The Indiana Jones franchise has featured some pretty “out there” things over the years. From baddie-melting ancient artifacts and heart-ripping villains, to life-restoring goblets and even extraterrestrials (if you choose to acknowledge the existence of the unfortunate “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”), the whip-cracking archaeologist is no stranger to strange things.
But if director Steven Spielberg had had his way during the production of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” things could have been even weirder for the intrepid treasure hunter. Indy was forced to deal with plenty of Nazis during the course of his big screen adventures (first in “Raiders” and again in “The Last Crusade”), but it’s a little-known fact that Dr. Jones almost had to face off against an even greater threat at one point: Robo-Nazis.
In several early versions of the “Raiders” script, Gestapo villain Arnold Toht (Ronald Lacey) was depicted as being a cyborg -- that is, he was half-man, half-machine. As if being a Nazi weren’t bad enough, the character originally sported a glowing bionic eye and a metallic arm that could transform into a machine gun AND a flamethrower. Director Spielberg was apparently quite enamoured by the idea of a robo-villain, but producer George Lucas (of all people) nixed the idea for being too science fiction-y. However, the Toht-bot plan survived long enough to be included as part of the concept art created for “Raiders” during pre-production.
The partly robotic Major Toht didn't make the final cut, but would a cyborg Nazi really have been that out of character with the rest of the series? The Indiana Jones character and movies were heavily based on the pulpy movie serials of the 1930s -- light-hearted, fantastical fare where a bionic baddie would have felt right at home. Sure, the idea might seem a little bizarre now, but something tells us "Raiders" would have been a hit even with robo-Toht.
Some Indy fans have theorized that Spielberg resurrected the idea of the robot-armed villain when he produced the Joe Dante directed action-adventure "Innerspace." Mr. Igo (Vernon Wells), a henchman of the film's main villain, possessed a prosthetic arm equipped with both a gun and a blowtorch.
A decidedly different villain wasn't the only major change that "Raiders" went through during pre-production. Famously mustachioed actor Tom Selleck actually won the role of Indiana Jones, but was unable to take the job after scheduling conflicts arose with his show "Magnum P.I." Selleck's loss was Harrison Ford's gain.
The first Indy movie wasn't the only Spielberg-produced film to be drastically changed at the last minute. "Back to the Future" quite infamously shot for four weeks with actor Eric Stoltz in the role of Marty McFly, before firing the "Mask" star and casting Michael J. Fox. What a different "Back to the Future" that would have been!