If Harrison Ford is the physical embodiment of Indiana Jones, then Rob MacGregor is his heart and soul. In 1989 he wrote the novelization to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Over the next two years, he would take us on a journey that explored the life of the globetrotting archaeologist in a time before the films occured.
The saga of Indiana Jones began in 1981 with the release of the film Raiders of the Lost Ark. Created by filmmaker George Lucas, and directed by Steven Spielberg, Raiders told the story of Indiana Jones, an archaeologist who travels the world in search of ancient artifacts. Indyís adventures take place in the 1930ís, an era of real-life exploration and discovery.
ďBut itís an adventure that has found itís own fantastic elements.
...About the adventures of a soldier of fortune, Indiana Jones,
caught up in a spectacular, supernatural treasure hunt.Ē
-Steven Spielberg, 1980
In Last Crusade, the writers and director wanted to explore the character of Indiana Jones, to show audiences who this person really was. In a lengthy prequel at the beginning of the film, we find out the inspiration for Indyís outfit, where his fear of snakes came from, and how he discovered the bullwhip. We also meet Indyís scholarly father, Professor Henry Jones, a noted authority on medieval literature whose life quest is the search for the Holy Grail. Near the end of the story, Indy unexpectedly finds himself in his fatherís place.
At the time of the movieís release in 1989, screenwriter Jeffrey Boam was quoted as saying: "By the time the film is over, Indiana Jones wonít have too many secrets left." That all changed the following year when author Rob MacGregor signed an agreement with Lucasfilm to write a complete series of original Indiana Jones adventures.
Until that time, Indiana Jones had been a silver-screen icon with an unknown history. In Raiders, there were a few references to his past, but these were sketchy at best. Designed primarily as a movie hero, Indy was an extremely undeveloped character. There was a lot of potential to work with for anybody who cared to try. Rob MacGregor decided to do just that.
A freelance adventurer and writer, MacGregor had acquired the experience necessary to give a history and a past to the most famous archaeologist in the world. Over the course of three years, he would write six novels that explored the untold story of Indiana Jones. This in and of itself was historical, because prior to that time we had only seen Indyís post-1935 adventures. It promised to be a journey that readers would never forget.
Indiana Jones lives in the early twentieth century, in a world far removed from our own. In it, Rob MacGregor creates a sweeping, timeless epic, filled with friends and enemies, adventure and excitement, intrigue and romance. He takes us to locations both familiar and exotic, in stories so rich in detail that they have to be read several times to get the full experience.
Immersed in the novels, one can almost see and hear Harrison Ford. But the authorís writing transcends even that. He does much more than just write about our hero. He becomes Indiana Jones, to to the point of even thinking like him. MacGregor writes the character with such breathtaking ease that it seems as if he created Indiana Jones, rather than George Lucas.
When I first discovered the series, I was overwhelmed by the number of books in it. I selected Indiana Jones and the Seven Veils because I thought that it had the most attractive cover art. I wasnít sure how it would compare to the movies that I loved so much. Once I started reading, however, I could not put it down. When I closed the book five hours later, I knew without a doubt that it was the greatest Indiana Jones adventure ever written.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview the author about his work on the Indiana Jones novels. I decided to focus primarily on Seven Veils because I thought that such a fascinating chapter in the life of Indiana Jones deserved to be explored in greater detail. Now, in an all-new exclusive interview, Rob MacGregor talks about the inspiration behind his stories, the creative process, and gives us a special behind-the-scenes look at the making of Indiana Jones and the Seven Veils.
To prepare for the task of writing about one of Lucasfilmís most popular characters, MacGregor visited George Lucasí sprawling ranch, nestled in the rolling green hills of Marin County, California.
When I was at Skywalker Ranch, I spent most of my time in the library, a very impressive place with a mahogany spiral staircase. [It] was the site of a series of talks, entitled The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell, which were published in a book and made available on tape.
The buildings at the ranch are Victorian in style, with lots of wood and attention to detail. Lucas was out of town, so I didnít meet him. On the second day, we were supposed to go out on the bay in Seawalker, Lucasí yacht. But it rained that day, breaking a long drought, and the trip was cancelled. It was an interesting trip, but nothing really sensational happened. Someone did interview me in the aftermath for the Lucasfilm fanzine, and they did a nice article with photos.
Afterward, he returned to Florida to begin work on the first of what would ultimately become a six-part series of Indiana Jones adventures. It must have seemed like a daunting challenge at the time, but Rob MacGregor tackled the project with confidence. His greatest attribute however, lies in the fact that he transformed Indiana Jones from a larger-than-life movie hero to a regular person, not so different from the rest of us.
Do you ever base characters on real people?
Jack Shannon is somewhat like an old friend of mine. We used to go out to bars for the music. He, however, never had the sort of spiritual conversion that Jack did in Genesis Deluge. Deirdre *, on the other hand, is sort of a dream woman.
* Drew Struzanís portrait of Deirdre Campbell is based on 1920ís female golf pro Glenna Collett. Picture
Did you have to get approval for each storyline from George Lucas? Did George react to certain storylines or particular ideas of yours (ex: Indy getting married) and give you feedback or suggestions?
George provided guidelines, then kept out of the routine process. I worked mostly with Lucy Autry Wilson, a longtime assistant, who I believe was the first person George hired when he formed his company. Lucy conferred with George on occasion, when she had concerns, but for the most part he allowed me to work without looking over my shoulder.
Regarding his guidelines, he didnít want me to write about Indyís early relationship with Marion Ravenwood, who we saw in Raiders of the Lost Ark. In the movie, there were references to their earlier relationship, so that was a natural. But George nixed the idea, saying that he wanted to save that for a possible future movie. Actually, he didnít want me to write about any of the characters in the movies. However, I managed to get Marcus Brody, the museum director, into some of the stories.
George didnít mind Indy getting married, but inevitably it would have to end tragically, since Indy isnít married in the 1930ís. Iíve always seen his carefree attitude toward women as a defense mechanism. He doesnít want to be hurt again, at least not the way he was hurt when Deirdre died. I also recall George editing a sex scene, taming it down some, because he wanted the books to reflect the same PG rating as the movies.
Did you write any scenes that didnít make the 'final cut'?
The only scenes that I wrote that didnít make the final cut were in the first book, Peril at Delphi. I began the story with a 90-year-old Indy who wore an eye patch, had a cane and a dog. He introduced the book, then we would see him again at the close of the story. This was my plan for the series.
However, I was told that no one wanted to see an old Indiana Jones. If I am right, that came right from George Lucas. So I removed the old Indy, only to see him reappear a couple of years later on television, in the Young Indiana Jones series. When I saw old Indy on television, I laughed. I was surprised. My idea had made it after all, albeit, in another medium.
When writing a story, is each scene outlined in advance, or do some ideas spontaneously come to you, and are written down when they occur?
I start with an outline. Itís like a map of the story. But when I actually drive the roads, in other words, write the book, things happen. I stop off at places I hadnít intended, because they interest me. I always keep an eye on the map for guidance, but the road is where the story exists, not the map.
What was it about the character of Indiana Jones that compelled you to write a complete back story to the films created by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg?
First, of course, the opportunity came to me after I wrote the novel based on the script of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. This is the way I make my living, so money, as well as interest, compelled me to take the project. Working with the Indy character always seemed natural. In fact, I had entered college intent on becoming an archaeologist. (This was well before the creation of Indiana Jones). I went on to be a journalist, then a novelist. But I also never forgot my interest in archaeology. During my 20ís, I would work for about a year or so at a newspaper, save my money, then quit and head off to investigate archaeological sites, such as Aztec, Mayan and Incan ruins in the Americas, Celtic and Greek and Roman ruins in Europe and Britain. I also spent several weeks exploring the old cities (known as medinas) in Morocco, which look much like scenes in Raiders. Later, I ventured into southern Chile and the mysterious island of Chiloe, which I used in my last Indy novel.
In the mid to late 80ís, while beginning my career as a novelist, I led adventure tours for a South American airline (Avianca). I took freelance writers into the Amazon (going up the river in an old rubber boat), to the foothills of the Andes, to Cartagena and Santa Marta on the Caribbean, and to a little-known, but very exotic ruin, called Ciudad Perdido (The Lost City) in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta Mountains near the Caribbean coast of Colombia. So, when the opportunity to write Indyís back story was offered, it felt right. I was prepared. Oddly enough, neither the editor at the publishing house nor anyone at Lucasfilm was aware of my interest in archaeology and international travel.
Indyís adventures in Dance of the Giants take place in the British Isles; England and Scotland, respectively. Have you personally visited that part of the world before? How did that make its way into the story?
As I mentioned, I did spend some time in Great Britain, visiting both England and Scotland. But the research for the Dance of the Giants came much later as I investigated Celtic history in preparation to writing the novel.
Indy and Deirdre seem to be made for each other. Was it challenging to create the woman who would eventually become the wife of Indiana Jones? What personality traits did she have to posess that make her so attractive to Indy?
Indy needed somebody with spunk, an adventurer like himself; an intelligent woman with a mind of her own. Of course, she had to be as smitten with Indy as he was with her. Since I resonate with the Indy character, I didnít find it too difficult to portray such a woman.
Your characters seem to spring off the page and come vividly to life; extremely believable. Is it difficult to make that happen, or is there a natural process that you follow which leads to character development?
The challenge of writing adventure novels is to take the time to develop the characters as real human beings. But to do so, their personalities must be shown through their actions. In other words, I donít just tell what the characters are about, I show who they are as we move from one dramatic confrontation to the next. Itís important that every character has some weakness, including the bad guys. Everyone is vulnerable in one way or another. Thatís true in life and also in good storytelling.
Where did the inspiration for Indiana Jones and the Seven Veils come from?
It developed out of Dance of the Giants, where we were first introduced to Celtic culture and Druids. Iíve studied speculative history that suggests the Celts made cross-Atlantic journeys a couple of thousand years ago. Books such as, America B.C. by Barry Fell, and Ancient Man: A Handbook of Puzzling Artifacts, by William Corliss, were influential.
But I was also intrigued by the story of Colonel Fawcett, who believed that a mysterious advanced race of people lived in the City of Z. He went looking for Z in the early twenties and never returned.
Colonel P.H. Fawcett was an actual person. He explored the Amazon rainforest in search of a lost city that he believed was related to Atlantis, and was never seen or heard from again. What made you decide to use him in your story? Also, what do you think happened to Colonel Fawcett?
Fawcett was an explorer in the English tradition, and his character somewhat parallels Indy, who was originally patterned after the 19th century English explorer, Richard Burton. However, there are differences between Indy and Fawcett... Indy is usually a solo traveler who carries his whip and gun, jacket and hat, but not much else. Fawcett, like many English adventurers, tended to bring along a parade of people and an assortment of trunks packed with every conceivable material and device they could find. His interest in the lost city and the mystery of his disappearance intrigued me.
What do I think happened to Fawcett? The Amazon is filled with danger. He couldíve died of natural causes brought on by his difficult environment. He couldíve drowned in a river, been eaten by a beast, or perhaps captured and killed by tribesmen. He might even have ended up in a place called Z.
In Seven Veils, Indiana Jones and company travel through some pretty unforgiving territory: Matto Grosso, the Amazon basin, and the Serra do Roncador. You also mention Cuiaba, the last outpost before the Great Unknown. It all sounds so intriguing. Have you ever been there before?
As I said, I used to lead adventure tours to South America. We traveled on the Upper Amazon from Leticia, Colombia to Iquitos, Peru. Itís the best part of the river, because itís much narrower and less-developed than much of the Brazilian Amazon. However, I havenít followed Fawcettís path and, if I did, I would probably be disappointed. A considerable portion of the rainforest jungle has now been cut down and burned away for farming and cattle grazing, and Iím sure some of Fawcett's path has been consumed by the swarms of new arrivals.
In the story, the inhabitants of Ceiba have the ability to veil themselves and other objects, including the city itself and the mountain range in which it is located. Are their any historical references to veiling, or is it a product of your imagination?
Most of my Indy stories are based on actual myths and legends, which is something that George Lucas requested. The veiling aspect in The Seven Veils is an exception. Iím not familiar with any myths of disappearing peoples, but Amazonian Indians do have an ability to blend in with their environment.
If you watch the beginning of John Boormanís movie, The Emerald Forest, you see members of a tribe kidnap a white child at the edge of the forest. The boyís parents are searching for him in the forest and we see them walking right past tribesmen, who blend perfectly with the surroundings. Veiling is an extension of this ability to camouflage oneself so that the masters of the veiling craft can camouflage an entire village.
Fawcett wrote in his journal that he wasnít sure if the veils also muffled sound, because Rae La never said. In reality it would be impossible to do such a thing, but thereís always the age-old question, If a tree falls in the forest...
There would be sound if there was someone to receive it. Otherwise, it would be vibrations in the air. To eliminate the vibrations, you need to eliminate the atmosphere for transmitting them. But the people of Ceiba were not living in a vacuum. So, yes, if you were in their presence, you could hear sounds if they were making them, even if you couldnít see where they were coming from.
One of the major themes in Indiana Jones and the Seven Veils is dreaming. You have also written a book about dream interpretation and the ability to control and change your dreams. This sounds very similar to what the people of Ceiba are able to do. What is it about dreaming that you find so fascinating?
Iíve recorded and interpreted my dreams for years. Iím so used to doing it that I sometimes interpret the dream while Iím still dreaming so that Iím both in the dream and observing it. The realm of dreaming opens up other worlds, other ways of looking at things. We throw out logic and explore our imaginations and parts of our brain that we donít normally use. For a writer, the exploration of dreams is a very fruitful realm.
The dreaming feats of the people of Ceiba are actually similar to the use of dreaming by many primitive people. They may begin the day discussing their dreams, and looking for hidden meanings and messages from the other world that will help them in their daily lives.
You have a scene in Genesis Deluge where the veil that masks Indyís memories of Ceiba is lifted after he is drugged. In a very sad and touching scene, he sees Deirdre for a moment.
Was the purpose of that vision to make Indy think about what might have been?
Indy is caught up in a world that defies some of our common beliefs about what is real. People appear and disappear, as does an entire village. So itís natural that his lost love would appear to him, and that before disappearing, she would ultimately link him to the objective of his search: Colonel Fawcett.
There was a bit of unaccounted time between the end of Dance of the Giants and the beginning of Seven Veils. (Salisbury Plain; summer of 1925 to Tikal, Guatemala; March of 1926) What happened with Indy and Deirdre during that time? Could you write us a few lines, or possibly give us a scenario of what might have taken place?
Many fans, including myself, fell in love with Deirdre and thought that she was perfect for Indy. We all miss her very much, and this would be a way of holding onto their memory: a story that we could imagine them in, if not actually read. It would really mean a lot to us.