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A lot has been made in recent years about a scene in which Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood and Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones discuss their past in an early scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones is looking for a medallion that was in the possession of his former mentor, Abner Ravenwood. Looking for Abner he runs into Marion, and they have a past, which caused a rift between Indy and Abner. Marion tells Indy, “I was a child. I was in love.” Indy responds, “You knew what you were doing.” That’s pretty much the extent of it, but it’s vague enough that, well, some sinister undertones could be gathered from that exchange. And, yes, Karen Allen has noticed the interpretations of that scene and, as the actor who plays Marion, she has her own interpretation.
The first four Indiana Jones movies have a brand new 4K Blu-ray set and this month marks the 40th anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And it was an absolute delight to listen to Allen recall her memories of making Raiders: From her screen-test with her old Animal House buddy Tim Matheson, to the time she accidentally punched Harrison Ford in the face. Also, Allen said she was told from the beginning she wouldn’t be in the next two movies, but she did take note that fans of the series did seem to miss her (of all Indy’s partners in adventure, he and Marion did seem to make the best team).
When you auditioned for Marion with Tim Matheson, what was that like? I’ve always wondered because you two did Animal House together.
You know, I felt very comfortable with him because we were pals in the making of Animal House. That was such a, sort of, congenial set. I mean, we just all got along so well. And I’m still friends with most of those characters. And if remember, we had a really wonderful time doing it. I auditioned with John Shea as well at the same time, who was a New York actor, who I think we flew out on the same plane together to do the screen test. But no, I had a blast. I don’t remember anything that specific about what our screen test was like – Tim and I – but I think we just had a good time with it. And you’re always a little nervous. I haven’t done that many screen tests in my life. Not many people still do them, even at that time. I mean, it was rare for people to do a screen test, so we were, I’m sure, both reasonably nervous about the whole thing. George Lucas was there.
And probably not realizing at the time, oh, people are going to be able to watch this 40 years later on the internet, a screen test. That is horrifying.
I mean, can you see Tim Matheson and me?
On the internet you can put it on?
Yeah, it’s on YouTube.
Oh, interesting. Oh, I’ll have to pull that up and see it.
There’s also one with Tom Selleck and Sean Young.
I think I’ve seen that one. But I never had seen one of mine, I don’t think.
The first time we meet Marion is that scene where she’s drinking shots. In your mind, was Marion playing to the crowd that she almost passed out? Because after she wins she doesn’t seem very drunk.
Well, I think my take on it was that she was sort of faking it. I think Steven’s was more that she was really kind of struggling against it – that they had really taken it a little far this time and she was struggling against trying to stay conscious. So I think we did it a couple of different ways. And I think that’s the take that he ended up using. So it may be more of like, I’m really literally about to lose consciousness. And then I just sort of snap out of it, probably because I really needed the money or something. I’m going to refuse to lose.
That same night she goes on a whole adventure…
[Laughs] That’s true! Well, you see, there’s one point where I have snow up against my forehead, up against my temple. So I go outside and I get this handful of snow, and I have snow pressed up against my temples as Indiana Jones walks in.
Speaking of when Indiana Jones walks in, that scene makes me laugh every time because you’re giving the, “Ah, Indiana Jones. Never thought you’d walk through my door again,” and you’re about to punch him, but he doesn’t know that. And Harrison just has this big smile on his face. Like, “Ah, she’s glad to see me.” He’s really thinking he’s getting a warm welcome.
[Laughs] Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
That punch looks great. How close were you to actually hitting Harrison in there?
Well, I clocked him a couple of times.
I got him a couple of times. Yep. Yep. I did.
Was he mad?
He was slightly annoyed. But I mean, it happens. It happens. I mean, I had never punched anybody in a film before. So they were showing me how to do it, and I was doing my absolute best, and as far as I was concerned his chin just got in the way of my hand.
So when you actually make contact with him, is he finishing the scene where he does the face to the camera. Or is he immediately like, “Oh that hurt. I have to stop.”
I mean, I have to say, I don’t throw a powerful blow.
I bet it doesn’t feel pleasant.
But I don’t think I hurt him. I mean, I think we just kept on going. In truth, really, a missed punch that is filmed well looks an awful lot better most of the time then when you actually do hit somebody. So, the ones where I actually made contact with him were not good. I think I really made contact with him once. And I think I kind of just clipped him a time, maybe one other time as well, but you always hope that that doesn’t happen. But nobody’s perfect. Nobody’s perfect.
Over the last few years that scene has gotten attention because when the two are discussing their past and Marion’s says, “I was a child.” And Indiana Jones says, “You knew what you were doing.” I’m curious what you think of that, because there are some sinister undertones there.
Yeah, I guess you could say that. I think I say I was 16. I don’t know. That’s always what I imagined is she was 16, he was 26. And he was her father’s student. And it’s left very mysterious.
So we don’t even know what it is. I mean, they could have kissed a few times, and she was just completely bowled over, and he could have just not wanted to get involved with someone so young. And maybe my father would have been furious at him. I mean, what’s great about it is we don’t know what the circumstances are. So she obviously cared deeply for him. He may have cared for her, too. But, in the end, decided it was a dangerous situation and he didn’t want to be involved. I mean, I guess, when something is as vague as that, you can color it any way you want to color it. I’ve tended to color it, sort of, that it was quite innocent. When she says, “It was wrong and you knew it.” I mean, I think maybe he led her on in some way. But when she says she was a child, I think she meant she was 16. Something like that.
I mean, you are the source on this matter. So that’s why I’m really curious what you thought about that.
Yes. I don’t think of him as a pedophile. That’s the direction some of these people are going.
When you were making Raiders, did you know from the beginning you wouldn’t be in the next two movies? And with Temple of Doom being a prequel, I know that changes the dynamics of that movie anyway. But Marion and Indy always did feel like a good team.
They told me from the very beginning that they were going to do three films and that the Indiana Jones character was going to be in the all three. And that Marion was only going to be in the first one. So I knew that from the very beginning. And it’s so funny, because I think people are so engaged with the Marion Ravenwood character that they were really disappointed when I wasn’t in the follow-up ones.
And I don’t know why. I don’t know why it’s interesting. I don’t know why they weren’t more forthright in explaining it, because it seems to be this thing, over the years, I’ve had to talk about so much. People think, for some reason, I was left out of those films, but I was never meant to be in them. What was fantastic is by the time we got to the fourth, which I mean, I never knew there would be a fourth, because the plan was always just to do three, that they brought my character back and that they went forward in time enough that we could get back together was great.
Yeah, when Crystal Skull came out we got the backstory of what Marion had been doing. But I remember in 1989, when I’m watching Last Crusade, I’m like, “Yeah, I wonder what Marion’s doing right now while Indy’s flirting with a Nazi sympathizer? I’d rather see Marion than whoever this traitor is.”
I don’t know. I don’t know. Yeah, but Marion, I guess, they have another sort of falling out at some point then. And we’d find out in the fourth one that he, I guess, took off and went in some direction and she ended up with child, so…
[Laughs] … Mutt.
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