Q&A with 'Lawrence After Arabia' director

Q&A with 'Lawrence After Arabia' director

Published by The Wessex FM News Team at 1:42pm 17th October 2019. (Updated at 11:53am 18th October 2019)

Mark J.T. Griffin spoke to Wessex FM ahead of a sneak preview at the Purbeck Film Festival later this month.

WSX: Tell us about the film and the aspects of T. E. Lawrence's life that it focuses on.

MG: It's about the last couple of years of Lawrence's life, which has never really been covered in a film before.  We know that he was fatally injured in a motorcycle crash on a road near Bovington - and just a week later he died. There were lots of rumours at the time that it wasn't an accident and that it was actually some sort of conspiracy to get rid of him. That story's played on my mind for about 30 years. I did some more investigation, and with what I learned, ended up with a screenplay. 

WSX: So is that what the film centres around - the theory that Lawrence of Arabia was assassinated?

MG: It looks at it in both ways. As you go through the film it suggests certain things. The film actually opens with the accident, and as it goes on it shows you what could possibly have happened. So it's a drama; it's a bit of thriller…But it also looks at his life and his friends - his relationship with Florence and Thomas Hardy in those years when his life was based around Clouds Hill.

Clouds Hill
Clouds Hill, the former home of T.E. Lawrence

WSX: It looks like there's some glimpses of the Dorset countryside in the trailer…what areas might we recognise?

MG: We shot it all around Dorset - even the studio we used was in Dorset - so Lots! We filmed at the Priory Hotel in Wareham; Smedmore House at Kimmeridge; on the ridge overlooking Corfe Castle and St Martin's church in Wareham. The road we've set the accident on is actually at the back of the Wytch Farm oil plant, so there's lots of Dorset in the film.

WSX: And Clouds Hill itself? Have you been allowed to use that now? We know there was some controversy with the National Trust in the run-up.

MG: There was, yes, but we heard from them quite late in April that they'd changed their mind on it. We filmed on the outside of Clouds Hill, where we see him getting on and off a replica of his motorbike, so that's quite a nice element of the film. It was quite difficult filming there though because it's got a road going past it, so a lot of the sound we had to dub on afterwards.

Lawrence After Arabia motorcycle

WSX: We were interested that you touch on little-known areas of his life, like his PTSD and childhood abuse. Does that come through in the film?

MG: Yes, there's a researcher in the Netherlands, Maarten Schild, who's done a lot of research on that area of his life and after reading it, I realised that Lawrence was the way he was because of the way he was treated when he was a child. He had to be strong, and he had to have various coping mechanisms to get through some of the things that happened to him during the First World War, during the Arabian campaign, and coming back I think it's fairly obvious from some of the research that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, as many soldiers did. I think he was very much a pacifist, so that's picked up in the film.

Lawrence after Arabia

WSX: How has the filming gone?

MG:  We've got a few famous faces in there - Brian Cox who's the narrator and also plays the voice of Lawrence's father; we also have Hugh Fraser who you may know from Shaft and Poirot. And Michael Maloney who was in Henry V, Hamlet and Truly, Madly, Deeply, and we've also got Nicole Ansari Cox who plays Lawrence's mother. But most of the actors in the film are Dorset-based.

Lawrence After Arabia

MG: We're now in post-production. We're finishing the edit and have the soundtrack underway - we're writing song called After Arabia for the end credits. And we have Rick Wakeman producing a special version of one of Lawrence's favourite hymns, Jesu, Lover of My Soul, for the funeral scene. So we're getting close to a theatrical version and we're aiming to have it out in May 2020.

Due to popular demand a second preview day has been confirmed at The Rex in Wareham on Tuesday 29th October.

You'll get a chance to take part in a Q&A with Mark and see a 20 minute preview of the film.