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.
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.