Indiana Jones vs. The Cairo Swordsman – Another Point of View!
Star Wars: A New Hope Jawa actor Frazer Diamond reveals a new point of view about the iconic scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indiana Jones shoots the over-confident swordsman in the Cairo marketplace. Frazer tells the story in episode 412 of Skywalking Through Neverland as told to him by his father, Peter Diamond, who worked as the stunt arranger. Of course, “the truth” is told from the angle of the person telling the story so details may have been lost in time or have been heightened for entertainment value.
In the scene, Indiana Jones frantically searches the marketplace for Marion Ravenwood, who was kidnapped by the Nazis. He races through the crowds and turns over baskets hoping Marion hiding in one of them. Suddenly, the people surrounding Indy dissipate, and there, dressed in black robes, is a swordsman flourishing his weapon, laughing with confidence that he will dispatch his victim easily. After taking a few moments to catch his breath, Indy unholsters his pistol and disposes of the swordsman. According to modern myth, it was Harrison Ford, horribly ill, who suggested he just shoot the guy so they could wrap the scene. Classic Harrison Ford! Or was it?
Now, in this Skywalking Through Neverland episode, Frazer speaks about the story his father, Peter, told him about another side of how that Raiders scene came to be.
Frazer Tells One Side of the Story
The Raiders stunt crew arranged the big fight between Indy and the swordsman. However, several people on the production including Harrison Ford were ill with dysentery. Ford said he just wanted to pack up and leave the extreme heat and sickness and head home. Steven Spielberg couldn’t have agreed more.
According to Peter Diamond, it was he, not Harrison Ford, who was the one that suggested they just shoot the swordsman. Diamond said he got the inspiration for the idea came from a joke he staged when he worked with Tommy Cooper, a Welsh comedian/magician who was very popular on British television in the 1960s. A typical Cooper show would include Cooper wearing a suit, walking out from behind a curtain on stage to a clapping audience, and immediately begin with dry British humor. For example, Cooper would reach into his suit and say, “I’ve had a pain here all day.” and pull out a plane of glass. Or he’d say things like, “Wow, it’s hot. It’s the heat that does it.” And then pull out a balloon, blow it up, and let the air out, so it blows in his face, cooling him off. All the while laughing at his own jokes. The duel scene with Indy and the swordsman has that dry British humor element which is why it worked so well.
Setting the Record Straight
A differing account has been confirmed several times by Director Steven Spielberg and Producer’s Robert Watts and Howard Kazanjian that Harrison initially came up with the idea as written in J.W. Rinzler’s book, Howard Kazanjian: A Producer’s Life. Harrison has also verbally confirmed this in many interviews over the years. Considering these four different accounts line up and all of them were involved in the scene, it’s likely this is what actually happened. But you can’t blame a father for trying to impress his son.
Frazer admitted there are all sorts of stories about this, and this example could be Peter Diamond trying to wow his young son at the time. The fact of the matter is several hundred people were working on Raiders on three different continents (Europe, Africa, and North America), and keeping track of who was there can be tricky. Glenn Randal Jr. was the stunt coordinator for Raiders, in charge of teaching Harrison how to use the whip, ride horses, and shoot. He also worked with the second unit and designed all stunts. There’s a chance that Peter put a bug in Harrison’s ear, but that’s heresy 40+ years on.
Let’s Do That Again, Only Different!
The duel scene was such a hit they added a callback to the sequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, where Indy is greeted by two swordsmen. However, this time when he reaches for his gun, the holster is empty. This poses the question, who decided to include that callback? Let us know what you think in the comments below.