|“||Germany has declared war on the Jones boys.||„|
|~ Walter Donovan providing Germany to declare war.|
|“||He chose... poorly.||„|
|~ The Grail Knight upon Walter Donovan's demise.|
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 ends up in conflict with Indiana Jones, Henry Jones, Sallah and Marcus Brody in order to gain the Holy Grail.
He was portrayed by Julian Glover, who also played Aragog in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Pycelle in Game of Thrones, General Veers in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back and Aris Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only.
Walter Donovan and his wife lived in a luxurious apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Prior to 1938, Donovan had made several generous contributions to the National Museum of History. His copper miners discovered a stone tablet in Turkey, which told of the existence of the Holy Grail.
Donovan 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. Henry did not trust either of them, but played along regardless to fulfill his lifelong quest to rediscover the Grail. When he found out that she was allied with the Nazis, Henry mailed his Grail Diary back to United States to keep it from falling into their hands. The Nazis captured him shortly thereafter, while his estranged son, Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr., receives the diary in the mail.
Donovan is first seen meeting with Indy in his apartment. While Indy examines the tablet, Donovan expresses excitement about the immortality afforded by the Grail, which Indy apathetically dismisses as an "old man's dream". Still, he and his colleague Marcus Brody join the hunt for the Grail after learning about Henry's disappearance. Donovan sees them off at the airport, warning Indy not to trust anyone.
After finding more clues to the Grail's whereabouts in Venice, Indy detours to Castle Brunwald on the Austrian-German border. There, he reunites with Henry, but they are captured by Schneider and Nazi Colonel Ernst Vogel and taken to Donovan, whose true colors are revealed. When reports of Brody's apprehension by Nazi agents in Iskenderun come in, Donovan goes to the Republic of Hatay. Before leaving, he learns the Nazis have ordered the Joneses' elimination, to which he expresses amusement.
Much later, Donovan and Vogel are seen offering treasure to the Sultan of Hatay in exchange for safe passage through the desert. The Sultan turns down the treasure, but agrees in exchange for Donovan's Rolls-Royce Phantom II staff car; Donovan politely says "the keys are in the ignition". Schneider then approaches and informs them that the Joneses escaped and they must hurry to the Grail.
As the Nazis' convoy, led by a World War I-era tank, travels across the desert, Donovan talks with the captured Brody, who lectures him about meddling with powers beyond his comprehension. Up ahead, the Joneses and Indy's friend Sallah spy on the Nazis from atop a cliff. Donovan sees the sunlight reflect off of Indy's binoculars and, after the tank fires a shot orders Brody put in the tank. The Nazis are then ambushed by the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, a covert organization dedicated to protecting the Grail. While the Nazis massacre their attackers, Vogel catches Henry trying to rescue Marcus while Indy and Sallah steal a bunch of horses and camels. After listening to the last words of the Brotherhood's leader, Kazim, Donovan notifies Vogel of Indy as he steals the horses. While Donovan and Schneider continue on towards the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, where the Grail resides, Indy rescues his father and Brody after a chase in which most of the Nazis, including Vogel, are killed.
Donovan, Schneider, and their remaining entourage reach the Grail Temple, but are unable to get past the temple's booby traps. The Jones, Brody, and Sallah arrive and, after a brief standoff, Donovan shoots Henry, forcing Indy to deal with the traps and get the Grail in order to save his father's life. As he clears the traps, Donovan and Schneider follow safely. Finally, they reach the temple's inner sanctum, where the last of the Grail Knights watches over the Grail, which is hidden among dozens of "false Grails". The final test is to choose the true Grail from the false ones; only the true Grail gives the drinker life, while a false one takes it away. Faced with this dilemma and knowing nothing about the Grail's appearance, Donovan foolishly agrees to let Schneider choose for him. She picks the most beautiful of all of the cups, a golden, jewel-encrusted chalice (which he considers the true Cup of Christ), and as Indy and the knight watch nervously, Donovan drinks from it. After a moment, he gasps in pain and begins to age rapidly. Realizing too late that the Grail he drank from was a false one, Donovan grabs Schneider, who screams in terror as he horrifically decomposes into a skeleton before her eyes. Indy intervenes and kicks Donovan's skeleton against a wall, where it shatters and crumbles into dust, revealing his Nazi badge. The knight then states the obvious: "He chose...poorly". Indy then proceeds to choose the true Grail and save his father.
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. He was also a somewhat hypocritical person, 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. An example of his ruthlessness was his desire for items of great historical significance: Henry Jones Senior regarded Donovan as a man willing to sell his own mother for an Etruscan vase. His desire for eternal life meant he had no regard for others; when two soldiers were beheaded by a trap trying to reach the Grail, Donovan merely ordered another forward despite knowing what would happen and later shot Indy's father so the former would have to get the Grail.
|“||Be very careful. Don't trust anybody.||„|
|~ Before Indy & Brody leave for Venice, Donovan warns Indy not to trust anybody.|
|“||Didn't I warn you not to trust anybody, Dr. Jones?||„|
|~ Donovan revealing his true colors|
|“||What to do you say, Jones? Ready to go down in history?||„|
|~ Donovan to Indy.|
|“||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. The Grail is mine, and your going to get it for me.||„|
|~ Walter Donovan to Indiana Jones.|
|“||What is happening to me?! TELL ME! WHAT IS HAPPENING?!||„|
|~ Donovan's last words|
- Walter Donovan was played by British actor Julian Glover, who earlier played Imperial General Veers in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back and Aris Kristatos in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. Glover did his best to imitate an American accent for the character, but was rather disappointed with the final result.
- The manner in which Donovan dies continues a trend of grotesque and brutal villain deaths in the Indiana Jones movies, often caused by the very power they seek. His death scene is perhaps the most infamous among fans, along with the face-melting scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The staff at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) dubbed the sequence "Donovan's Destruction", which marked a technological breakthrough in special effects as the first shot completely computer-composited and then scanned to film. Film director Steven Spielberg wanted Donovan's death all in one shot so it looked real, rather than just an actor with makeup applied. Julian Glover wore inflatable pads on his face to make it appear to shrink with age, along with a mechanical wig that grew his hair. For the main part of the scene, ILM used life-sized articulated puppets of Donovan's head in different phases of decomposition. The images were then scanned into a computer, where they were processed to form a seamless transformation. Donovan's skeleton at the end of the scene was a model controlled via invisible marionette wires; the shot of it crumbling the floor took several takes as it failed to totally shatter at first.
- It should be noted that had Donovan chosen on his own the right Grail, his quest would have still been in vain as he would only be immortal if he didn't pass the Great Seal again, as it happens with Indy and his father at the end of the film, briefly becoming immortal upon drinking from the Holy Grail but ceasing to be after crossing the seal. Considering his profitable businesses, it's likely that Donovan would not have relinquished to his fortune to stay on the Temple of the Sun forever.
- 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, immediately drinking from it, and simply aging to death; also, rather than be kicked into a wall, he comically bangs his head against the altar before falling to the floor in pieces. In the sequel game, Donovan is super-powered by a whirlwind, which can only be destroyed through use of a bazooka and silver objects.
- After Donovan drank from the wrong grail, he briefly seems to resemble Doc Brown from the Back to the Future trilogy.
- He is the only major antagonist of the franchise who is American.