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Excalibur (1981) Poster

(1981)

Trivia

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Dame Helen Mirren and Nicol Williamson were initially reluctant to work with each other. They'd been in a disastrous production of "Macbeth", and were not on speaking terms. Writer, Producer, and Director John Boorman cast them because their natural animosity would be perfect. According to Mirren, she and Williamson "wound up becoming very good friends" during filming.
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The initial fight scene had to be filmed three times. It was filmed at night, and all of the film came out underexposed the first two times, due to a fault in the exposure meter. The cameraman had a nervous breakdown over the issue and quit.
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The names of the twenty-five knights inscribed on the Winchester Round Table are: Galahad, Lancelot du Lac, Gawain, Percivale, Lionell, Bors de Ganis, Kay, Tristram de Lyones, Gareth, Bedivere, Bleoberis, La Cote Male Taile, Lucan, Palomedes, Lamorak, Safer, Pelleas, Hector de Maris, Dagonet, Degore, Brunor le Noir, Le Bel Desconneu, Alymere, and Mordred.
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Before the final battle, Arthur's knights are camped around a "Stonehenge" like formation on a hill. The rocks were fake and part of the set. According to Writer, Producer, and Director John Boorman, some American tourists were driving by down below and saw the formation. Thinking they were real, the tourists hiked up the hill, and Boorman had to explain to them that they were not real, but part of a movie set.
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Theatrical movie debuts for Gabriel Byrne (Uther Pendragon), Liam Neeson (Gawain), Ciarán Hinds (Lot), and Cherie Lunghi (Guenevere).
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According to Gabriel Byrne, his sex scene with Katrine Boorman was filmed with the two separated. He performed his close-ups in the scene with a pin cushion.
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Morgana's (Dame Helen Mirren's) breastplate is in John Boorman's home. In his will, it will be given to Mirren.
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John Boorman was originally aiming at making a movie based on "The Lord of the Rings". However, he did not acquire the rights, and decided to make this movie instead.
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When Uryens knights Arthur with Excalibur, he's visibly trembling from emotion. In reality, Nigel Terry was shivering from the cold, as they were filming in a castle moat.
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It rained every day of the shoot, causing most of the movie to be shot in dull light. The constant rain also added to the lushness of the foliage.
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John Boorman directed Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) to help fund this. When that turned out to be one of the biggest bombs ever made, this became his comeback.
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The cameraman waited with a camera running for several days for the shot of a crow eating an eye. They had to wait for the crow to really eat the sheep's eye.
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The Irish extras fighting each other did not want to stop after John Boorman yelled cut, "to settle old scores", says Boorman.
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When Morgana gives birth, Dame Helen Mirren's head is up through a hole in the table while a real pregnant woman lies on the table with her head covered.
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The original cut of this movie was over three hours long. Amongst the many scenes that were lost, but was briefly glimpsed in the trailer, was a scene where Sir Lancelot rescued Guenevere from a forest bandit.
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The love scene between Guenevere (Cherie Lunghi) and Sir Lancelot (Nicholas Clay) was full of mosquitoes, causing even more discomfort.
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John Boorman wanted the movie to focus on the story, not the actors and actresses, so he cast relative unknowns. At the time, only Nicol Williamson was relatively familiar to American moviegoers.
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All of the armor used in the movie was hand made out of aluminium, primarily by British armorer Terry English. English custom-fit the suits of armor for the principal characters, but kept the overall style the same for members of different groups, especially prominent in the nearly "uniform" armor of the Knights of the Round Table. English can be seen in the movie during the tournament scenes. He is the blacksmith who looks up at Arthur (Nigel Terry) when the future King is chasing a thief and stops to contemplate filching a sword from the armorers' tent.
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Liam Neeson had never ridden a horse prior to working on this movie.
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Igrayne, The Lady of the Lake, and young Mordred were played by Writer, Producer, and Director John Boorman's real-life children: Katrine Boorman, Telsche Boorman, and Charley Boorman.
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According to Writer, Producer, and Director John Boorman's DVD commentary, the sword prop of Excalibur and the Holy Grail props, used in the movie, are in his house.
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The trial by combat set in the woods was originally to be the set for the Rivendel counsel chamber in John Boorman's version of "Lord of the Rings", which failed to get made.
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Max von Sydow was originally cast as Merlin.
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Dame Helen Mirren's breakout movie role. She was already a renowned Shakespearean stage actress.
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United Artists told John Boorman that he could cast anyone as Merlin except Nicol Williamson.
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The hand that holds Excalibur belongs to John Boorman's daughter Telsche, lying under water.
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The black smoke in Arthur's first siege on a castle was created by burning tires. It left black flakes on a nearby town.
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John Boorman didn't like how the balance was off, on Dolby sound mixes at various test screenings, so he changed the mix to mono.
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Polo ponies were used because they are easier to control than regular horses, and could be ridden with one hand while the other held a weapon.
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Liam Neeson and Dame Helen Mirren met on set of this movie and lived together for the next four years.
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The Charm of Making spoken by Merlin and Morgana, is an attempt at Old Irish that translates to: "Serpent's breath, charm of death and life, thy omen of making." The phonetic rendering, as spoken in the movie, is: /ana:l nathrakh, u:rth va:s bethud, dokhje:l djenve:/. In Irish, the phrase is: 'Anáil nathrach, ortha bháis bheatha, do thuar dhéanamh', which is pronounced similarly, but not exactly as in the movie.
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Most of the forest scenes and Excalibur (the sword) were backlit by green lights, giving it a magical quality.
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During the making of The Tailor of Panama (2001), Pierce Brosnan told Writer, Producer, and Director John Boorman that his "Excalibur" audition had been a disaster. After it ended, he couldn't get his battered old car to start, and that he had to abandon it, and walk home on a dismally wet day. When he got back to his small bedsit flat, he felt that the day had gone so badly, that he had considered quitting acting altogether.
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Guenevere's wedding dress was hand made from hundreds of beads. Young brides requested the dress to no avail.
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John Boorman had planned a movie adaptation of the Merlin legend as early as 1969. United Artists rejected his concept, offering him The Lord of the Rings instead. When that fell through, he went back to this movie.
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The flowers on the forest floor and the apple blossoms on the trees are natural. The forests were blocked off so the vegetation could not be trampled down.
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The fight between King Arthur and Sir Lancelot was filmed on the Powerscourt estate. The battle scenes in Sir Laurence Olivier's Henry V (1944) were also filmed there due to wartime restrictions in England.
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Reflectors were used to give the armor its glow, and they kept having a problem with camera reflections. Every time it rained, the armor had to be rubbed down so it wouldn't leave a residue.
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Some of the crew agreed that Gabriel Byrne's Irish accent made "One night with Igrayne" sound like "One night with your granny".
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The Camelot sets were usually bigger than the stage. Walls had to be cut out to accommodate it.
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Camelot shown from afar is a model reflected into camera with a mirror.
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Future Director Neil Jordan spent a considerable time on-set filming a "making of" documentary.
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This was shot so close to John Boorman's house, that it is the only time that he was able to sleep in his own bed throughout the entire shoot of a movie.
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The scene in the woods at night, where Merlin is with the young Arthur, was shot on a set, so the animals featured could be controlled.
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Nigel Terry was thirty-five when playing Arthur from a teenager to a twenty-to-thirty-something King, and then finally as an old man. Similarly, twenty-nine-year old Cherie Lunghi played Guenevere from teenager to full adult Queen to an old woman living out the rest of her life in quiet misery as a nun.
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Sir Sean Connery was briefly attached to play King Arthur in the early stages of the project. He played Arthur in First Knight (1995).
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Baby Arthur grabbing a hold of Igrayne's hair was a coincidence.
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Katrine Boorman and Cherie Lunghi did their own nude scenes, without the use of body doubles.
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All the forests shown in this movie are a mile away from John Boorman's house in Ireland.
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A remake, directed by Bryan Singer, spent years in development hell, until it was cancelled.
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The corridors of Camelot were extended by the use of a matte painting.
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To make it easier to do visual effects, this movie was shot in 1.85:1.
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When Merlin is trying to catch a fish, it was trapped underwater by blocking it off with stones.
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John Boorman had wanted to call this "Merlin", but CBS had a show called Mr. Merlin (1981), so they had exclusive usage of the "Merlin" name. It began shooting as "Knights", but Ridley Scott had registered "Knight" for a medieval epic, he was planning with Walter Hill, as his follow-up to Alien (1979). They were already shooting before they decided on "Excalibur".
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The red sun at the end was created with reflective disc with a lamp shining on it through a mirror. It was then superimposed.
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The roast rabbit, with which Perceval (Paul Geoffrey) tempted Sir Lancelot (Nicholas Clay), was real.
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This is the same director, and much of the same creative team, that put together Deliverance (1972).
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Zack Snyder named this movie as a big influence on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), to the point of making it the movie Bruce Wayne saw with his parents on the night of their deaths. He cast Ciarán Hinds as the main villain Steppenwolf in Justice League (2017).
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A fake crane shot was done during the discussion about creating the round table. It was achieved by walking backwards on a raised platform.
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A pipe was used to create the mist coming out of Morgana's (Dame Helen Mirren's) mouth, in the scene were Merlin (Nicol Williamson) creates a fog.
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According to Dame Helen Mirren, Writer, Producer, and Director John Boorman sacked dogs from this movie for not acting to his satisfaction. While they looked threatening, they didn't act as such.
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John Boorman used many of the same locations that he had used for Zardoz (1974). In fact, most of these are quite close to his house in Annamoe, County Wicklow, Ireland.
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Many actors had been mentioned for the part of Merlin, including Max von Sydow, Sir Sean Connery and oddest of all, Lee Marvin. The actor who John Boorman wanted most, was Donald Sutherland, but he was scheduled to do Ordinary People (1980).
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John Boorman revealed on the DVD commentary for The Tailor of Panama (2001) that Pierce Brosnan auditioned the role of King Lot.
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The location for the Duke of Cornwall's castle is now a housing estate.
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Sir Patrick Stewart (Leondegrance) is only twelve years older than his on-screen daughter Cherie Lunghi (Guenevere).
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In the legend, when King Arthur died in his final battle. His body was taken to his final resting place in the Isle of Avalon, where he was buried.
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This movie was referred to as "The Boorman Family Project".
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According to John Boorman, the love scene between Sir Lancelot and Guenevere in the forest, was filmed on a very cold night, but Nicholas Clay and Cherie Lunghi performed the scene nude anyway.
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Nicholas Clay also appeared, albeit in a very small role, in Merlin (1998).
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John Boorman bought the horse that Percival rides to champion Guenevere.
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The scene where Uther crosses in the mist, they used dry ice on a studio set.
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In the final battle scene before King Arthur (Nigel Terry) is saved by Sir Lancelot (Nicholas Clay), one of the other knights rears back to strike a foe and hits King Arthur on the back of the head with his sword. You can see it caused pain to Terry, who grabbed the back of his head, but continued fighting.
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Nicholas Clay, Nicol Williamson, Corin Redgrave, Robert Addie, and Niall O'Brien all died from cancer. Charley Boorman was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2010, and survived.
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Corin Redgrave (Cornwall) was the uncle of Natasha Richardson, who became Liam Neeson's wife.
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The shot with the Grail filling itself was achieved by pumping wine through a tube stuck through the bottom of the cup.
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Zack Snyder said that this is his favorite movie.
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The score with its dramatic Gregorian chant background was undeniably influenced by The Omen (1976). It used Carl Orff's "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana.
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During the discussion about creating the round table, the stars in the sky are superimposed.
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Excalibur (1981) is the movie Bruce Wayne and his parents go to see at the cinema in the opening credits sequence of Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).
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In the Doctor Who (1963) serial "Battlefield", The Doctor, and his companion Ace, encountered Morgana and Mordred from another dimension, where The Doctor is mistaken for Merlin. Nigel Terry appeared in Doctor Who (2005), and Cherie Lunghi appeared opposite Billie Piper in Secret Diary of a Call Girl (2007).
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Gold light was reflected on to the walls in Camelot.
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The round table was built in sections.
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Director of Photography Alex Thomson was a last minute addition. The original Director of Photography left the project at an early stage.
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The Powerscourt Estate location was also used for King Arthur (2004).
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Peter Benson had a featured role that was removed in post-production.
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Zack Snyder, who is a fan of this movie, referenced this movie in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), which, in the opening credits sequence, this movie is on the marquee at the theater which young Bruce Wayne saw his parents murdered by a mugger.
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Katrine Boorman was widely felt to be miscast as Igrayne.
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Michael Beck auditioned for the role of Sir Lancelot.
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Almost 20 years after the film's release, Liam Neeson starred as Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999). George Lucas, the writer and director and creator of the Star Wars film franchise had cited the legend of King Arthur as one of his influences behind Star Wars.
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Liam Neeson, Dame Helen Mirren, and Ciarán Hinds appeared in adaptations of DC Comics properties: Liam Neeson in Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Dame Helen Mirren in Red (2010) and Red 2 (2013), and Ciarán Hinds in Justice League (2017). Sir Patrick Stewart played Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men film franchise, based on the comics created by Marvel Comics.
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Nicol Williamson would later play an almost similar role in Spawn (1997) which he played Cogliostro, mentor of Al Simmons/Spawn (Michael Jai White).
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Liam Neeson's mother-in-law Vanessa Redgrave played Guenevere in Camelot (1967).
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This movie has a Star Wars connection: Creator George Lucas had cited the legend of King Arthur as one of his inspirations behind Star Wars. Charley Boorman's best friend Ewan McGregor played young Obi-wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). Liam Neeson played Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), and Keira Knightley, who played Sabe in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), played Guenevere in King Arthur (2004).
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Knightriders (1981), a movie that mixes motorbikes with Medieval customs, was released in the same year as this movie.
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Nigel Terry and Clive Swift later appeared opposite David Tennant in the revived series of Doctor Who (2005) (TV Series). In the final season of the classic series of Doctor Who (1963) (TV Series), The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and his companion Ace (Sophie Aldred) encountered Morgaine and Mordred whom come from another dimension and have come to their dimension to seek possession of King Arthur's sword Excalibur which they mistake The Doctor for Merlin and The Doctor and Ace discover King Arthur's body and Excalibur in a submerged spacecraft at the bottom of a lake.
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Liam Neeson and Ciarán Hinds played villains in movies featuring Bruce Wayne (Batman): Liam Neeson played Ra's Al Ghul in Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and Ciarán Hinds played Steppenwolf in Justice League (2017).
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Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

The graphic scene, in which Arthur is impaled with Mordred's spear, and then pulls himself towards Mordred, was mirrored in Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), when Shinzon, who is impaled with a pole, pulls himself toward Captain Picard. Sir Patrick Stewart plays Leondegrance.
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