George Lucas Came Up With The Plot Of Steven Spielberg’s Best Film While Avoiding His Own Movie Premiere

George Lucas developed the plot for Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark while on a Hawaiian vacation with Steven Spielberg to avoid the premier of Star Wars: A New Hope.

By Jonathan Klotz | Updated

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Indiana Jones

Before Star Wars became one of the world’s largest franchises, dominating movies, video games, toys, LEGO sets, and television, it was just a strange science-fiction film that didn’t fit in with the gritty movies of the late 70s. George Lucas was so sure that Star Wars: A New Hope would be a flop he vacationed with Steven Speilberg in Hawaii during the world premiere and while on the trip, the two friends put their heads together and devised the plot for their greatest collaboration, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Indie Film Hustle shared a transcript of a story session between George Lucas, Steven Speilberg, and Lawrence Kasdan that occurred months after the fateful trip to Hawaii. During the discussion, ideas are bounced back and forth based on the original concept developed by Lucas and Speilberg, which, as was the case with Star Wars, uses the films of Akira Kurosawa as a base. A New Hope drew inspiration from The Hidden Fortress, while Indiana Jones was derived from actor Toshiro Mifune, a favorite of the Japanese director that starred in 16 of his films, including The Seven Samurai and Rashomon.

It’s no wonder that George Lucas started focusing on Indiana Jones following the completion of A New Hope, as the initial reception to the film in May 1977 was tepid. 20th Century Fox moved the release date to May 25th to avoid competition with the Burt Reynolds film Smokey and the Bandit. Only 32 theaters screened A New Hope, and yet, it immediately became a blockbuster and made over $2 million its opening weekend, spending three weeks as the number-one film in America.

The lead-up to the record-setting weekend made George Lucas so nervous that he made a bet with Steven Spielberg before they created Indiana Jones together. Lucas offered 2.5 percent of Star Wars to Speilberg for 2.5 percent of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with the director of the least successful film getting the stake in the winner. Business Insider recounted the amazing story, which explains why the Jaws director, to this day, still makes 2.5 percent off of Star Wars.

Star Wars
Star Wars: A New Hope

In retrospect, the bet was rather lopsided, but at the time, no one knew that Lucas’ “kids movie,” as he called it, would become the cornerstone of an empire that still stands today. George Lucas’ second-greatest creation, Indiana Jones, would go on to also achieve legendary status, and in the process, he brought his best friend along for the ride.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark became the highest-grossing film of 1981, making an even bigger star out of Harrison Ford and, oddly, setting the stage for Steven Spielberg to meet his wife on the set of Temple of Doom. Most creatives in Hollywood would kill to have one film reach the success of Star Wars, never mind a second blockbuster franchise.

If George Lucas wasn’t so worried about Star Wars, we’d never have the fedora-clad, whip-wielding Indiana Jones. This just goes to show that even for some of the most creative minds in the world, inspiration comes from the strangest of places.