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Let me ask you, Jack. When you first met Burton, and the two of you were attacked and wounded... (John Hanning Speke: Yes?) Did you ever read his official report to the army afterwards? (John Hanning Speke: There's a report? No, I never saw it.) What happens that I've read it, he makes no mention of you, except to say that you were an inexperienced young officer who acted in a somewhat cowardly manner, while under attack. (John Hanning Speke: He couldn't have written that.) But did. You won't see that report, but neither will anyone else. I've had it destroyed. (John Hanning Speke: I saved his life.) Of course, you did. If he slandered you once, he shall do it again. Especially now when the stake is so high.
~ Larry Oliphant lying to John Hanning Speke about Richard Burton slandering him.

Laurence "Larry" Oliphant is the main antagonist of the 1990 historical drama film Mountains of the Moon. He is an unscrupulous writer who plans to get rid of Richard Burton by using John Hanning Speke to take credit for finding the Nile River's source for himself.

He was portrayed by Richard E. Grant.

Role

When Burton delivers a speech to the Royal Geographical Society to solicit funds for another expedition, Larry asks his father, Lord Oliphant how well the Speke family would do. Although Lord Oliphant tells him that Burton would be a great publisher, Larry tells him that he's Irish, but his father tells him that David Livingstone is Scottish.

At dinner, Larry tries to insult Burton, but Burton verbally jousts him. The next day, Larry begins a campaign to publish Speke’s letters home during his upcoming expedition, because whoever finds the Nile’s source will become rich and famous than any officer in the army. He later goes horse riding with Speke to a pond and asks him about his impression of Burton, to which Speke explains that those who served him loved him. Larry explains to Speke that Burton led to him getting his wounds from the Somalis, but Speke tells him that it was worth it before they head back to his mansion.

At their house, Larry explains to his father that they would have to accept Speke and they will have to publish his findings if they make a contribution to the Royal Geographical Society. Lord Oliphant opposes to the idea, but Larry explains that Speke would make a great writer, since he's English and Lord Oliphant reluctantly agrees to sign the decree.

When Speke returns from his expedition after he finds Lake Victoria, which he claims is the main source of the Nile, he reunites with the Oliphants. Speke introduces Larry to his journals and Lord Oliphant informs them that an assembly by the Royal Geographical Society is called for tomorrow. Speke is concerned about Burton not being at the assembly and Lord Oliphant leaves. As he closes the door, Larry lies to Speke that Burton slandered him and informs him that nobody will see his report, as he claims that he destroyed the book.

Lord Houghton informs Burton about Speke's betrayal and that he's taking credit for finding the Nile's source as he's being ridiculed by Larry, but Burton refuses to criticize Speke, since he saved his life several times.

2 years later, after a play of Speke's Lake Victoria has been performed, Speke is called onto the stage and tells a story of "God Save the Queen". Isabel is very annoyed by Speke's fame, but Burton still refuses to attack him for his betrayal.

Later, Speke is given Burton's old report and is informed that Burton actually credited him for saving his life. As he heads for the Royal Geographical Society to meet Burton, Larry informs him that a great number of journalists around England are coming after the turnout, but Speke berates him for his deception. At the Royal Geographical Society, Isabel informs Speke that he will lose the debate and tells him that Burton respects him.

When Speke returns to his family estate and goes hunting, he commits suicide by shooting himself. The next day, Burton and the Royal Geographical Soceity are informed about the incident. After Burton finishes his speech, he leaves the council and the crowd interrogates him. Larry accuses him of murdering Speke and that they will write books about his murder, but Burton pins him against a wall and tells him that it is not what they write. Burton walks away and Larry claims that he will also be dead as the crowd follows him.

Trivia

  • Like his real-life counterpart, his actor was also born in South Africa.
  • Although he opposed to Richard Burton being Irish, he was actually English in real-life.
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