‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’: A primer

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Now that the veil of secrecy surrounding “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” has been breached – with hard drives and thousands of on-set photos missing and Lucasfilm lawyers swiftly squelching leaks – it’s time to map the 13-year odyssey of the project – from hoax scripts and Atlantis plots to the rumors that continue to swirl around the production.

Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBeouf, John Hurt, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent and Karen Allen, the fourth film in the series is due in theaters May 22, 2008, 19 years after the last installment.

Many incarnations of the film have circulated on the Internet, with entire scripts posted as well. “Indiana Jones and the Garden of Life” has Jones traveling to Africa in search of immortality-granting fruit from a Chinese monkey god, while “Indiana Jones and the Sons of Darkness” seems pretty close to reported plotlines. Here Indiana meets his son, both on the hunt for Noah’s Ark and a mysterious skull. It remains to be seen if these, or any of the posted screenplays, are actual drafts.


Fake titles (from

“Indiana Jones and the Staff of Moses”

“Indiana Jones and the Shores of Avalon”

“Indiana Jones and the Jade Princess”

“Indiana Jones and the Raiders of Time”

“Indiana Jones and the Ravages of Time”

The Facts

  • The film is set in 1957 with an older Indiana Jones. Hawaii stands in for a South American rainforest. New Mexico stands in for Morocco. Indy will face direct conflict with aliens, or at least the bureaucrats at Area 51.
  • Shooting began June 18, 2007, in a building at the former airstrip in Deming, N.M. The building was painted blue and sported a USAF insignia and “Home of the Fighter Pilot” on an exterior wall, with World War II Air Force vehicles parked nearby.
  • The production then moved to Yale University in New Haven, Conn., for an extensive chase scene, in which Indy rides his bike through the Commons, Yale’s dining hall. The scene appears near the beginning of the movie.
  • The biggest action sequences took place in Hawaii, where 20% of the film was shot on private property. Shooting is now based in Downey, Calif., where 50% of the film will be shot.

1994: Harrison Ford says at the Venice Film Festival that he’s considering playing Indy one last time. Sandra Bullock is rumored to be on tap as his sidekick.

1995: Variety quotes one Indy screenwriter as saying that Spielberg wanted to shoot the film in L.A. and Honduras. Plot points alluded to in the piece include an attempt by Indy to foil a Soviet plot to establish a missile base on the moon, and something involving a UFO crash at Roswell, N.M.

1996: Spielberg says the script has nothing to do with Atlantis, but rather Adam and Eve. A Paramount source says “Indiana Jones and the Garden of Life” was tossed around. Kevin Costner and Tom Selleck are rumored to play Indy’s “bad seed’ brother.

1997: Chris Columbus takes a crack at an Indy script with “Indiana Jones and the Monkey King.” A rumor floats that George Lucas has told Dutch TV that Indy will have a son. A Paramount source mentions Indy will have a brother. “Garden of Eden” script is said to have a religious tone. spreads a rumor that Indy’s in his 50s and is searching for Noah’s Ark.

1998: Mark Hammill is rumored to have been cast as a villain. Lucas says an Indy IV script is complete. Another script surfaces on Cinescape that deals with a “race to harness the power of the ancient device which was responsible for the destruction of Atlantis.” A legitimate script is released titled “Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men From Mars,” concerning an alien artifact that passes among Indy, Russians and aliens.

1999: An “Indiana Jones and the Red Scare” script treatment, set in the early 1950s with Indy seeking artifacts retrieved from Hitler’s bunker by the Russians, surfaces on the Web. No one claims it.


2000: M. Night Shyamalan tells Howard Stern he’s in talks to write the next script. But Lucas says he can’t commit to the project until 2005.

2002: Spielberg says Kate Capshaw is in the film and that he wants to shoot in 2004 with a 2005 release. The story is said to be set in the 1950s and involve no Nazis.

2003: Producer Frank Marshall says there will be no son for Indy.

2004: Frank Darabont script is nixed by Lucas.

2005: Ford gives a 2008 deadline to make the movie. Michelle Yeoh is rumored to be considered for the cast.

2006: Spielberg is reportedly working on the script, which had been considered finished. Rumors are quashed that Indy will have a daughter. The May 22, 2008, release date is announced.


June:Sean Connery says he won’t reprise his role as Indy’s dad.

July: During a video presentation at the San Diego Comic-Con, Spielberg confirms that Karen Allen will return as Indy’s love interest, Marion Ravenwood.


August: Lucasfilm registers six possible titles with the MPAA:

“Indiana Jones and the City of Gods””Indiana Jones and the Destroyer of Worlds” “Indiana Jones and the Fourth Corner of the Earth” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” “Indiana Jones and the Lost City of Gold” “Indiana Jones and the Quest for the Covenant”

Costar LaBeouf will later announce at the MTV Video Music Awards that option No. 4 is the title.

September: Film extra Tyler Nelson, a trained ballet dancer who plays a Russian soldier, violates his nondisclosure agreement by giving an interview to his hometown newspaper, the Edmond Sun in Oklahoma, and the plot points he reveals ping around the Internet, hitting mainstream media.

Among the juicier revelations: Indy’s main adversary this time is the Soviet army, which captures him in the jungles of South America and interrogates him on the whereabouts of the crystal skull. Cate Blanchett is the interrogator.

Spielberg issues a statement saying he doesn’t yet know whether Nelson’s scene will be cut. At Nelson’s request, the Sun later pulls the story from its website.

Lucasfilm sues the actor. Both parties later settle.

Blanchett tells MTV she doesn’t kiss Indy in the film, squelching rumors that she would be a romantic lead and supporting the widely held notion that she portrays an adversary.


A Harvard archeologist speculates that the crystal skull of the title holds “tons of information and data ... (maybe) the lost knowledge of the Mayans or Atlantians, or ET.”

October: Computers and on-set photos from the production are stolen from offices on the Universal Pictures lot. After receiving information that e-mails offering the images for sale had been sent to entertainment gossip websites, authorities set up a sting operation and arrest a man on suspicion of receiving stolen property.

Times staff writers Patrick Day and Jevon Phillips contributed to this report.