When animal handler Jed Edge took a cobra to see Steven Spielberg, as he recruited for Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Hollywood director stopped the Sutton man from getting too close.

Mr Edge said: “I showed him how I could handle it and he said ‘keep that away from me’.”

As filming took place in the London studios Mr Edge, who had supplied 7,000 snakes for the Well of the Souls scene, recalled Harrison Ford as “not scared in the least, a real up and go man, really nice”.

But actress Karen Allen, who played Indiana’s former lover Marion Ravenwood, was not as bold.

When she was too scared by the slithering serpents, Mr Edge’s son Steve, now a successful London-based graphic designer, volunteered to shave his legs and don a skirt as her leg double.

Mr Edge, 80, has now been immortalised in paint after his grandson Ben Edge, 23, a fine art graduate living in Hackney, captured his character in a portrait now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery.

The portrait is now one of 56 paintings selected from 1,901 entrants as part of this year’s BP Portrait Award exhibition.

Mr Edge said: “They used to call me the snake wrangler.

“It was brilliant working on the film, really nice.

“I think Ben's portrait is fantastic, he’s a really good artist. I’m very lucky to have such talented sons and grandchildren.”

Mr Edge, who has three sons and 10 grandchildren and worked at Smithfield meat market for 40 years as a “day job” while he helped out on films.

He handled an alligator in George Lucas’ Star Wars, where a plane crashes in Yoda’s jungle home, and various birds of prey and lurchers in the 1985 film The Shooting Party.

He has also kept a puma, chimpanzee, crab-eating macaque monkey, dozens of lizards, snakes and spiders at home.

As a 17-year-old his first pet was a lion, which he had swapped for a motorbike.

Grandson Ben, a musician with band the Spivs, said: “He’s quite a character. He always had loads of animals in his flat, like cobras, tarantulas and black widows. I always wanted to do his portrait. It’s quite an honour.”

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