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Hollywood secrets unearthed in new regional paper

A newly-launched local newspaper has got the ‘inside’ exclusive behind one of the best-kept secrets involving action sequences in motion picture history.

The current edition of Shropshire’s new free bi-monthly newspaper has the low-down on a legendary Hollywood fight scene in a top-grossing box office movie sensation.

And it’s all because Ludlow Ledger founding editor Jon Saxon “talked to a man in a pub” called The Apple Tree in Onibury, just beyond the town’s famous racecourse.

The man in question was Aubrey Weller, a veteran of the film game who assisted on the set of the Raiders of The Lost Ark before retiring to Ludlow.

One man and a legend . . . Aubrey Weller tells his story of a re-working of a Hollywood fight scene to the new Ludlow Ledger

The newspaper revelations on the famous scene from the film about Nazi obsession with the occult, which went on to kick-start the Indiana Jones franchise, have now become a fitting tribute to its teller who sadly died last month at the age of 81 – just days after the story was published.

In the Ledger, Aubrey’s story recounts that it’s the summer of 1980 in the oppressive heat of the Tunisian desert and Steven Spielberg is directing Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark – a movie which will go on to be the following year’s highest grossing box office hit.

The script calls for an Arab to threaten Ford with a scimitar. But using his trade-mark whip (and special effects later), Ford is meant to lash the sword from his would-be killer’s hand.

Unfortunately, there is a problem… a very personal problem. Filming is taking place in Kairouan, a town where dysentery is the traveller’s real enemy.

Spielberg eats only canned food flown in from England so is avoiding the bugs which have levelled some of the crew and seriously embarrassed leading actor, John Rhys-Davies.

Then Ford himself succumbs. But the demands of filming schedules wait for no man, not even the star. Carpenters are ordered to build him a thunder box to be strategically hidden on the set for use at a moment’s notice.

So it comes to the big fight scene. Enter the Arab – a stuntman from Dulwich waving his scimitar. Enter Ford, cracking his whip. Spielberg shouts “action!” and the cameras roll. But so does our hero’s stomach.

Ford knows he’s about to become the victim of an unstoppable force of nature – and on film, too. He’ll never have time to act out the entire whip scene as planned.

So he improvises, produces a revolver and shoots the Arab instead. Then he runs for the comfort of the thunder box and a legendary sequence in the motion picture business is in the can.

Jon, the new paper’s editor, said he had spent quite a bit of time with Aubrey Weller, who had also taught Richard Gere how to play darts.

“Aubrey could tell a great yarn,” Jon said. “He embodied what I want the Ledger to achieve, to celebrate our town, its people and their stories, crafts, folklore and history.

“It was surely a case of Raiders of the Lost Art of getting the story behind the story,” he added.

8 comments

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  • October 22, 2014 at 9:52 am
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    That’s how journalism works. Talking to people.
    And you never know, it might even be true…

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  • October 22, 2014 at 10:41 am
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    Is Harrison Ford’s plight what they mean by “show business”?

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  • October 22, 2014 at 12:48 pm
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    Yeah, this isn’t a new story. As already highlighted, it’s been out there for years.

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  • October 23, 2014 at 5:37 pm
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    In the next issue of the Ludlow Ledger – ‘Bloke in pub says he owned that red sports car in the background of the chariot race in Ben Hur’.

    ‘Honestly darling, I won it in an arm wrestling match with Chuck Heston. Make that a double, did I ever tell you how I kept dear old Harry Ford’s toilet rolls in the fridge?”

    Zzzzzzzz!

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  • October 24, 2014 at 9:51 am
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    Hello all,

    I am the owner of Ludlow Ledger, and I wholly agree with all of the comments… It is an old story, but being retold – i the case of Ludlow Ledger – to a small rural market town audience who’d possibly never heard it before, by someone that drank in their local pub. The fact I was able to cross-reference the whole story to fact-check it shows how visible this story is. Somehow the picture has since been painted that it was unearthed: which is, obviously, far from the truth.

    And whilst we are on the subject of truth: I never said the above quote: “It was surely a case of Raiders of the Lost Art of getting the story behind the story”.

    Cheers, Jon
    editor@ludlowledger.co.uk

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