The much anticipated release of the film Lawrence: After Arabia was delayed due to the pandemic but will now be shown in special screenings across Dorset including Swanage, this autumn.
Filmed across the Isle of Purbeck, the feature film about the legendary T.E. Lawrence – better known as Lawrence of Arabia – poses the question whether the motorbike crash that killed him in 1935 near Wareham, was an accident or an assassination?
Scenes were filmed at locations including Kingston, Harmans Cross, Thrasher’s Lane near Corfe Castle, and the Priory Hotel in Wareham.
It gets its gala premiere on Saturday 9th October 2021 at The Lighthouse in Poole and will then be shown in local cinemas including The Mowlem on Saturday 23rd October 2021. It will go on general release on Friday 12th November 2021.
The film shot mostly in Dorset has already garnered many awards
Labour of love
Thomas Edward Lawrence was a British intelligence officer who fought alongside Arab guerrilla forces in the Middle East during the First World War. He later lived at Clouds Hill, near Bovington, and it was close by that history tells us his charismatic life was cut short by a motorcycle accident.
The film is a labour of love for writer, producer and director Mark Griffin. It started life as a radio play and was written ten years ago, with pre-production starting in January 2018, but it’s based on a fifty-year interest in the enigmatic figure who has a memorial at St Martin on the Walls church in Wareham.
Mark Griffin is a writer, theatre director and musician
“Not all accidents are accidental”
From the age of eight, Mark was sent to the Dorset town to stay with his grandparents and uncle for the summer, right up until he went to university.
“I was pestering my gran who was shopping in Wareham one day and she sent me over to St Martin’s on the Wall to have a look. I was a nerdy ten-year-old after all.
“Inside, there was a man polishing Lawrence’s effigy and he told me about him. He said he died in a crash on a road near Bovington and I asked if it was an accident.
“He replied cryptically that not all accidents are accidental. And that started a 50-year obsession with Lawrence, reading all I could and visiting the sites multiple times.”
A cinematic homage to Top Gun as Lawrence races a biplane on his motorcycle
Third part of a trilogy
The film is like the third part of a trilogy, after the classic Peter O’Toole performance in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Ralph Fiennes in A Dangerous Man (1990). This film Lawrence After Arabia picks up the story when he is already famous and living in Dorset in the lead up to his death.
Mark is now working on a documentary and a book, as a follow up to the film, which look at the crash forensically to better understand what happened.
The mysterious black car at the scene of the crash and the boys on their bicycles
“He was involved in a motorcycle accident on his Brough Superior and died six days later. At the inquest a witness described seeing a black car just before Lawrence lost control of his bike which then careered into two boys on bikes.
“The more I researched this incident it seemed to me there had been a cover up – a conspiracy to get rid of Lawrence.
“He had been involved in infiltrating Oswald Moseley and the black-shirts, was in contact with King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan about an Arab uprising and was possibly being groomed for a job to reinvigorate the Secret Service.”
T E Lawrence on his Brough motorcycle at Harmans Cross rail bridge with the steam train coming through
The crash scene was filmed over two days at Thrasher’s Lane near Corfe Castle. The road was closed off for the filming but that didn’t stop a woman from Brockenhurst breaking through the barriers to ride her horse like she did every Saturday.
She only left after they persuaded her there was no way they could ‘edit her out in post-production’!
Spectacular view across to Corfe Castle from the garden at the Kingston Country Courtyard
Lawrence is played by Bournemouth actor Tom Barber Duffy, who’s previously appeared in The Imitation Game and Downton Abbey.
Nicole Ansari Cox plays Lawrence’s mother, Sarah Lawrence with the Scottish actor Brian Cox providing the voice for the epilogue and Lawrence’s father. Michael Maloney plays George Brough and Hugh Fraser plays Lord Allenby.
Local people take other minor roles, including Nicole Faraday from Swanage, who plays the postmistress.
The funeral scene shot at the actual location – St Nicholas’ Church in Moreton, near Wool, where Lawrence is buried
Filmic Isle of Purbeck
The film has already won 31 awards at 19 festivals including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Soundtrack. Mark is now looking for an international distributor.
Not bad for a film that was turned down by 70 production companies and self-funded on a budget of ‘six figures but not much more than five figures’, compared to a Bond movie budget of around £200 million (nine figures!).
Dorset, of course, was the location where the action happened in real life and was a filmmaker’s dream.
“Dorset and specifically the Isle of Purbeck has a filmic, spectacular quality about it and as I knew the area well, choosing locations for the film was an easy task.”
- Tickets for the showing in Swanage on Saturday 23rd October 2021 can be booked via The Mowlem website
- Full list of the cinemas with special screenings in Dorset