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Steven Spielberg’s wicked, terrifying and triumphant sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, celebrated its 30th birthday over the Memorial Day weekend. If you weren’t aware, Spielberg’s second Indy movie came out on May 23, 1984, and several sites went above and beyond to commemorate the anniversary with tribute columns dedicated to Indiana Jones’ quest for "fortune and glory" -- including this fascinating conversation that talked about a key, vicious scene that had to be severely trimmed before it was able to screen in theaters. Hope you have a strong stomach, fans!
This interview Yahoo Movies conducted with Indian actor Nizwar Karanj shed light on a bit of trivia I did not know about the filming and editing of this stellar prequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Karanj, if you didn’t know, was the unfortunate Thuggee who has his heart ripped out by the menacing Mola Ram (the late Amrish Puri) before being lowered into a pit of flesh-melting lava. Karanj said that he never received a script for Temple of Doom, and didn’t know what his scene would entail until he arrived on the set and was told that they were going to create a full-body mold that they would later lower into the molten lava.
Karanj reveals that Steven Spielberg didn’t want to stop there, though. He also had his creative team make a "lifelike face" that mirrored Karanj, including glass eyes. The actor says that when his body disintegrated in the lava, Spielberg wanted to show the audience "my face floating." Gross! It sounds like Spielberg might have actually filmed that scene, because Karanj added:
But that scene was too gory for the censors, so they cut that! [Laughs.] If you ever get a chance to see the uncensored version, that will be there."
Here’s the censored version. Still pretty brutal!
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom notoriously triggered the creation of the PG-13 rating after this film – and Gremlins, which Steven Spielberg produced – enraged parents who thought the films were much closer to R than PG. As the story goes, Spielberg took the idea to Jack Valenti, long-time president of the Motion Picture Association of America, and the rating was created. And now we know that a melted face has something to do with that decision.
The rest of the Karanj interview is a brisk, entertaining read, particularly if you are a fan of the behind-the-scenes stories on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He shared that Barbra Streisand stopped by the set, because she was nearby dubbing Yentl. And Carrie Fisher – Princess Leia, herself – hung around the set wearing, according to Karanj, "this skimpy black dress, and she was sitting there on her haunches, and the whole set was just looking at her legs, you know?" Only in Hollywood.