Legendary thespian SIR Laurence Olivier was paid the modern equivalent of $2.4 million (GBP1.4 million) not to make another film during the release of HENRY V - in case it was more successful than the Shakespearean drama.

New documents released by Britain's National Archives show the Oscar-winning actor and director was embroiled in a bitter row with the UK Government's Inland Revenue in the wake of the pay-out, because it feared that not taxing the lump sum would set a precedent for "film stars and other highly remunerated persons".

The film's producers feared that if Lord Olivier made another movie while Henry V was in cinemas, audiences would prefer the one "requiring less mental effort" rather than sit through the patriotic tale of England's 1415 military campaign in France.

Olivier was paid $25,500 (GBP15,000) not to work after the film was completed in 1944 - a sum just short of the $34,000 (GBP20,000) he was paid to star in and direct it.

Olivier appeared before tax commissioners, the High Court and the Court of Appeal to successfully defend the bizarre covenant, denying it was a tax dodging exercise.