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MY WILD DAYS (AND NIGHTS) WITH OLLIE...
By REG PRINCE
Sue Clarke meets Oliver Reed's stand-in. The movie: Dirty Weekend. The city. Rome. The place: a hotel bar. The time: evening. "Ollie was in one of his moods, and I was in one of my moods. Young Simon Reed was there too. After a few drinks, we started our games...we rolled over and the tables went over. I went looking for Simon, and Ollie came out looking for me. When he reached the steps, there was this 'gorilla' standing there who was known locally as 'Jesus' because he used to think he was God's gift to women. He didn't speak a word of English, and he was approaching Ollie with open arms. Now if you see a 'gorilla' coming at you with his arms open, you think you are going to be attacked. So Ollie pounced on him and bit his nose!" It's all a little like a Raymond Chandler novel, but sitting opposite me in a Wimbledon pub, Reg Prince was recalling for me some of his wilder moments with Oliver Reed. Reg Prince is Oliver Reed's stand-in on movie sets and has been for fifteen turbulent and eventful years. A tall, burly, ex-Navy man and former Junior Boxing Champion, Reg looks just the right person to have around if you're in a spot of bother - as long as he's on your side! "There were these other fellas arriving in cars, " Reg continued, warming to his subject, "and Ollie said, 'I think there's going to be a little bit of trouble here, Reg, it's the local syndicate'. A car pulled up and we heard Tommy guns blaring so we ducked down on the floor. Then we suddenly realised that it was only a radio programme on one of the car radios! We tore into them all and started chasing everyone around the cars. One of them happened to be the local heavy of the Mafia and he felt very indignant that he had lost face against two true blue Englishmen! But it all ended up all right and they bought us drinks and spaghetti." The drinking sessions, the brawls and the fights are all part of a natural exuberance which builds up over a hard day's filming. A lot of drinks have flowed under the bridge since Reg first met Oliver on a movie called The Party's Over where Reg was the utility stand-in. For them, the party had only just begun and it started a friendship and working partnership that has lasted ever since. "We're mates, rather than actor and double," Reg explains. "Often I arrange his fights for him, do some of the falls, and smash up some of the cars. I've hurt myself at times, but that's what you expect in this type of work. Ollie would normally do his own stunts, but sometimes the insurance says he can't do something and then I'l step in and do it. In the fight scenes where he has to fight with someone else, I'm usually the someone else he's fighting with, because we know each other's routine, and he knows he can pile in to me and he'll look fantastic - and he'll buy the drinks later! In the early days, Ollie didn't have the pulling power to turn round and say I was his regular stand-in. But since The System, we've done every film together. Wherever he's gone, I've been there too." When they were in Spain on The Three Musketeers, Oliver was accidentally stabbed through the hand by a rapier-thrust from the Spanish stunt double for Christopher Lee. As he lay in his hospital bed receiving blood transfusions for his poisoned arm, it was Reg who smuggled spaghettis in to Oliver at night through the window! "Mind you, hes done the same for me," Reg adds with a grin. "Just after he moved to Broome Hall and we'd been drinking quite heavily, he took me out to see the new swimming pool. It was just beginning to fill and we walked around the edge to the deep end where there was just a few inches of water. It was pitch black and I lost my balance. Instead of going forward I stepped back - not realising that there was this open well which no one knew about. I went down it, all seventeen feet, and it had iron pipes at the bottom. I was wedged in and Ollie started laughing down at me and I was laughing too until I realised I'd done my back in. But he wouldn't believe me. Finally he pulled me out and I couldn't stand. I put my arm around his shoulder and we hobbled back to the house. Everyone thought we were joking and that the tears running down my cheeks were from laughing." Later, Reg was whisked of to St Heliers Hospital where years before Oliver had once worked as an orderly. "Ollie wheeled me down the corridors on this trolley into reception, and everyone was saying, 'Hello, Oliver, have you come back to work here again?' They'd taken off my shoes and Ollie put an Airwick mist bottle between my feet. I couldn't move and there he was holding his nose and telling people I had toesillitis! Luckily, my back wasn't broken, I'd just done in the sciatic nerve. Hal-an-hour later when they had put me to bed, Ollie arrives back in the hospital with half bottles of Scotch. Just as I was saying I didn't want a drink, he lifted up the mattress and found a bottle of brandy which my wife had just brought in. That evening they moved me to another hospital, and it was like moving a brewery truck, there was so much booze under the mattress!" Some of their craziest moments together have been the result of gambling. Not the cards and horses kind, but Oliver gambling on himself doing different feats. "I remember on a film we were doing in Canterbury, Ollie had a bet with the production manager Jimmy Crawford - who just happened to be an ex-Harrier runner - that he could race him to St Margaret's and back," Reg says. "Everyone started putting bets on as to who would win and after a few drinks we all went out to our cars. Off the went for about three miles - all uphill - and Ollie wouldn't give quarter and neither would Jimmy. It was a freezing cold night, and driving right alongside them we could see those two looking at each other, pleading that one would give up. In the end someone threw a bottle of Scotch out of a car window and Jimmy stubbed his toe on it. Straight away, Ollie stopped and helped him drink the whisky! So it was a draw and all the bets were off because they never finished the race." Another time Ollie had a bet on himself was in an Indian arm wrestling contest. "Actually, he was very good at it," Reg says charitably, "but I was taking the bets and I had a word in the ear of each challenger and told him if he didn't lose there would be trouble. So Ollie was winning all the time. Then he heard me get hold of one person and tell him to lose and he said I was cheating and he wanted to play fair. So he went off and sulked because I'd won all this money. But I've got a wife and family to keep!" Reg travelled to Hollywood with Ollie for his first American movie, Burnt Offering, with the legendary Bette Davis. "They had a great respect for each other because they are both professionals," Reg says, "but it was a kind of love-hate relationship. Ollie was late for a party she was giving one evening because the traffic was bad. When we got back from out of town, there were two bottles of wine and some hors d'oeuvres on a tray outside his room with a note saying, 'So sorry you couldn't make my party!' Ollie was very upset." During the filming, Miss Davis used to have a food trolley sent up to her room with her evening meal. On day when Ollie, Reg and a few friends were returning from an evening out, they saw this food trolley and Ollie turned to Reg with a grin and said, "I bet I can ride it farther than you." The bet was on. "We'd take a run and a leaping dive on to the trolley and go careering down the corridor," Reg recalls. "The remnants of her evening meal went all over the place!" Fortunately, Miss Davis had already eaten - and did not emerge from her room. Oliver and Reg are off to Mexico for a new movie with Lee Marvin. That one should be a real humdinger to work on! Reg is hoping to take his wife Vicky and their three young sons with him for part of the time if schooling allows. Either way, Durango - the western town which has served as background for the likes of Burt Lancaster and John Wayne - is in for a whole new experience when Oliver and Reg arrive.Photoplay Film Monthly, February 1976 Return to Listing