Lawrence of Arabia
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Behind the scenes
  The making of Lawrence of Arabia - Battle for the Arab World, was a massive undertaking.

The two-part multi-million dollar PBS production was filmed in Jordan, Syria and England and took in many of the actual places where Lawrence lived and worked, fought and died.

The crew traveled to the Middle East in the summer of 2002 to dramatically re-create scenes from Lawrence's life in modern day Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

They likened themselves to a Bedouin-style caravan, trekking across the desert complete with a costume department, prop makers, extras, animal wranglers, an armourer, pyrotechnic experts and film crew.

They were joined in Jordan by an all-Arab cast who helped them to recreate key moments from the Arab Revolt. Some 60 officers from the Royal Jordanian Camel Corps and Mounted Police demonstrated their expert horse and camel riding skills by portraying fighters in Feisal's army.

Director James Hawes then used state-of-the-art computer graphics to turn his sixty riders into an army many times larger.

"We had to use some special techniques to multiply the Arab army. We couldn't afford - nor could we get hold of - the hundreds and hundreds of horses, camels and riders we needed.

"We shot things very carefully, filming similar sequences several times with the army charging to the left, centre and right of frame and, by overlaying these shots and cleaning up the finished image, were able to multiply them. In the actual film these various shots add up to a single sequence that has what appears to be hundreds of camels charging the camera."

Many of the reconstructions centered around the Hejaz railway, the main Turkish supply line for Arabia that Lawrence and Feisal concentrated their attacks on. The producers hired a steam train for several days to shoot key sabotage scenes on actual Hejaz track still in existence today.

Pyrotechnic experts were flown in from London to quite literally "blow up" the railway. Exploding locomotive scenes in the film that lasted no more than minutes, even seconds, were the culmination of many weeks of careful planning and several days of safety assessment and laying of charges. The detonations were always tense.

Director James Hawes remembers, "we were only going to get one hit at it - once those explosives blow there's going to be a lot of mess and its going to take a lot of time to set it up again".

Over the course of the filming the role of T.E. Lawrence was actually played by eight different individuals, from childhood to adulthood and for the stunt work.

The man himself was physically small, not quite five-and-a-half feet tall, whilst the actor playing young Lawrence stood at six foot. In many scenes he walked alone or rode a camel, but there were occasions when being filmed next to Arabs - for example, the arrival of Auda at Feisal's tent - that he dug himself a hole in the sand to stand in. Otherwise he tried to stand near the tallest Arabs on the set.

The highlight for the director was finding a 96-year-old man in Azraq in Jordan who had been alive at the time that Lawrence and Feisal were using the local fort as their headquarters. He remembered taking fodder for their animals and seeing the two men together. Although the crew traveled throughout Jordan and Syria seeking out anyone who may have known or heard about Lawrence this was the closest they got.

"You felt like you were touching history," says James.

Find out more about the shoot, watch an interview with the director or the behind the scenes special.

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Young Lawrence behind the camera
  "Young Lawrence" behind the camera  

Lawrence of Arabia