A near identical copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark made by two teenage boys could soon be the basis of two Hollywood movies. Napoleon Dynamite producer Jeremy Coon plans to release a documentary and a feature film tracking the work of Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala, two friends who took seven years to make their copy of the first Indiana Jones film.
The boys started their film when they were 11 and 12. They finished seven years later
Strompolos and Zala started recording Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation in 1982, when the former was 11 and the latter 12 years old. They spent the rest of their teenage years adding to it, performing their own stunts and borrowing costumes, props, and friends to stand in for Indy's antagonists. On completing the movie, Strompolos and Zala screened it in a local Coca-Cola plant before shelving it. It was 20 years — in which time the men had fallen out, graduated from college, and moved to Hollywood — before director Eli Roth discovered and publicized their creation at a film festival organized by Ain't It Cool's Harry Knowles.
Coon saw the movie at another festival, after assuming it was "an urban myth." He was captivated by it, describing it to Deadline as something "impossible and fun," and "more inspiring than any movie" he'd ever seen. To tell Strompolos and Zala's story, Coon has optioned the book Raiders!, written by author Alan Eisenstock about the lengthy movie-making process as well as the boys' friendship, falling out, and later life.
Coon's two films will need approval from both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg before they'll see release. Fortunately, he's got a head start: Spielberg wrote a letter to Strompolos and Zala in 2003 after he'd been sent a copy of their movie, calling it an "inspiration" and inviting them to meet at his office.