"He chose...poorly."
The Grail Knight, upon Donovan's demise[src]

Walter Donovan was a wealthy American industrialist and collector of antiquities who allied himself with the Nazis in order to obtain the Holy Grail, which he sought for its fabled gift of immortality.

Around 1938, Donovan hired Professor Henry Walton Jones, Senior in order to track down the missing part of his Grail tablet, a marker to the Grail's resting place, but when Jones learned that his Austrian assistant, Elsa Schneider, was in fact an enemy agent, the Nazis took him prisoner. Donovan subsequently hired Jones' son, Indiana, to continue his father's work. However, Jones eventually managed to free his father from Castle Brunwald and escape from Donovan's clutches.

After the Joneses and their friends reached the Temple of the Sun in the Republic of Hatay behind Donovan and the Nazis, the industrialist shot the elder Jones to force his son into braving the traps protecting the relic. Donovan and Schneider followed him to the Holy Grail but found that there was a lethal final test: to recognize the true artifact hidden among the many fakes.

Donovan deferred to Schneider's expertise but she betrayed him with a False Grail that rapidly aged the industrialist to the extent that his Nazi pin was all that remained of Walter Donovan, a symbol of his misplaced loyalties.


"Didn't I warn you not to trust anybody, Dr. Jones?"
Walter Donovan[src]
In the years prior to 1938, American multimillionaire[1] Walter Donovan had made several generous contributions to the Old World Museum. His copper mine engineers discovered a stone tablet in Turkey. He and his wife lived in a fancy apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan[2] where he kept the tablet, as well as a manuscript that contained a Franciscan friar's account of the story of the three knights who had found the Grail.

He hired Henry Jones, Sr. to track down the location of the Grail and paired him with Dr. Elsa Schneider to find the location of a grail knight's tomb in Venice. When the senior Jones realized Schneider's Nazi affiliation, he was made to conveniently 'disappear'. Donovan used the disappearance of Jones to lure the man's archaeologist son Indiana into helping him find the vital clues leading to the location of the Grail. After Indy detoured to rescue his father at Castle Brunwald, Donovan revealed himself as a Nazi ally. When reports of Marcus Brody's apprehension by Nazi agents in Iskenderun were given, Donovan traveled with Schneider to Hatay to find the Grail.

With Dr. Schneider, Donovan arrived at the Grail Temple and proceeded to send soldiers into the temple's traps. When Jones and his allies arrived, they were captured and Donovan forced Indy to figure out how to get through the set of booby traps by shooting Henry. After Indy reached the inner sanctum where the last of the Grail knights kept watch over the sacred chalice - and several more false chalices - Donovan and Schneider followed in safety.

Donovan with false grail

Donovan agrees with following doctor's orders.

Upon seeing the visitors looking at the grails, the knight guardian explained that only by drinking from the true Holy Grail would grant a person eternal life, while drinking from a false Grail would forfeit their life. Faced with this dilemma, Donovan surveyed the potential Grails. Dr. Schneider volunteered to pick one for him. She gave Donovan a golden grail, with gemstones implanted on its sides. Donovan drank from that Grail, and to his horror found himself aging rapidly and eventually decomposing. Realizing that he had been tricked, he tried to attack Schneider, but Indiana Jones kicked the near-skeletal form of the doomed Donovan against a wall where it shattered into dust.

Personality and traits Edit

Walter Donovan was a ruthless, arrogant and greedy man though he was able to hide it under the mask of a warm, genial and understanding person who was concerned about other people.[3] He was also somewhat hypocritical, as he told Indiana not to trust anybody but immediately trusted his equally ruthless colleague, Elsa Schneider, to pick out and deliver the correct Grail for him, a trait which ultimately cost him his life.

An example of his ruthlessness was through desire for items of great historical significance, like the Holy Grail, for his own purposes: Henry Jones Sr regarded Donovan as a man willing to sell his own mother for an Etruscan vase. In his desire for eternal life, he had no regard for others; when two soldiers were beheaded by a trap trying to reach the Grail, Donovan merely ordered another forward and later shot Indy's father so the former would be forced to retrieve the Grail.

Behind the scenesEdit

Walter Donovan was played by actor Julian Glover in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Glover originally auditioned, unsuccessfully, for the role of Colonel Ernst Vogel, but was called back by producer Robert Watts to be interviewed for Donovan's part. A British actor, Glover adopted an American accent to play Donovan, but he was ultimately dissatisfied with the final result.[4] Donovan, however, ended up being the favorite villain of Glover's career, finding Donovan a "well developed and funny" character.[5]

During the development of the film's script, Donovan was named Walter Chandler by writer Jeffrey Boam. While Chandler was one of the main villains, he was not intended to be the primary antagonist with the character falling to his death with the tank in Hatay (a fate which would later go to Vogel). Tom Stoppard changed the character's surname to Donovan in his revisions as well as the manner of his demise.[6]

Donovan death

Walter Donovan ages rapidly to dust.

The effect of Donovan's rapid aging and explosion into ash was dubbed "Donovan's Destruction" by the ILM staff and marked a technological breakthrough in effects work as the first shot completely computer composited and then scanned to film. ILM used life-size articulated puppets of Donovan's head in different phases of decomposition. Images were scanned into a computer where they were processed to form a seamless transformation.[7]

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, Donovan dies off-screen, decapitated when he tries to follow Jones (who doesn't block the mechanism of the rotating blades as in the film.) However, Indy himself will suffer Donovan's original fate if he drinks from the wrong Grail. Donovan is the final boss in the game Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures. Rather than perish upon drinking from the False Grail chosen by Elsa (who is absent from this scene), he "grabs a cup and drinks. But that was not the Grail and in fright he begins to transform into a skeleton" who can dislodge his body parts and must be put out of commission by Jones. Donovan also selects the False Grail for himself in the film's Read-Along Adventure adaptation, where he sinks to the floor as an ancient skeleton blackened with age.

In LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures, Donovan independently chooses the wrong Grail; he is shown eagerly running to that grail and just immediately drinks from it. Indy never kicks him into a wall, either: Donovan simply ages to death in a somewhat comical manner. Three different versions of Donovan are unlockable in the game: his tuxedo, normal suit and, in the DS version, his appearance after aging. In the sequel, which had a much looser depiction of the first three films, Donovan becomes super-powered by a whirlwind, which can only be destroyed through use of a bazooka and silver objects. After being defeated by Indy and Sallah, Donovan loses control of his tornado and falls to an unknown fate into the abyss, destroying the Grail Temple in the process.

Walter Donovan has the distinction of being the only main antagonist of an Indiana Jones film that has never been released as an action figure in official merchanside. No Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade toyline was made in 1989 due to Kenner's closure, but when Hasbro released a Last Crusade toyline in 2008, Donovan was again absent yet Elsa Schneider and Ernst Vogel had figures on the line. There were plans by Hasbro for an action figure of Donovan for the following year, but the toyline was cancelled before one could be made.[8] Similarly, Donovan wasn't released in any actual LEGO Indiana Jones set by LEGO, despite being featured in the two LEGO video games.



Notes and referencesEdit