One of the special feature clips for my "LAST CRUSADE" DVD featured a take on the characters featured in the Indiana Jones franchise - love interests, villains and side kicks. When "Indy’s Friends and Enemies" focused on Indy’s love interests, the subject eventually came upon the leading lady of "TEMPLE OF DOOM" - Willie Scott.
Now, I am aware that poor Willie has never been popular with the majority of Indiana Jones fans. She is probably the least popular of Indy’s three love interests in the films. I just want to make it clear that I do not share this opinion of Willie. I have liked her since I first saw "TEMPLE OF DOOM" twenty-four years ago. But while watching this special feature about the franchise’s characters, it occurred to me that not only was Willie universally disliked, there was a possibility that she was misunderstood as well.
In "Indy’s Friends and Enemies", the franchise’s director, Steven Spielberg, made a monumentally stupid and misguided comment about Willie Scott. He had described Willie as a showgirl who also happened to come from a rich and privileged background. In other words, Willie was a showgirl who was originally a rich and spoiled woman who was not used to the great outdoors. Either Spielberg was suffering from senility when he did this interview, or he had never really paid much attention to the character’s background.
During their journey to Pankot Palace, Willie revealed to Indy and Short Round that he grandfather had been a magician who died a poor man. Near the end of the film, she made it clear that she came from Missouri:
"I’m going home to Missouri, where they never ever feed you snake before ripping your heart out and lowering you into hot pits. This is not my idea of a swell time!"
And according to the novelization for ”THE TEMPLE OF DOOM”, Willie Scott had been born on a farm in Missouri. She had ambitions to become a success in Hollywood. Unable to get a break in Depression-era Hollywood, she made her way to Shanghai, where she became a nightclub singer. Considering that she had been born on a farm, one would assume that she was used to the outdoors. However, it seemed apparent to me that a life on a dirt farm was not for her and she wanted the finer things in life – including a successful career as an entertainer of sorts.
I do not think that Willie was not used to being pampered. I suspect that she WANTED a life of privilege. She wanted to be pampered. And Willie was prepared to latch herself to anyone able to give her that life. Which would explain her becoming the mistress of the rich Shanghai gangster, Lao Che … or her interest in the Maharajah of Pankot before learning that he was a child.
Willie Scott was not what Steven Spielberg had described her - a spoiled, rich woman used to a life of privilege. She was a woman from a poor background who wanted a better life for herself … at almost any cost. Willie was a gold digger, plain and simple. How this managed to escape Spielberg is beyond me.