Stand-in 'threatened Reed with knife in heavy drinking session': Actor's former companion admits falling on soft sand, not coral. James Cusick reports

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OLIVER REED told a court yesterday how the man who is suing him for damages attacked him with a knife while they were both 'beginning to fly' during a restaurant drinking session.

Reg Prince, 57, once one of the actor's best friends, and a stand-in for most of his 75 feature films, alleges he sustained spinal injuries when the actor tipped him over a balustrade at the Seychelles restaurant.

Mr Reed, 55, also told the court how Mr Prince, of Wimbledon, south-west London, once held a knife against his throat, threatening to kill him and how their day's heavy drinking session continued despite the interruption.

Mr Prince alleges that he suffered spinal injuries during the fall from the balustrade, which happened in 1986 during a break for filming on Castaway. On the opening day of the hearing on Monday, Mr Prince said he had fallen on to hard coral. Yesterday he admitted he fell on soft sand. He also had not 'seen' Mr Reed expose himself in public.

In the witness box, Mr Reed said Mr Prince had only begun to complain of back injuries after a fall on a dark hotel path, hours after the balustrade incident. They had been drinking heavily all day. Mr Prince went in search of more champagne. Returning, Mr Reed said he and his wife Josephine heard a fall. Mr Prince was alleged to have said: 'Cor, I've done my back, but I've saved the champagne.'

Yesterday's hearing offered insights into the world of film-making and Mr Reed's lifestyle. Their friendship went back to the early 1960s when Mr Reed's career took off. 'He was charming. Great fun. I liked him,' Mr Reed said.

Mr Prince was noted for his 'unarmed combat' skills. A karate practitioner, he would smash stones with his fists as a party trick. They fought 'scrapes' together and were regular drinking partners. 'I always thought I could hold more wine than him,' Mr Reed said.

However, counsel for Mr Reed, Christopher Morris-Coole, during questioning of both Mr Prince and his wife Veronica, stated that Mr Prince had suffered ill-health during the mid 1970s. Mr Reed had given him pounds 21,000 and a further loan of pounds 6,000 'to retire'.

Mrs Prince told the court she disapproved of her husband's friendship with the actor. She disapproved of 'what went on in his home', describing how during a visit there, Mr Reed's then wife Kate had returned from a walk. Mr Reed said Kate needed a shower. As she sat on the settee, Mrs Prince said the actor urinated over his wife.

After the Seychelles incident, Mr Reed admitted that he had received pounds 25,000 from the Sun newspaper. The Sun, in October 1988, two years after the Seychelles incident, began three days of features on Mr Reed, including a discredited story that Mr Reed had beaten up his wife.

A year earlier, the Daily Mirror ran an article alleging Mr Reed had crippled Mr Prince. Mr Prince denied he had received money for the story. The case continues today.