Spend five minutes in Karen Allen's company and you don't want to leave -- no more than you would want to walk away from her spunky heroine Marion Ravenwood in the first and last installments of Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones" adventures. Even now, at 60, with her freckled face and girlish bangs, Allen draws you in with wide, expressive eyes and a warm, husky laugh that banishes all bull. She took time off from rehearsing Jon Fosse's play "A Summer's Day," slated to open at Manhattan's Cherry Lane Theater in October, to discuss one of her most beloved roles, as Indiana Jones's one true love and the one he almost let get away. Why now? This week, Lucasfilm Ltd. released the four films in a complete set that includes seven hours of extras with never-before-released behind-the-scenes footage on Blu-ray.
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Snakes in a well
Thelma Adams: Of all the dangers you had to submit to making the film, the most shiver-inducing is when Marion tumbles into the pit of snakes in the Well of the Souls. It couldn't have been as scary to make as it looks onscreen, right?
Karen Allen: The snakes came as a bit of a surprise to me! I knew there was that scene in the Well of the Souls, and there were all these snakes down there, but I didn't have a concept of what that was going to be. I didn't really picture 6,000 snakes. In fact, when we first started shooting, Steven had made these mechanical snakes out of rubber and they were somehow electronically hooked up and they made these snaky motions. He thought this was going to work, that all of the distance shots could be done with mechanical snakes. The plan was that when we got to close-ups, you can have some of the real snakes in there. So he only had a couple of hundred snakes on the set. Suddenly, it became clear that these mechanical snakes looked terrible. It didn't matter how far away you got the camera [she laughs], they just didn't work. So the fake snakes were torn up from the base of the set and this call went out to "Snakes R Us" or something. Most of the snakes came, I think, from India. All of these snakes came pouring into London and we had, I think, 6,000 snakes on the set within a matter of days. They lived in these big bins about the size of this coffee table. There would be hundreds of snakes per bin, and they would put me on the set and then because the snakes hated the light, they wanted to be someplace cool and dark, and so they would bring me out there with nothing on my legs, in that little white dress that had been ripped, so it's gone from being to the ground to being up to my knees. So, basically, I'm naked to my legs and I lost a shoe when I fell down the well, so I'm there with one shoe on and one shoe off and now suddenly they're pouring snakes onto me. And, because they wanted them to lie very close to my feet, they literally were like pouring them onto my feet. The first few times it happened I was like, "ucch, I can't believe this is happening to me." And then after a while I really got as comfortable as a person can be [laughs] having snakes thrown at them. Bring 'em on. Although there were pythons that were dangerous, most of the snakes were grass snakes. You can stick your finger in their mouth and they won't bite. But there were some dangerous snakes on the set as well, and if you saw those snakes coming toward you, you just had to get outta there as quickly as possible because they would bite you.
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