Steven Spielberg and George Lucas had the likes of a Jeffrey Epstein in mind when they forged one of the most iconic characters in cinematic history, Indiana Jones. The full-time professor and part-time adventurer was handsome, charismatic, well-traveled and had abused at least one underage girl.
In the first installment of the Indiana Jones series, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, Indy travels to Nepal in search for an artifact essential to finding the lost Ark of the Covenant. It’s in a Nepalese bar where Indy encounters, Marion Ravenwood. It’s impossible to learn from the onscreen performance alone, but a review of the script narrative and dialogue make it clear the obscenity of their past relationship.
Marion is introduced in the narrative as “twenty-five years old,” and her dialogue suggests she has not seen Indy for ten years, or since the age of fifteen. Indy, according to related novels and pre-script story meetings, was between thirty five and thirty-seven years old during the period represented in the film, or approximately twenty-five years old during his affair with Marion.
I’ve seen the movie dozens of times, but it wasn’t until I learned of their age difference during their torrid affair, and thus Indy’s abuse, that I fully understood the context of this exchange in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK:
Marion: I learned to hate you in the last ten years.
Indy: I never meant to hurt you.
Marion: I was a child! I was in love! It was wrong and you knew it!
Indy: You knew what you were doing.
Marion: Now I do! This is my place. Get out.
Indy: I did what I did. You don’t have to be happy about it, but maybe we can help each other out now.
As a lifelong Indiana Jones fan, I find no pleasure in any of this. But when viewed against the backdrop of the myriad alleged long term criminal sex scandals among the Hollywood elites and the wealthy (Roman Polanski, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein, etc.) it becomes worthy of a closer look.
According to transcripts from story meetings in 1978 (the same year Roman Polanski fled the country after admitting to having sex with a thirteen year old girl) among George Lucas (the Producer), Steven Spielberg (the Director), and Lawrence Kasdan (the Screenwriter), it becomes clear that Indy’s abusive backstory could have been much worse. The recorded brainstorming session led to discussions about making Indy a pedophile with the “relationship” taking place while Marion was as young as eleven and Indy as old as forty-two.
Lucas: He could have known this little girl when she was just a kid. Had an affair with her when she was eleven.
Kasdan: And he was forty-two.
Lucas: He hasn't seen her in twelve years. Now she's twenty-two. It's a real strange relationship.
Spielberg: She had better be older than twenty-two.
Lucas: He's thirty-five, and he knew her ten years ago when he was twenty-five and she was only twelve.
Lucas: It would be amusing to make her slightly young at the time.
Spielberg: And promiscuous. She came onto him.
Lucas: Fifteen is right on the edge. I know it's an outrageous idea, but it is interesting. Once she's sixteen or seventeen it's not interesting anymore.
The last line is eerily similar to what a former law enforcement officer who has been investigating Jeffrey Epstein for over a decade, Michael Fisten, told CNN about Jeffrey Epstein, “Once these girls lost their braces and their pubescent look and started becoming 16-years old or 17-years old, they were too old for him...”
There are many other very revealing moments in this exchange, not the least of which is the idea that making Marion young would be “amusing” or suggesting that she be a “promiscuous” twelve year old who “came onto him.” How does one even suggest such things?
Of course, these are spitballing sessions whereby filmmakers will cover a vast array of potential character details and story ideas. However, the script landed with Marion at the age of fifteen having an affair with a mid-twenties Indy. So, the filmmakers decided to give the backstory of child rape to the whip yielding “hero,” and not to one of the Nazis.
One might suggest that in 1936, the year in which RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was set, it was more socially acceptable for a relationship between an older man and a fifteen year old girl. This defense does not hold up in this situation. Marion says in the scene above that what Indy did was wrong, and he knew it, which suggests it was not being viewed as acceptable behavior, but rather abuse.
Also curious about the decision to choose such a backstory was that it was given in clandestine fashion, not apparent to the viewer until the Internet allowed for the transcripts of the story meetings from 1978 and the wide distribution of the script. Prior to the Internet, access to scripts would have been highly restricted. In other words, this subtle backstory was only known to those involved in the film. But why?
Character flaws are communicated to the audience as a way to develop characters, drive the story, and facilitate the story arc. But if the viewer was in the dark, it does none of that. Unless, of course, it was not considered a flaw in the first place. Which in that case, makes the suggestion of Indy having an affair with an eleven year old that much more disturbing. Not to mention the obvious dichotomy of Disney – a company long entrenched in the world of children’s programming and entertainment – now owning a franchise whose unrepentant namesake character has a troubling and curiously deliberate backstory that includes the sexual abuse of a child.
Of course, none of this is to suggest that Spielberg, Lucas, or Kasdan were guilty of or even condoned such behavior themselves – not at all – but it begs the question: Does Indy’s backstory suggest a long term culture existed among the rich and famous that has allowed for and perpetuated the allegedly criminal sexual depravity among elites in Hollywood, New York, Washington DC and alike?
If so, this could all simply mean much more criminal sexual deviance by the most powerful in the country has yet to be fully revealed. And none of it is going away until the culture within their respective communities changes.
Jeff Cortese is a financial crimes manager in the private sector, is the former acting chief of the FBI’s Public Corruption Unit. Before his 11-year career with the bureau, he worked as a dignitary protection agent with the U.S. Capitol Police and served on the security detail for the Speaker of the House. Follow him on Twitter @jeffreycortese or find him at his website