Thursday, 13 July 1972

Injury to Oliver Tobias

Thursday, 13 July 1972 05:00 pm
Oliver Tobias was injured while filming “The Challenge.” The exact date of the injury is not known, but a feature in Western Daily Press on 19 July 1972 states that it was during the previous week. At a fan meeting in 2010, Oliver described the incident:

“Christ I’m lucky to be here – I nearly died during filming.”

For the sequence where Arthur had to parry spears with his shield, they had a champion javelin thrower from Bristol University standing beside the camera, hurling spears at Oliver. He thought he was young and athletic enough to jump out of the way in time, but on one occasion he didn’t make it. A spear glanced off the inside of his shield instead of the outside, and hit him on the back of the head.

“When it hit me, it was like a ship running aground.”

He remembers Michael holding his head in his lap while they were waiting for the ambulance, and waking up in Bristol Infirmary, thinking he’d died and gone to heaven, and that the very pretty nurse bending over him with a gold cross dangling from her neck was an angel. He remembers being out of action for a fortnight with concussion.

“You feel terrible and can’t focus on anything.”

Producer, Patrick Dromgoole was very worried about the injury to his star:

“Oliver's spear injury terrified the life out of us, and might have been quite serious although he tended to play it down and got out of hospital and back to work as fast as he possibly could.”

Cameraman Roger Pearce was rather more sanguine:

“I have a vague memory of Ollie being injured. I think it was late afternoon and the result of a spear being thrown; it would not have been metal but a solid rubber tipped one. But with the weight of the wooden shaft behind it, it could still wound. I seem to remember Ollie was taken off by ambulance to be checked over and there may have been a few stitches to boot! Was filming halted? No, just rearrange the call sheet and press on!”

And in the Western Daily Press, the incident was played down:

“In a battle scene shot in Compton Dando last week Arthur was clobbered in the back of the head by a spear. Celtic remedies for the wound were dismissed and Oliver Tobias spent two days in the Bristol Royal Infirmary recovering. Arthur was soon back in charge of his warriors, and next time the battle scene was shot he won.”


Arthur of the Britons

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