Karen Allen gets invited back to 'Raiders'
Did she quit Hollywood, or did it quit her?
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. - In 1978, she was Boone's girl Katy in
, which was enough to cement her in the collective conscience of a certain kind of male - the freckles, long brown hair, and big eyes, inviting yet a little cool.
So what happened? Did Karen Allen quit Hollywood or did Hollywood quit her after 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark and that classical opening salvo: "Indiana Jones. I always knew someday you'd come walking back through my door."
There was marriage followed nine years later by divorce, and single motherhood that would, with the dwindling career and the shock of Sept. 11, 2001, prompt her to quit Manhattan for the Berkshires, where she rehabbed an 18th-century barn and runs a knitting shop and studio here.
And then one day in 2007, the phone rang. It was Steven Spielberg, with whom she had clashed on Raiders.
"He said, 'Karen?' "
He wanted her to be in the long-rumored Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, reprising tomboy-fatale Marion Ravenwood.
She drove to his Manhattan apartment to read the script, because she wasn't permitted to take it home. Like old times.
"When I did Raiders, I was working on a television miniseries . . . somewhere in Napa," she said. "And he sent a courier to my hotel room, who had to sit in my room the whole time I read the script, and then took the script away."
Allen, 56, appears to have left her face alone and kept her body trim with yoga. "These days all somebody has to do is Google you and they know how old you are," she says. "I would show up for roles written for somebody in their early 50s, and people would say, 'You can't do that, you look too young,' but if I showed up for a role for somebody in their early 40s, then they would say, 'Well, but she's 50.'
She was 39 when her son was born, 45 when she divorced. She wanted to be a mother who acted, not an actress who periodically mothered. She wouldn't live in Los Angeles, or do network TV.
Allen said Spielberg and George Lucas had told her at the time of Raiders that they were planning three films, and her character would only be in the first. That was fine; sequels didn't work for her. Nor did Spielberg's world of story boards. But she felt she had to fight for her character's integrity.
"I didn't quite get all the time what he was going for . . . and he didn't quite get me, how I worked," she said. She sensed he enjoyed watching what happened when he subjected her to snakes, or when she got dirt up her nose.
"He thought, 'She's such a nice person, I have to toughen her up.' And I think he often, from my perspective, was not very nice to me, and I think there was a method in his madness. . . . We're both older, and I've done other films like this. So I kind of come into it just so much more relaxed and open-minded. I already know what kind of film we're making."