VINTAGE COLUMN: HOW MUCH ‘UTAH’ IN ‘LAST CRUSADE’ IS REAL, HONEST-TO-GOODNESS UTAH?

                

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 9, 2015

EDITOR'S NOTE: During the summer of 1989, I was often asked how much of the ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade' opening sequence, which is set in Utah, was actually filmed here. This Deseret News column, published on June 15, 1989, addresses that query.

So exactly how much of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" was actually shot in Utah?

That's the question of the week about Steven Spielberg's movie of many genres – with pirate, Western, knighthood, World War I dogfight and religious diversions.

Of greatest interest locally, naturally, is the film's first 16 minutes, which offer a youthful Indiana Jones (River Phoenix) in an early adventure that shapes his life. The sequence is set in "Utah 1912."

But, of course, "Halloween 4" and "Halloween 5," both shot in Salt Lake City, are set in the mythical Haddonfield, Ill.

To find out exactly how much of "The Last Crusade" was actually filmed in Utah, I put the question to executive producer Frank Marshall in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. Marshall also acted as second-unit director, shooting the Utah scenes himself.

Only some, not all, of that rousing opening 16 minutes was filmed in southern Utah, Marshall explained, simply because there's no train in the area.

Remember the train?

"We were there (in southern Utah) for five days," Marshall said.

Our fair state is featured in the very first frame of "The Last Crusade," as the Paramount Pictures blue-mountain logo fades into a sandstone peak at Arches National Park.

"That was one of my shots," Marshall said. "I found that little mountain and got it all framed in there. That's been our challenge in all three movies, to start with something that would fade out of the (Paramount) mountain into a real location."

Then we see a long shot of Boy Scouts on horseback, filmed in Moab.

The scene that shifts to the inside of a cave, which is actually a set on a soundstage in England.

Then Phoenix, as Jones, is shown exiting the cave and jumping from a cliff to his horse – though he misses the horse. And the bad guys jump into a truck. All of this was also filmed in Moab.

 

River Phoenix in Moab, 'Indiana Jones and Last Crusade'

But that's it.

"Once they leave the cave, which was a set," Marshall said, "then we're in Colorado and New Mexico for the train sequence. We would have stayed in Utah if you had a train, but there was no train." How about that, Colorado and New Mexico subbing for Utah!

There was also a reason, according to Marshall, that Spielberg didn't shoot those opening moments in Monument Valley, where his hero, the late John Ford, shot many classic Westerns.

"Steven thinks that Monument Valley is sacred ground, so we didn't go to Monument Valley. I said, ‘Hey, we'll go to Monument Valley,' but he said, ‘Oh no, no, we can't go there. John Ford's territory, you can't go there.'"

The final shot in "The Last Crusade," by the way – the foursome of Jones, Jones, Sallah and Brody riding off into the sunset – was filmed in Texas.

Another frequent question regarding the opening scenes, since it's common knowledge that "The Last Crusade" is indeed to be the final "Indiana Jones" film for Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford and crew, is whether there is any truth to the rumor that River Phoenix, as the teenage Indiana is being set up for his own sequels – a la "Young Indiana Jones"?

"No," Marshall said. "I think that's just people hoping that maybe we'll continue the series.

"It was a conscious choice to have this opening in the movie because we were looking for something different to do in that prologue section. We never meant to establish another character we would then see in the future. We've only designed three movies, and this is really going to be it."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Of course, as we know now, there was a fourth Indiana Jones film nearly 20 years later.