thought, now that’s one the best questions I’ve ever heard. [Laughs] I didn’t have the heart to tell her that they add it in afterward.
My last question is actually to settle a bet. We have a debate in the office over what you were actually drinking in the drinking contest scene in Raiders.
It’s supposed to be whiskey, I think. And he even says, (whispers) “Whiskey,” not that that necessarily meant it had to be whiskey. But I thought it was whiskey that we were drinking. I remember we colored the water so that it was sort of a whiskey color, and in fact sadly enough it was just dye or tea or something. (Laughs)
Thank you! You’ve just helped me win a bet.
(Laughs) You’re welcome!
Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures is available on Blu-Ray starting Sept. 18.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credits: Paramount Pictures; Lucas Arts]