Karen Allen talks Indiana Jones, Scrooged and more classic movies

Indiana Jones and Marion
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and Marion (Karen Allen) in Raiders of the Lost Ark

Karen Allen’s new movie, Year by the Sea, is now available to watch on VOD. Speaking with Allen gave us a chance to ask about all her classic movies too, from the Indiana Jones films to Scrooged at Christmastime.

Raiders of the Lost Ark has some famous music, most notably the Indiana Jones theme that recurs in all four movies. Allen has her own theme too. John Williams even expanded “Marion’s Theme” to be a full orchestral piece.

“I burst into tears [when I heard it],” Allen said. “He played it for me at Tanglewood in Western Massachussets with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I literally burst into tears. It’s beautiful. It’s really, really a beautiful piece of music.”

Music was also central to an earlier film of Allen’s. A Small Circle of Friends was the first movie Rob Cohen’s directed. Jim Steinman composed the score, which later became his hit songs like Total Eclipse of the Heart.

A Small Circle of Friends
Brad Davis, Karen Allen and Jameson Parker in A Small Circle of Friends

“I thought it was very cool that that was the very beginning,” Allen said. “I think Rob and he knew each other somehow. It’s always really fun to work with, particularly people who become really very accomplished directors, it’s lovely to have worked on their first film with them. You’re watching everything come into a shape.”

Back to Indy, Allen has not seen the famous Raiders of the Lost Ark adaptation that three kids made in Mississippi. “I’d like to see it actually,” she said.

Nor has Steven Spielberg asked her to be in the fifth Indiana Jones film just yet.

“They have not because they’re not making those steps yet,” Allen said. “I think they have it planned in the future and I think at some point, I’ll find out whether I’m part of the story or not, but I don’t know yet.”

Karen Allen - Raiders of the Lost Ark
Karen Allen in Raiders of the Lost Ark

One thing that wouldn’t dawn on this young Raiders fan until he was old enough to drink was the significance of how much booze Marion could down and remain sober.

“My conversations with Steven from the very beginning were that Marion has built up quite a tolerance to alcohol,” Allen said. “She quite prides herself on actually not getting drunk. We don’t know when we meet her in that bar, has she been there for 10 years? How long ago did her father die? How long has she been making a living by drinking people under the table? I think the idea was really that she doesn’t get drunk.”

Only when Belloq (Paul Freeman) breaks out a special family vintage does it throw off Marion’s system.

Karen Allen
Marion (Karen Allen) tries to escape from Belloq

“I finally get drunk in the reprise of it,” she said. “I get so drunk I fall on the floor. We played with the idea that I’m drinking an alcohol that belongs in Belloq’s family that maybe is ex]otic for Marion. Suddenly there’s something that is actually intoxicating her. I think in her own environment, in The Raven, she knows exactly how much she can drink and she knows exactly how to do it.”

December means it’s that time of year again, when Scrooged returns to heavy rotation for Christmas. Allen plays the love-interest to Bill Murray’s Scrooge-like character.

“I think it’s become a kind of classic Christmas film and people love to put it in the mix because there all these other wonderful Christmas films that we all watch,” Allen said. “White Christmas and It’s A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street. A lot of them are beautiful and poignant and sweet and heartwarming but Scrooged is irreverent and wonderful and silly.”

Karen Allen and Bill Murray in Scrooged

Allen’s character is a social worker whom Frank Cross (Murray) gave up for his career. Even on the day he’s visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Frank ditches her three more times before he finally learns.

“She’s a saint, that character,” Allen said. “Really, truly. She is. I think in the actual  telling of A Christmas Carol, that character is just a good loving generous woman. In this she becomes a kind of modern day really, really do-gooder. It’s great that she’s a social worker and he runs a television network. It makes complete, wonderful, silly comic sense.”

One film Allen does not think about often is the horror movie Ghost in the Machine. I only brought it up because it’s one of many ‘90s technophobia movies that quickly became obsolete as actual technology surpassed them.

Allen plays a woman who buys an electronic datebook, and the ghost of a killer starts picking off all her conacts.

Ghost in the Machine
The scariest technology of 1993 was obsolete by 1994

“That’s a funny film in my history and I very rarely even think about that film,” Allen said. “I saw it once I think a long time ago. It’s sort of an odd film for me to have done and I don’t necessarily remember the thinking that went into me making that choice except that I liked the kind of core idea of it. I liked the idea of this technology that was kind of taking over in a way.”

Otherwise, Allen is not a horror fan.

“I don’t like violence in films,” she said. “My mantra is really, there are some exceptions in my filmography, but my mantra is only one person can die and everybody has to really, really, really care about it. That eliminates about 90% of the films that are ever made.”

The exception, of course, is all the random Nazis killed by Indiana Jones.

“Yes, of course, that’s right,” Allen said. “To me, I think somehow or other that always feels a little bit like cartoon violence or something, not that I think that that’s really that much better that real violence. To tell you the truth, when I watch a film where people are just slaughtered and slaughtered and slaughtered, and body pieces are flying in various directions, I honestly just feel terrible. Maybe I’m just too hypersensitive a person. I can’t take it. I can’t deal with it. It’s hard enough what goes on in real life. I don’t really need to turn to films to be battered. Those are not the kinds of stories I aspire to tell personally. I want to tell stories that make people much more provoked in a good way.”

Stories such as Year by the Sea, now available on VOD.

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