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‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’s’ Paul Freeman Reflects on Working With Steven Spielberg

·4 min read

Playing René Belloq in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is something English actor Paul Freeman has always taken pride in. “The fact that it just keeps giving is wonderful,” he says.

Portraying the rival archaeologist in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated film has made him a staple in the Indiana Jones canon, but it isn’t just Belloq that brought him fame. In an interview with Variety, Freeman discusses his time working on “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” the 1995 movie version of the superhero TV show, where he played the purple villain Ivan Ooze.

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Freeman, 78, has had a long career that runs the gamut from Gustav Reibmann in the television soap opera “Falcon Crest” to the Reverend Shooter in Edgar Wright’s “Hot Fuzz.” As a classically trained theater actor, he’s taken on the words of David Mamet (“Glengarry Glen Ross”) and William Shakespeare (“Henry V”).

“Raiders of the Lost Ark,” celebrating its 40th anniversary, starred Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones and Karen Allen as the free-spirited Marion Ravenwood. Variety also spoke with Allen about her experience working on the film.

Here are excerpts from the interview with Freeman.

How does it feel looking back at “Raiders of the Lost Ark” all these years later?

Well, I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit because it’s been around and I’ve been talking about this anniversary. It’s something I’ve always been very proud about, happy to be associated with. The fact that it just keeps on giving is wonderful.

What was the audition process like?

I didn’t have an audition. I had done a film called “Death of a Princess” (1980), which is a drama documentary about the assassination of a Saudi Arabian princess. It went viral at the time and was a big scandal. Steven [Spielberg] saw it and I got a call from my agent. I was in Belize filming “The Dogs of War” and he said he wanted to see me in L.A. I went and met with him and George [Lucas] and when I got there, they were on the floor of his office, listening to speakers and a cassette player. And then we all got on the floor and started listening to music.

After all of it, he asked, “Do you want to read the script by the way?” And I said, “Oh yeah, I do.”

I go to the next room and start reading it and about halfway through, I said to myself, “This is such fun and a great script” and knew I wanted to do it.

Do you recall the first time you saw the film?

We didn’t have a premiere. There was only a small premiere in Los Angeles on Catalina Island. It was very lowkey.

You have been working consistently over the years and I wanted to know what your acting career has meant to you. Has every role meant as much to you as the one that preceded it?

No, no, no, some of them were still a little better. Some of them were worse. As a life, it’s been wonderful. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Taking me all around the world and have had wonderful experiences. Acting can be a therapy, too, which I think is very useful. It can also be an education. Almost every part that you do teaches you something, whether it’s just the research or interacting with other human beings.

To honor all the ’90s kids everywhere, you also have had one of the most iconic villain roles as Ivan Ooze in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie” (1995). Do you have fond memories of shooting that film?

It was a really enjoyable part. I had complete carte blanche to do what I wanted because the script wasn’t really … well, I could just make it up as I went along. They had given me a clue early on and called him a shapeshifter. At some points in the original script, he became Black or became a woman, and was going to pass through keyholes and slide under doors. Absolutely just wild.

Would you ever be open to playing Ivan Ooze again?

Oh, yes. I would have to do something about the prosthetics though. It took four and a half hours to get everything on. Or maybe somebody else can wear the makeup and I can do the voice.

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