It’s 1981. Raiders of the Lost Ark hits the big screen. Particularly impressed are three highly motivated twelve-year olds who conceive a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders, stunts and all. It would take them seven years. So how do you make a Hollywood film on an allowance? Boy Scout uniforms become Nazi costumes, and Mom’s basement transforms into a Tibetan tavern (which nearly burns down). The boys’ enthusiasm is a joy to behold, but part of the fun is watching them hit puberty. Voices change, actors appear short in one scene, tall the next. The actor playing Indy even shared his first-ever kiss on-screen with Marion! Raiders: The Adaptation is unavailable on DVD and has screened publicly in only a handful of venues. After a tour of Skywalker Ranch and a meeting with Steven Spielberg, the boys (who are now in their late 30s) sold their life story to Paramount Pictures & producer Scott Rudin (The Social Network). Oscar-nominated screenwriter Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) completed the script as a potential project for director Terry Zwigoff (Bad Santa).
Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala met while attending Christ Episcopal Day School, an elementary school in South Mississippi, at ages 9-10. Initially, they were merely acquaintances, but when Chris saw the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark when it was released in 1981, he was completely captivated by the movie’s adventurous spirit and taken with the character of Indiana Jones. He came up with the idea to remake the film, with himself playing the part of Indiana Jones. He called up Eric, who had asked to borrow his Raiders comic book on the bus and done a film for class, besides – and asked if he wanted to help.
Eric also loved Raiders, and was excited by the idea. They met in the summer of ’82, two eleven-year olds figuring out where to begin in remaking the Spielberg-Lucas blockbuster that had a $26 million production budget.
Chris played the part of Indiana Jones. Eric took on the role of Director (as well as playing the part of Belloq, Indy’s arch nemesis). For the next seven years, from 1982-1989, they worked together on the project. In that time, the relationship was tested, by changes that come with moving from age 12 to 19, as well as by working alongside each other through experiences that ran the gamut of human emotion. Though they experienced some falling outs, the friendship endured and they were able to finally complete the labor of love in the summer of ’89, holding the premiere to a receptive hometown crowd in Mississippi.
It seemed the journey was at an end, and eventually the trio scattered. Fifteen years passed since the ’89 premiere. Chris lived in Los Angeles, Eric in Orlando when they were each contacted out-of-the-blue by film-maker Eli Roth (director of Cabin Fever) who had gotten a copy of their film through six degrees of separation, and passed it on to Steven Spielberg, director of the original Raiders. Spielberg wrote each of them a letter, expressing “how impressed I was with your very loving and detailed tribute.” This event set off a chain of events which quickly led to the trio reuniting after years, their meeting Steven Spielberg in person, and ultimately, the purchase of their life rights by Hollywood mega-producer Scott Rudin. As a result, this true childhood story of these young friends remaking Raiders is now set to be a book from St. Martin’s Press, release date summer 2012. The end…?