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Raiders Of The Lost Ark: The Adaptation

Author: Darryn King
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
Eric Zala had barely hit double-digits when he saw Raiders Of The Lost Ark in 1981. It's an expression that gets bandied about a bit, but I think in this case it fits the bill: the movie changed his life. Together with friends Chris Strompolos and Jayson Lamb, Eric (as director, with a starring role as Belloq) embarked on an ambitious re-shooting of the entire movie - much of it in Eric's own basement. The resulting movie was a triumph- Heck, even Spielberg was impressed.

What was it about Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Indiana Jones that inspired you, rather than, say, Chariots Of Fire or something-
That quality is probably impossible is adequately articulate, but I'll try: it was (and is) a perfect adventure film, with a taut storyline and vivid characters that feel fresh yet somehow iconic. The tone has a gritty realism to it. Indy can die, we know it; punches hurt.

How did you come to embark on the project in the first place-
Back in the fall of 1981, age 11, I met Chris on the school bus riding to elementary school, of all things. I noticed that he had this Raiders Of The Lost Ark comic book. I loved the movie, which had come out that summer, and so I asked to borrow it.
So when Chris conceived of the project, he called me up out of the blue and asked me to help. I thought about it for all of say, five seconds, and said 'sure'.
A real friendship was born, and a seven-year project besides.

Was there a part of you that wondered if it might be an impossible undertaking-
The roughest part was the few falling-outs we had. Chris and I had a dispute over a girl, and it threatened to kill a collaboration that had lasted five years by that point. And then near the end, in year six, there was something of an editing room mutiny over what degree of work we were going to give the sound- But we got past all that, which is why for me our story is primarily a story of how friendship can endure, and has, for 27 years now and running.

How did you tackle the special effects, and some of the very real dangers, of this project-
As far as stunts go, such as the pyrotechnics, we filmed the fiery bar-fight scene, as we did nearly all of the interiors - in the basement of my mom's house. Looking back on it, we were very, very lucky that we never did have an accident where person or property were harmed.
As far as special effects go, such as the ghosts that come out of the Ark at the end, Jayson Lamb, the third member of the trio, did all of those on no budget. In the case of that special effect, he accomplished it by filming silk swirled about in a fish tank against a black background, composed to match previously-shot footage of the soldiers looking about at imaginary ghosts.

Although Chris was Indy, is it true you were the one who sustained the most injuries-
It's true - I play the part of Belloq. You'd think I'd be out of the line of fire, right- As it happened, in the course of the seven years, my arm was broken, my hair singed, and I nearly suffocated in plaster when attempting to make a plaster mold of Belloq's face for the special effect of his spectacular death in the end.

What was the most enjoyable scene to recreate-
The truck scene; the stunts, the physicality, the sheer rugged adventure of it.

Do you still have sleepless nights about having omitted the fight scene with the shirtless German-
Ha! No, I guess my psyche has moved on to other things at last.

WHO: Eric Zala
WHAT: Raiders Of The Lost Ark: The Adaptation