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Six questions for ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ actress Karen Allen

For the launch of the “Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures Blu-ray,” Karen Allen, who played Marion Ravenwood in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and then returned for the fourth installment (“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”), was in New York to promote the release. Normally, we don’t do too many celebrity interviews here on CNET, but when Paramount reps offered a very short chat, I thought, hey, it’s Karen Allen, why not?

As for how the Blu-ray package is, the short answer is that the first three movies have undergone a very impressive restoration and they clearly look a lot better than the DVD versions that came out a few years ago. Of course, whether you want to drop $65 on the whole set will depend on how much of an Indiana Jones fan you are. Eventually, each film will be available separately, which may be the way to go, particularly if you don’t feel like owning “Crystal Skull” (or already own it).

But back to Karen Allen. If you’re wondering what she’s up to today, she’s in rehearsals for a play in New York called “Summer’s Day” and has been directing theater the last few years and acting in films “Whenever there’s something interesting,” she said. (So far there are no plans for a fifth Indiana Jones movie).

Here’s the quick Q&A.

CNET: Have you watched the Blu-ray for Raiders yet? And what’s it like seeing yourself in 1080p 30 years later?

Allen: No, I actually haven’t seen it yet. But I was at the IMAX screening the other night. It’s sort of very strange to watch yourself 30 years ago. Sometimes it’s quite fun, but other times it’s just strange. It’s interesting because it’s the same film — the film hasn’t changed — but my perspective on it changes. I am very happy that they’ve done all this work on the film because over the years I’ve been at events where they’ve screened the film and I’ve seen some truly terrible prints. Just awful.

The much-anticipated “Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures”Blu-ray hit stores today.

I have a hard time watching films the first few times right after we finishing shooting them because I don’t think I really see what’s on the screen. When I’m watching the first few times I’m remembering what I think I did in the scene and how I saw the scene in my own mind when we were doing it. When I read a script I visualize it — I make my own movie in my mind. And then when I see it for the first time it’s a jolt because it’s usually not what I visualized. Sometimes it’s a way better movie I had in my own mind, which was certainly the case with “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Not that I didn’t have a good movie in my head when I read the script, but I had a different movie in my head. I thought we were making “Casablanca.” I’ve been saying this for years and it sounds like a joke but that’s what I thought. I didn’t have the same references in my head that Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Philip Kaufman, and Larry Kasdan, had in their heads. They had grown up with these Saturday-afternoon serials. I had mostly grown up on the old ’40s movies. So my reference to something being set in that time period was more like “Casablanca.” Or more like “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” It was that sort of adventure. Not as heightened as it turned out to be.

CNET: One would assume your favorite Indiana Jones film is “Raiders” and not “Crystal Skull”?

Allen: Oh, yes, “Raiders.” I have to say I have an incredible love of that film. It was the first one and I really love the story. And I fell in love with my character when I was working on that film.

CNET Do you get recognized more for Indiana Jones or “Animal House”?

Allen: I get recognized for “Animal House” a lot. That film is huge, too. That film has aged very well. People are still watching that film. I saw it not that long ago. It’s just one of those films that seems as much fun now as when we made it. There’s a whole huge “Starman” contingent as well. Believe it or not, there are people who have a little obsession with “Starman.”

CNET: I saw on IMDB [in the trivia section] that you were considered for the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars? Is that true?

Allen: I think that’s not true. I don’t know where that ever came from. Because when Star Wars was being made I had never done a film in my life. I was either still living in Washington, D.C., working in the theater or had just moved to New York and working in theater there, too. I had heard that rumor but I just can’t imagine anybody knew who I was.

CNET: But you could have made a good Princess Leia?

[Laughing] Yes, I could have. But I was not a known person at all. “Animal House” was my first film. Carrie Fisher wasn’t known either but at least she was in that Hollywood community. I was in New York until I got cast in “Animal House.” And there was actually huge resistance to casting me in “Animal House.” It was like, “Who’s this? What’s she done? Oh, she’s done nothing. I see. She’s done some obscure theater in Washington, D.C. Why would we cast her?”

CNET: How did you get the role?

Allen: I just saw a little 3-by-5 card on a bulletin board at the Lee Strasberg Institute, one of the places I was studying at. I wrote down the address and stuck a picture and a resume in an envelope and sent it off, thinking I’d never hear anything back. And then I got a phone call and the casting director for Universal decided based on my picture and resume to come and meet for the role of Katie. I walked into a room and met with John Landis for the first time without ever having done a film or knowing anything about film. And he just saw me as Katie. I think I auditioned five times for that role. And nobody but John Landis and the casting directors wanted me. Well, I think Harold Ramis liked me, too. But nobody at Universal wanted me because they wanted someone with more experience, someone who had more credits. Someone they could point to as more of a star.

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