Harrison Ford could've put his eye out if Anthony De Longis hadn't been such a fine bullwhip trainer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
De Longis, 58, is a Hollywood expert in unique weaponry, from tomahawks to martial arts blades. The bullwhip is a specialty he learned after seeing 1981's Zorro, the Gay Blade and thinking it looked cool. The student eventually became a teacher for such actors as Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman in Batman Returns.
The announcement that a fourth Indiana Jones adventure would be produced convinced De Longis to contact producers about a new technique he devised; a looser, overhand loop that makes the bullwhip's kinetic energy more efficient and camera-friendly.
Ford himself called De Longis to set up a month's personal training and a week on the set of Crystal Skull to get it right. The St. Petersburg Times called De Longis to get the skinny on Indiana Jones' favorite weapon.
Why would an action hero like Indy use a bullwhip?
The whip is the perfect action accessory for an adventurous archaeologist since it dates to 5000 B.C. It's mankind's first supersonic tool and its potential as a weapon is extraordinary. A small focus of energy produces an explosive result.
. . . There really aren't any other weapons short of a gun that give you the advantage of distance like a whip.
How was Ford as a student?
He was wonderful, everything I thought he would be. He's intelligent and in very, very good shape. He got what I was trying to offer, which was a methodology he could count on, to make it safe for himself and the people he's working around.
Do people pester you to try the bullwhip?
Oh, yeah. Once in a while, if they don't look too flaky, I'll hand them a whip and watch them carefully. They'll lift their hand up and chop, which energizes the whip then pulls the tip back toward the face. That's the classic mistake. The other thing they'll do is the towel snap, like you're snapping a wet towel in the shower. That's about the time I'm going: ''Give me that back.''
Who's the better student, Ford or Pfeiffer?
I have to say I really enjoyed working with Michelle. I was much more a part of the process there, being on set with her every day at her request . . . In the Ice Princess segment we rehearsed it once and shot it, she was that good.
In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy decides a gun will stop a scimitar attack faster than a whip. Would that be your choice?
The fast and dirty answer is that a gun would be nice. But a whip never runs out of ammunition.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.