Au­thor, orig­i­nal fan­boys in Austin


Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360 DAILY - D Eric Zala, Chris Strompo­los and Jayson Lamb in 1988 on set. CONTRIBUTED by CHRIS Strompo­los

ar­chae­ol­o­gist ad­ven­turer.

“It took me in the first view­ing,” Strompo­los said by phone. “I wanted noth­ing more than to play In­di­ana Jones.”

With lit­tle more than an in­de­fati­ga­ble self­con­fi­dence, fifth-grader Strompo­los ap­proached sixth-grader Zala about mak­ing a shot-for-shot re­make of the Steven Spiel­berg crowd-pleaser.

The two Mis­sis­sippi res­i­dents spent the next seven years form­ing (and in­ter­mit­tently chis­el­ing away at and re­build­ing) a close friend­ship while un­der­tak­ing the Her­culean task of recre­at­ing an in­stant clas­sic that fea­tured dan­ger­ous stunts, py­rotech­nics and snakes.

More than a decade af­ter they fin­ished “Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adap­ta­tion,” it would go on to be­come a cult hit, buf­feted by the sup­port of film­maker Eli Roth, Aint’s Harry Knowles and Alamo Draft­house own­ers Tim and Kar­rie League.

Now, al­most a decade since the movie played a sold-out run of shows at the orig­i­nal Draft­house, a book has been re­leased that de­tails the friend­ship of Strompo­los and Zala and the la­bor of love they never ex­pected to be seen.

Alan Eisen­stock’s “Raiders!: The Story of the Great­est Fan Film Ever Made” re­lies on ex­haus­tive re­search and in­ter­views with the guys, their fam­i­lies and friends to recre­ate the time­line of this mi­nor movie mir­a­cle.

On Fri­day night, Alamo South and BookPeo­ple will host a screen­ing of “Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adap­ta­tion” and a book sign­ing with all three men in at­ten­dance.

The story of Strompo­los and Zala earned na­tional me­dia at­ten­tion a decade ago with an ar­ti­cle in Van­ity Fair, but Eisen­stock’s novel, re­leased in Novem­ber by St. Martin’s Press, ex­pands on the gru­el­ing process of get­ting the movie made and the film­mak­ers’ lives from child­hood to present day.

The book uses a jour­nal-en­try style to present stages of pro­duc­tion, us­ing date­lines and lo­ca­tions to guide read­ers. The story of the boys’ meet­ing is told in the present tense with huge chunks of di­a­logue re­told through the voices of Strompo­los and Zala.

“Alan, like my­self, is some­thing of an ob­ses­sive guy, so he jumped at the op­por­tu­nity to fly down to Mis­sis­sippi and stay at my mom’s house (our ‘Raiders’ head­quar­ters),” Zala said. The au­thor toured shoot­ing lo­ca­tions, in­ter­viewed cast mem­bers and de­voured 40 hours of out­takes, even us­ing some of the di­a­logue in the book.

Like many child­hood friend­ships, the “Raiders” boys were a study in con­trasts. Strompo­los was charis­matic class clown. But he knew lit­tle about movies other than he wanted to be In­di­ana Jones. So he ap­proached straight-A stu­dent Zala, who had ap­peared in a sixth-grade stu­dent film.

As with any child­hood en­deavor, the boys’ moth­ers would bear the bur­den of their sons’ am­bi­tions over the bet­ter part of the 1980s.

“Prob­a­bly like any other mother, ini­tially they were sort of cheer­ful and sup­port­ive,” Strompo­los said. “But as we sort of got into it and showed our ob­ses­sive vi­sion of it, both moms really stepped up. They never doubted us. They were very sup­port­ive.”

Eric’s mother turned her base­ment over to the pint-sized vi­sion­ar­ies, who al­most burned the place down dur­ing the fiery Nepalese bar scene. Us­ing a script bought at Walden Books and a boot­legged au­dio copy, the boys went about piec­ing to­gether the film scene by scene, with Zala draw­ing more than 600 sto­ry­boards.

They used large chunks of John Wil­liams’ score as their sound­track, and for the sec­tions not on the orig­i­nal re­lease, they bor­rowed lib­er­ally from the “Tem­ple of Doom” and the “Last Cru­sade.”

The guys would spend al­most ev­ery day of their sum­mer va­ca­tions from 1982 to 1989 try­ing to see their vi­sion through to com­ple­tion. The book de­tails the more dif­fi­cult points of the process, such as build­ing a be­liev­able boul­der and se­cur­ing au­to­mo­biles to de­stroy.

The pro­duc­tion chal­lenged the friend­ship of the two guys sev­eral times, most dra­mat­i­cally when Zala ac­cused Strompo­los of try­ing to steal his high school girl­friend. Eisen­tock’s book recre­ates the com­bat­ive scene and sub­se­quent mak­ing of amends. They would have an­other fall­ing out in the edit­ing process, but by the end of the sum­mer of 1989, their movie was com­plete.

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