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Walter Donovan

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He chose...poorly.
~ The Grail Knight, upon Walter Donovan's demise
The Nazis? Is that the limit of your vision? The Nazis want to write themselves into the Grail legend, take on the world. Well, they're welcome to it. But I want the Grail itself, the cup that gives everlasting life. Hitler can have the world, but he can't take it with him. I'm going to be drinking my own health after he's gone the way of the dodo.
~ Walter Donovan

Walter Donovan is the main antagonist in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He was a wealthy American industrialist and collector of antiquities who allied himself with the Nazis in order to get the Holy Grail, which he sought for its fabled gift of immortality.

He was portrayed by Julian Glover.


In the years prior to 1938, he had made several generous contributions to the National 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 where he kept the tablet, as well as the manuscript that contained the Friar's account of the story of the three knights who 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 Indy's father to lure Indiana Jones into helping him finding 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 on tow, Donovan arrived at the Grail Temple and proceeded to send soldiers into the temple's traps. When Jones and his allies arrived and were captured, 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 safely. Donovan agrees with following the doctor's orders. Upon seeing the visitors looking at the grails, the knight guardian explained that drinking from the true Holy Grail would grant the drinker eternal life, but drinking from a false grail would take away the life of the drinker. Faced with this dilemma, Donovan surveyed the potential Grails. Dr. Schneider volunteered to pick one for him. Nobody knew it, but Elsa was about to betray Donovan, figuring out that he was too dangerous to be left alive. She gave Donovan a golden grail, with gemstones encrusted on its sides. As Indy exchanged nervous looks with the Knight, 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-skeleton form of the doomed Donovan against a wall where it shattered into dust.  Finally the Knight added that Donovan chose poorly.  With Donovan dead, Indy was on his own to choose the grail, which he does.

Behind the scenes

  • In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Donovan was played by Julian Glover who despite playing an American is a British actor. Glover played the role of General Veers in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
  • 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 lifesize 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.

Video Game Appearances

Donovan is the final boss in the game Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures. Rather than perish upon drinking from the false Grail (which in that game he seemingly independently chooses, as Elsa Schneider is never shown or mentioned as choosing it for him), Donovan turns into an undead monster which the player must defeat.

In the non-canon game 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 the sequel, Donovan is super-powered by a whirlwind, which can only be destroyed through use of a bazooka and silver objects.


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