Karen Allen Talks Which Big Star Turned Down ‘Indiana Jones’ Before Harrison Ford Was Cast

Harrison Ford, Karen Allen on the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981
Paramount/Everett Collection

One of Harrison Ford‘s most recognizable and beloved roles is playing Indiana Jones in the franchise. Prior to being cast in the first film Raiders of the Lost Ark in the early ’80s, Ford almost lost out on the role to another famous man. Tom Selleck was originally asked to play Indiana Jones alongside Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood. However, at the same time, Magnum P.I. got picked up and he had to move forward with the show instead.

Allen explained, “Tom previously had done a pilot for ‘Magnum, P.I.’ before being asked to play Indiana Jones. And when you do a pilot, you sign a contract that, if it gets picked up, you’re committed. So, they picked up the pilot. They picked up his option, and he could no longer play Indiana Jones. I was already cast as Marion, but we still had no Indiana Jones.”

Magnum P.I. Tom Selleck, 1980-88

Everett Collection

She said that it took about a month before they landed on Ford. She continued, “Of course, they knew him very well from the ‘Star Wars’ films. George Lucas was also working on ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ I don’t think Harrison was the most obvious choice because he was already doing the ‘Star Wars’ films. And perhaps they thought viewers would see Han Solo, not Indiana Jones, on the screen. It didn’t seem possible. But it worked out. He was able to do both quite brilliantly. Tom wasn’t just considered; he was cast initially. He had the role. I have run into him several times since then. … I think one of the great regrets of his career is not having the chance to play Indiana Jones.”


Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

Allen said that when she first met Ford after he was cast in the film she thought they came from different backgrounds. She was used to working in theater and rehearsing a lot, while Ford seemed to want to prepare for filming by himself. However, she said that after working together for about four months straight, they started having a lot of fun together and became close. She said that he always came prepared and knew his lines.

Raiders of the Lost Ark Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, 1981

Paramount/Everett Collection

The pair reprised their roles in 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and 2023’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. Tell us, which Indiana Jones movie is your absolute favorite?

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1980s Top Summer Blockbusters

July 2019

Celebrate the biggest summer movies of the ’80s, when moviegoing morphed from mere entertainment to blockbuster events.

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