In the summer of 1981, two friends in Mississippi decided that they would spend their vacation away from school by recreating on video their favorite film – Raiders Of The Lost Ark. While most kids would probably have given up the project after about two weeks or so, Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb stuck with the project – for the next seven years. Along the way they nearly set Zala’s basement on fire, drug Strompolos underneath a truck and had their friendship strained almost to the breaking point, but they kept on going, ultimately completing the project as they were entering college. Fast forward a few years when director Eli Roth passed a multi-generational VHS dub of the film that he acquired to Aint It Cool News’ Harry Knowles, who screened it at his annual Butt-Numb-Athon 24-hour film fest in 2002. It was from here that the film and the story of its teenage filmmakers exploded into the consciousness of film fans.
Napoleon Dynamite producer Jeremy Coon has optioned Raiders!, the 2012 Alan Eisenstock book that chronicled the filmmaker’s journey across their teenage years to complete their movie. Strompolos and Zala will be teaming with Coon to produce two projects based on the book. The first will be a documentary and then the second will be a narrative feature film.
Coon explained to Deadline what drew him to the project –
I thought the movie was an urban myth but when I saw it, from a filmmaker perspective it was more inspiring than any movie I’d ever seen. These kids had done something ridiculous and impossible and the last time I had the experience of a movie being made because it was sheer fun was when I’d seen Kill Bill. I went in feeling cynical but there was no cynicism in these kids. They did the movie because they loved it. It had its premiere and then sat on a shelf.
This is not the first time that this story has been optioned. Scott Rudin was looking at making a feature film about the making of the Raiders adaptation back in 2004 and had hired Daniel Clowes to write the screenplay, though that project is apparently dead now.
I’ve actually had the chance to see the Raiders adaptation twice and it is thoroughly enjoyable. As nearly everyone is familiar with Raiders Of The Lost Ark, as you watch the film you realize he scope of what these kids are attempting to do. And as the film unfolds you find yourself not only invested in the story but rooting for the kids to succeed in what they’re doing. And by the time you’ve hit the great truck chase across the sequence, you start to realize how dangerous this all is, adding yet another level to the film. You can see some of what they accomplished in the trailer for the book below-