Hollywood star Liam Neeson has told how a horse-dealing extra in the movie Excalibur tried to buy his mount during a break in filming of the King Arthur movie.
The 28-year-old Ballymena actor was in his debut film role as one of the Knights of the Round Table mounted astride a magnificent white horse in a film which launched the careers of some of the most celebrated actors in the planet.
A new documentary, set to be screened on RTÉ tonight, has its cast and crew spilling inside stories about the making of John Boorman’s classic which put Ireland on the map as a film location.
It was the homegrown movie which debuted the trio of Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne and Helen Mirren on the big screen, along with launching the careers of Patrick Stewart, Ciaran Hinds and Neil Jordan.
In the documentary, Neeson tells how one member of the Traveller community, who was an extra, very persistently tried to buy the horse he was riding during a break in filming.
“I was on this beautiful white horse on my suit of armour somewhere near Sally Gap in the movie (scene).
“There was a break in filming and a lot of the extras were Travelling people and I was on my horse and this guy come and says ‘Sir, how much for the horse?’ I said ‘No, no it’s not my horse, I can’t sell the horse, it belongs to that guy’.
“He said, ‘No, no I want to speak to you’. He reached into his rag and pulled out a fistful of notes. I kid you not, would have choked a donkey. I don’t know who many thousands of pounds were in there, to barter for this horse. Wouldn’t take no for an answer at all,” he said laughing.
Both Patrick Stewart and Keeping Up Appearances star Clive Smith revealed some of the battle scenes became a bit too realistic for comfort in the movie which was made without any 21st-century special effects.
“It was exciting and adventurous times spending those mostly glorious summer months in Ireland with these extraordinary people. Excalibur
is in many respect an action movie. One of the charming aspects of John’s direction, but also very difficult, is John had no real interest in the choreographed part of the action. What he really liked was the improvised action, which given swords and battle axes and full armour, could be quite scary.”
Actor Clive Smith went into more detail about the improvised battle scenes. “I suddenly realised that there were wooden arrows shafts being fired down from a tower and one of them just missed my horse,” he said.
“I remember riding out of shot and coming up to where John and the camera man were and I said, ‘I think this is really rather dangerous and John (Boorman) said, ‘Oh get back in, nobody is going to get hurt’”.
: Behind the Movie is on tonight on RTÉ One at 9.35pm followed by the film Excalibur
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