During the script development of Raiders of the Lost Ark in the late 1970s to 1980, writer Lawrence Kasdan went through a number of drafts to produce the completed screenplay. Although the plot points largely remained the same throughout, based on the story conference Kasdan had attended with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, a number of elements changed including dropped characters and names. Certain set pieces were also removed which would be recycled for the film's follow-up Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
In Peru, 1936, Indiana Jones and Satipo escape the Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors together. Satipo's attempt to betray for Jones for the idol – a tiny jeweled figurine – is cut short as a Hovitos spear suddenly bursts from his thorax.
With help from his waiting British pilot Jock, Jones successfully gets away with the idol and returns with it to the National Museum in Washington DC. His old friend Marcus Brody, the curator, is pleased with the acquisition now displayed in his office but lets Jones know that important men are awaiting the archaeologist in a conference room across the hall, aware that Jones was returning before Brody did.
The first draft sees Jones meeting Musgrove and Eaton, of US Army Intelligence who are joined by a G-man, White House representative Eric Davona. Brody introduces his friend to the visitors after which he is dismissed from the room and the rest of the story itself.
The three men tell Jones about Adolf Hitler, of whom Jones has a passing familiarity, and his obsession with the occult including his plans to annex Austria with the intent of claiming the Spear of Destiny. Jones is also told of an intercepted Nazi communique indicating that a German excavation outside Cairo has uncovered something called Tanis.
As in the final film, Jones explains that Tanis is one of the possible resting places of the Ark of the Covenant and tells the legend of Shishak's capture of the relic. However, he defers expertise on Tanis to his colleague Dr. Calvin Stansbury so leads the government agents to Stansbury's office in the basement. There, Jones is largely silent as Stansbury explains the rest of the Tanis background and the Lost Ark's supernatural powers but there is a moment where Jones quickly stops Stansbury's segue about a man named Abner. The scene also includes a gag where it's revealed that Stansbury is aware of Hitler's secret designs on Austria as hearsay, dumbfounding the men from Washington.
With the headpiece to the Staff of Ra originally conceived of as being in two parts, Stansbury notes that one half is in the possession of the Shanghai-based Chinese warlord Tengtu Hok. After a meaningful look at Jones, the man doesn't explain the whereabouts of the rest of it.
Indiana Jones is woken up in his Mayflower Hotel room at 3:00am by Davona and his companions. They want to utilize Jones's services to frustrate Hitler's efforts to capture the Ark whether or not the relic has its reputed powers. Although they're trying to delay and prevent the Führer plunging "the world into hell," Jones isn't particularly motivated to help. When an appeal to the archaeologist's patriotism doesn't work, the men indicate that they have since looked into the Abner mentioned back at the museum and are aware that not only is Abner Ravenwood Jones's former mentor at the University of Chicago but also an expert on Tanis. When asked if Ravenwood has part of the Staff of Ra headpiece, Jones points out that he did once but hasn't heard from him in five years and last saw him a decade ago.
The intelligence agents concede that they haven't managed to trace Ravenwood's whereabouts further than Nepal in '31 to which Jones remarks that there's no reason to believe the Nazis are anywhere nearer to discovering the Ark than anyone else in past millennia. Eaton confesses that they have also learned that a certain Frenchman is headed to Cairo based on the evidence out of the Tanis digsite. The name alone is enough to convince Jones to take the job: Victor Lovar.
Davona gives Jones $10,000 in expenses but the archaeologist refuses the ticket to Egypt. He's going to Shanghai first to "see what it takes to separate Tengtu Hok from one of his prize pieces."
Emile Belloq's name was changed to Chartiere for the fourth draft only.
- Jamal | Abu
- Bang Chow
- Belzig | Arnold Toht
- Marcus Brody
- Eric Davona
- Tengtu Hok / "The Wild Boar"
- Buzz Kehoe
- Victor Lovar | Emile Belloq | Chartiere | René Belloq
- Petrovich / "The Bloody Vulture" (Mentioned only)
- Schliemann | Dietrich
- Sheila (Mentioned only)
- Jules Spencer
- Calvin "Cal" Stansbury
- Austria (Mentioned only)
- Washington DC