Indiana Jones, Abner Ravenwood, John Hurt.


A week or two ago, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull producer Frank Marshall gave a couple of interviews in which he confirmed the identities of certain new characters, but as I mentioned at the time, he neglected to say anything about the character played by John Hurt — an actor who knows a thing or two about sci-fi and fantasy films, having worked on the original Alien, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films, among others. (In that last case, I refer to the 1978 animated film, of course.)

It has long been speculated that Hurt is playing Abner Ravenwood, the father of Indy’s sometimes girlfriend Marion. Abner, an archaeologist who was obsessed with the Ark of the Covenant, was a friend of Indy’s until Indy had an affair with Marion, who was in her teens at the time. Ten years later, during the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indy came into contact with Marion again — and she told him Abner was dead.

But as they say, no character is really dead if you don’t see the body. And the interesting thing is, an early draft of the screenplay for Raiders apparently established that Abner’s body had not been found, not even by Marion:

She is almost on him when Indy looks up smiling. Marion stops, stares, shocked.
INDY
Hello, Marion.

She hits him with a solid right to the jaw, knocking him off the barstool on the floor. He rubs his jaw and smiles up at her.

INDY
Nice to see you, too.

MARION
Get up and get out.

INDY
(getting up)
Take it easy. I’m looking for your father.

MARION
(bitterly)
Well you’re two years too late.

Indy’s attitude changes instantly. This is sad news. He is silent for a long time. Mahdlo comes in the front door and hurries forward when he sees Indy with Marion. He looks to her for guidance, but she stays him with a gesture.

MARION
Go home, Mahdlo. I’ll see you tomorrow.

Mahdlo is hesitant, but lays the axe handle on the bar and goes out. Indy has been barely aware of him. Now he settles again on the barstool. Marion has a vindictive look. She’ll let him stay, but she wants to inflict as much pain as possible.

INDY
What happened?

MARION
Avalanche. Up there. He was digging. What else? He spent his whole life digging. Dragging me all over this rotten earth. For what?

INDY
Do you find him?

MARION
Hell no. He’s buried where he was working. Probably preserved real good, too. In the snow.

So it is certainly within the realm of possibility that Abner could still be alive, in keeping with the spirit of the original film.

I bring that all up because Hurt just gave an interview to Premiere.com in which the possibility that he might be playing Abner Ravenwood came up, and … he didn’t confirm it, but didn’t deny it either. He did grin, though, apparently. And when they asked Hurt how much action his character sees in the new film, he replied, “Well, I’m all in the second half. I’m one of what I called the Famous Five. . . . It was Karen [Allen], me, Harrison [Ford], Shia [LaBeouf], and Ray Winstone, who is one of the Famous Five but dodgy.” So make of all that what you will.

Oh, and get this. While double-checking a couple of my references, I came across this site and others which allege that the character who gave Indy his first fedora hat — the mercenary who finds the Cross of Coronado and chases young Indy in the prologue to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) — was named Abner Ravenwood in early drafts of the script. Fascinating, if true.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).


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