Tag: caleb deschanel

Leonard Maltin & Jeanne Rosenberg on the Black Stallion

Mickey Rooney as Henry Daily
Mickey Rooney as Henry Daily

Here’s an interview by my friend Elizabeth McCall at the Turner Classic Movie festival this summer. A wonderful screening of the Black Stallion film at the landmark Egyptian theater in Hollywood.
The movie was introduced by gifted screenwriter and equestrian wonder woman Jeanne Rosenberg and the renowned TCM film critic and historian writer Leonard Maltin.
Take a listen and drift away … back to riding alone on the beach!!

Elizabeth has done a LOT of great articles on horses!
Follow or friend; https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethKayeMcCall

Don’t forget to visit the shop for the special edition DVD or a Bucephalus of your very own :)

On the set in Italy

Black Stallion at the Egyptian Theater on Sunday!

Black Stallion Movie Poster
Black Stallion Movie Poster

A clean and sharp copy of “The Black Stallion” will be screened at the Egyptian Theater (map) in Hollywood on Sunday, April 29. It’s a bit early, 9:15am, but sure it will be a great show.
Screenwriter Jeanne Rosenberg and critic Leonard Maltin will introduce and discuss the film. Try to make it if you can. Only $20 for walk in seats!
It’s a beautiful theater and going to be a really fun time!
http://filmfestival.tcm.com/programs/films/the-black-stallion/

If you didn’t get to see Mel Brooks and “The Producers” at last night’s Gala (neither did I) here’s the skinny;

ROBERT OSBORNE AWARD/THE PRODUCERS ( 1968 )

SCREEN TO STAGE
6:30 pm

TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX
THE ROBERT OSBORNE AWARD: For the inaugural award, TCM will celebrate world-renowned filmmaker director Martin Scorsese and his longtime dedication to preserving and protecting motion picture history. This presentation will be made as part of the official Opening Night Gala and the screening of THE PRODUCERS (1968) to follow. THE PRODUCERS (1968): Mel Brooks once stated that one of his goals in life was to make Adolf Hitler a laughing stock. One of his first attempts in that direction was answering questions about his next project with “Springtime for Hitler.” Over time, however, he conceived of a failing Broadway producer (based on producers he had known or heard of) overselling shares in a guaranteed flop to outwit auditors with a musical romp about Hitler. Brooks was met with resistance as all of the major studios turned the film down as tasteless, as did Zero Mostel, who only agreed to star in the picture because his wife thought the script was funny. Distributor Joseph E. Levine agreed to back the film but didn’t want Brooks to direct, wanted to fire co-star Gene Wilder and, finally, didn’t want to release the film at all. It took urging from Peter Sellers, who had screened a print, to get it into theatres, where it flopped, even though Brooks went on to win an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Within a few years, however, college screenings had turned it into a cult hit, and it is now considered one of the funniest pictures ever made and went on to inspire a hit Broadway play. From Mostel’s seducing an elderly backer (Estelle Winwood) to get her money, through Wilder’s hysterical outbursts to the hilarious “Springtime for Hitler” number, the film is an almost non-stop barrage of inspired, off-beat humor. Restored in 4k by Studiocanal. (d. Mel Brooks, 88m)

MARTIN SCORSESE, MEL BROOKS, LEONARDO DICAPRIO

Here’s a recent (and funny) interview by Mel Brooks:

https://www.npr.org/2018/04/26/605297774/mel-brooks-says-its-his-job-to-make-terrible-things-entertaining

Son of Black Stallion 1947

Black Stallion movie on July 4th

Black_stallion_poster

Celebrating the 39th anniversary of the production start of “The Black Stallion”.
This is a fairly accurate description of the days, and weeks, and years that went into the making of the film. There are a few liberties he has taken and some things omitted to keep the story flowing, but all and all it takes me back to my younger days!
Thanks TMC and Roger Fristoe for this nice article on the making of the movie!

If you want a piece of the past for your very own take a Bucephalus home!

Behind the Camera On THE BLACK STALLION
Filming of The Black Stallion began in Toronto on July 4, 1977. The summer of 1977 in Canada was one of the wettest and hottest on record, and delays were caused by the torrents of rain that flooded the Woodbine Racetrack, creating a two-foot-deep layer of mud. At the end of August the film crew headed for the sunny Mediterranean, where they faced a new set of problems.

The first location in Sardinia was near the town of Marina di Arbus, where the horses were transported by a van containing portable stalls that were set up near the filming site, and the crew had to hand-carry the cameras and other equipment over the sand dunes. That situation was repeated at various other locations all over Sardinia, with exposure to sun, sand, sea and dysentery causing considerable discomfort for the crew. Other locations there included Capo Caccia, Capo Camino, Costa Paradiso, Cala Ganone and San Teodoro, which sported a mile-long stretch of fine white sand that was perfect for the boy’s first ride on the stallion. Temperatures in Sardinia could become quite cold, and Reno shivered through scenes where he wore little clothing and was often in the water.

A sequence that made everyone especially apprehensive in its filming was the one where the Black stomps and kills a cobra that is threatening Alec. A group of snakes was flown in from Milan with a handler, Carlo Guidi, who assured the filmmakers that his cobras had been milked of their deadly venom. Just in case, a special serum was kept on hand but, thankfully, did not have to be administered.

The last major segment to be filmed was the sinking of the ship at Rome’s Cinecitta Studios, which features a huge outdoor water tank. Two portions of the ship, an actual-size deck and stern, were designed by art director Aurelio Crugnola and assembled in the tank, a process that took three months. These were the largest sets ever built in the tank. The stern was set on a platform in the tank, with cables attached to pull it into the water as it sinks. Filming of the shipwreck sequence lasted three weeks.

The movie, at a cost of $4.5 million, took two years to complete, with shooting also done at various locations in the U.S. Kelly Reno, whose only trips outside Colorado had been to North Dakota and California, was chaperoned by his parents while visiting the widespread locations. Despite their presence, he became homesick and later noted that, “In Rome, I’d have paid $10,000 for a McDonald’s hamburger. You never know how much you want that if after a week all you get is spaghetti. And I had me a little wine, but after a week, I started drinking cokes again.”

Early in the shooting, the untrained Reno spoiled some takes by looking at the camera. He recalled Ballard telling him, “‘This is the way it is…do it.’ If I didn’t get it done, we’d just have to do it all over again. Lines weren’t a problem. I had a lot of them, but they weren’t in whole, long scenes. And I could put it in other words if the meaning was the same – that was all right with Carroll.” Reno did most of his own stunts, riding bareback and with a racing saddle, falling from a galloping horse and swimming with it. A stunt double stepped in only for racing scenes, when his character was to ride a thoroughbred running at top speed: “I was too small to hold him back.”

Reno recalled that his most difficult scene was the shipwreck, which happens during a raging storm and was shot at night. “They had wind and rain and fire and smoke,” he said. “I spent a lot of time in the tank, not being able to touch bottom, while they made these waves that came very far over my head.” As the boy and horse thrashed in the foreground, the realistic model ship was burnt and sunk headfirst in the tank. For such scenes, great demands were made of the horse playing the Black. The owners of Cass Ole had stipulated that he was not to be used in swimming, fighting or racing sequences, so other horses doubled for him in these and other challenging situations.

The main double was Fae Jur, the spirited horse from California that Ballard had once considered for the role of the Black. He is the horse in the memorable scene where Alec tempts the stallion with seaweed on the beach. Fae Jur’s naturally independent nature made his approaches and retreats very believable. He loved fake-fighting and also was used in the sequences where the Black stamps on a cobra and where the high-strung stallion strikes out at another horse just before the big race.

Junior and Star, two stunt horses owned by the Randall family, stepped in for Cass Ole when scenes required strenuous fighting, running, jumping and swimming. Star enacted the scene where the Black gets tangled in rope and caught between two rocks. He was so unconcerned about being tied up and forced to sit that Corky Randall had to toss pebbles at him to get him to simulate any kind of agitation.

None of the equine doubles liked being in the water, so horses were brought in from the lagoons of Camargue in France for the underwater shots of the Black swimming in the sea. Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel recalled in an interview that the swimming horses “had pot bellies and incredibly ugly faces.” But when they “came into the water and started swimming, they looked unbelievably graceful. They were the ugliest animals you’ve ever seen, but underwater…they were like Nijinsky.” The crew nicknamed these horses Pete and Repete because of the numerous takes required to get the appropriate underwater footage.

There is a scene in the water where the Black is swimming towards Alec and suddenly tips over in the waves, with his head underwater and his hooves pawing in the air. This was actually an accident captured on film, as too much force was applied to the guide bars attached to control the stunt horse’s movements. There was much alarm on the set as he sank below the surface, and great relief when he managed to right himself again and raise his head above the water. The crew of The Black Stallion was especially proud of the fact that, despite all the difficult stunts throughout filming, no horse was injured in any way.

Despite all the doubling, Cass Ole remained the star of the film and appears in about 80 per cent of the horse footage. He learned to express anger by putting his ears back, rearing on his hind legs and stomping the ground – and could also turn soft and loving on cue, nodding his head and giving pretend kisses to Reno. Even his facial expressions changed. “It was amazing,” said Corky Randall. “I never met a horse before who wanted to be an actor.” Only once did the stallion lose patience – during the bareback ride on the beach when Alec holds up his hands in triumph. Cass Ole suddenly bolted, giving Reno a much wilder ride than he expected. The crew was terrified for the boy, but he was a capable rider who lowered his hands to grab the horse’s mane and hang on for dear life.

Cass Ole was naturally black, although he had white markings on his pasterns and a white star on his forehead that had to be dyed before filming. During some scenes in the water the dye fades and one can glimpse suggestions of the white markings. Some of the horse doubles – including the swimming horses, which were white – had their entire bodies dyed black. Like many American horses Cass Ole had his mane trimmed into a “bridle path” that allows a bridle or halter to lie flat against the neck and head. Although he had the long mane typical of his breed, extensions were stitched into the hair of Cass Ole’s mane to hide the bridle path and create the luxurious, flowing mane that is seen on the screen.

Ballard credited Deschanel for many of the movie’s signature touches, especially during the first half of the film, when dialogue is minimal and the images are everything. “Caleb has a tremendous eye, and he can invent things right on the spot,” Ballard said. “Really, some of the neatest shots in the movie are things I didn’t even know he was shooting.” Neither director nor cinematographer had ever done any underwater work, and Deschanel improvised his equipment for those scenes. Ballard came to depend upon his associate to see him through tough times during filming. He recalled a particularly trying day when he was convinced the project “was a catastrophe. Caleb and I were walking together, trying to get back to the car, and we came across this river that just seemed to appear out of nowhere. We had to get across the river to get where we were going and Caleb said, ‘Come on, get on my back and I’ll carry you across.’ I’ll never forget it. He was kind of like that through the whole film.”

Concert composer William Russo was initially given the assignment of scoring The Black Stallion, but when he and Ballard couldn’t agree on what the music should be like, producer Francis Ford Coppola stepped in and hired his father, Carmine Coppola, who had scored his son’s Godfather movies. Carmine created an unobtrusive yet evocative score that was supplemented with music by Shirley Walker.

Author Farley had reservations about his signature story being filmed and feared that the novel might not translate successfully to a new medium. Happily, the movie exceeded his expectations in remaining true to the original and finding its own artistic identity. “They did a beautiful job,” he conceded. (A sequel, The Black Stallion Returns, filmed in Italy in 1983, failed to live up to the author’s standards. A new musical score by Georges Delerue is considered by some to be that film’s most impressive element.)

Once completed, The Black Stallion was shelved for two years by United Artists. Ballard recalled the studio “suits” complaining, “What is this, some kind of an art film for kids?” It took the full clout of Francis Ford Coppola to see that the film finally reached theaters. Many critics were ecstatic; Roger Ebert named the film the best of the year, and Pauline Kael described it as “proof that even children who have grown up with television and may never have been exposed to a good movie can respond to the real thing when they see it.” The movie quickly became a box-office hit and won two Oscar® nominations including one for Mickey Rooney, whose career resurgence at the time also included a Broadway triumph in Sugar Babies. New York magazine described him as “a figure out of a semi-mystical past,” and Rooney himself declared that “My cup runneth over.”

Among the innovations of sound editor Alan Splet, who won a special Oscar® for his work, was attaching microphones to the underside of the horse during the racing scenes to catch his actual hoof-beats and breathing. There was outrage in some quarters when Caleb Deschanel’s ravishing cinematography failed to even be nominated for an Academy Award. Deschanel, then 34, commented, “I’m disappointed. The fact that so many people told me I was sure to get the nomination has made it harder to take. On the other hand, who am I? I’m just a young punk making his name in this business…”

By Roger Fristoe

Want to read more? Click here.

Thanks for reading …. and writing!!

Horse Illustrated on Black Stallion’s 35th movie anniversary!

Bucephalus

Here’s a nice article on the Black Stallion in the movies written by our friend Elizabeth McCall.
This were great days in Italy with so much to see, do and learn. Very talented people working on a “small” film like Black Stallion was very, VERY exciting.
Let’s Do it Again!!

Life on the Set of the Black Stallion

Walter Farley’s son, Tim, talks about the filming of the movie just in time for its 35th anniversary.

By Elizabeth Kaye McCall | November 2014

Tim Farley was wrapping up his photography degree at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif., when his father Walter’s 1941 novel, The Black Stallion, began its transformation to the big screen. Francis Ford Coppola’s Academy Award-winning feature film was released 35 years ago this fall, and it remains a cinematic classic.

It’s the story of a young boy named Alec Ramsay, who is shipwrecked on a desert island with a wild Arabian stallion that he befriends and names The Black. After being rescued and later discovered by a veteran racehorse trainer, they enter a match race between two champions of the track. Inspiring millions when it debuted in 1979, the film’s exquisite portrayal of the horse-human bond is more appreciated than ever today.

The Black Stallion
Kelly Reno, who plays Alec, grew up riding and was a natural when it came to the bareback scenes.

When the movie first headed into production in 1977, Tim skipped his graduation ceremonies to work on it.

Were you there from the start?
I had the honor of working on the movie from the very first days. I met director Carroll Ballard when he and my dad were looking for an Arabian stallion to play The Black. I was still in college. I went to talk to Carroll and to Fred Roos, the producer, to see if I could get a job. Of course, they said I could have a job. They didn’t say they would pay me at first. I was a 21-year-old kid who knew nothing about making movies.

What did you do?
My screen credit was production assistant, but with only about 30 of us on crew, I did a little bit of everything. My first job was working in the office. The film was in preproduction at that point, and one of my assignments was to make copies of all the script changes for the crew. However, I also ran off an extra set of copies to send to my dad! They weren’t real happy with that. Everyone was wondering, “Where is he getting all this information?” I was his mole!

But actually my dad is the one who came up with the fun sequence in the jockey’s room before The Black races. It became a humorous scene in the movie, because they kept adding weight to this little kid. The way the script was originally written had Alec sneaking weight into his pockets, or putting on a weight belt or something. My dad said, “Nobody would ever do that because the officials add all the handicap weight jockeys must carry before a race. They would never sneak weight.” He came up with some helpful ideas.

What was it like being on the set?
They probably wouldn’t make a film like that these days. It was shot almost like a documentary, with a small crew on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. That’s why the footage is so different. Those scenes with the magic of the boy and the horse getting to be friends on the island really did happen. I was one of the lucky people there watching a young Kelly Reno portray Alec Ramsay, together with Cass Ole as The Black.

It was exciting. Even though we had to take cold showers! Working on those beach sequences, there were no hotels out there. We stayed in an empty school with cold-water showers. Every once in a while you’d see a tourist come through for an hour or two, but we were pretty far out. Almost all the locations were like that.

How were those galloping-on-the-beach scenes filmed?
We had do to a lot of tracking shots, like sequences of The Black running down the sand bar, especially when Alec’s learning to ride and keeps falling off. But, we couldn’t say, “Oh we need some dolly track here for 500 yards and we have to go 30 mph.” So, how are you going to do that? Well, they came up with a Citroën 2CV; it’s like a French version of a Volkswagen Beetle. With one wrench you can take apart the whole thing. We took the doors off and took the seats out. We used that as our [camera] dolly to race down the beach because the horse was going pretty fast. We had to kind of wing it.

What stands out?
Probably the “tag” sequence, when Alec first rides The Black. The scenes where he gives the horse a little bit of the seaweed, then they start following each other back and forth, and pretty soon, he gets on the back of the horse to ride—and keeps falling off. Those scenes on the beach were magical. Also, at the end of the movie where you see that big double rainbow and the horse rolls on the ground and Kelly [Reno] rolls on the ground. It was totally impromptu. It’s during the credit roll at the very end of the film.

The budget on The Black Stallion wouldn’t even pay for most TV commercials these days. I think that the actual budget, including advertising, was under $15 million.

You took lots of photos on set. How was shooting Cass Ole?
He and Kelly had a good relationship because they spent so much time together before the movie started, but Cass Ole was kind of like the character of The Black. He was very independent, knew he was gorgeous, and that everybody loved him. He’d take control if you’d let him. On the other hand, Cass was gentle with Kelly. He didn’t run off, and he could have several times. That’s saying something about Corky Randall too. Corky trained Cass for months to be able to work him at liberty and have him listen to voice commands to come back. When Corky would call and crack his whip, Cass would come to him no matter where he was.

What else was memorable?
The most memorable days for me were on the island. It took us months to get some of those shots. It was almost like in the movie—when Alec arrives back in America, that first sequence when he’s in a real bathroom with running water contrasted with being on the island for months. That’s kind of what happened to us too.

It was fascinating driving to the set daily with Mickey Rooney in Toronto, the location for our 1940s New York scenes. Mickey had been in a long career slump, but The Black Stallion brought him an Oscar nomination and he returned to the stage.

The Black Stallion
Corky Randall trained Cass Ole to come with the crack of a whip.

Here’s to the 35th anniversary. What’s ahead?
We’re still working on getting that next feature, The Black Stallion Revolts, into production. I’d also love to see them re-issue an enhanced version of the film. There’s a lot of footage no one’s ever seen. If you put that together with the extra footage from The Black Stallion Returns, all the outtakes and deleted scenes and so forth, they could make a three-day Movie of the Week for TV or come up with a great boxed set on Blu-Ray.

Speaking of Blu-Ray …
On March 18th, the HD version of The Black Stallion feature film came out on Blu-Ray disk. That’s big news for the fans. It’s an MGM/UA film, but a www.foxconnect.com release. You can find it on www.theblackstallion.com.

ELIZABETH KAYE McCALL is an author, journalist, and media consultant based in Los Angeles, Calif., specializing in the horse industry, travel and entertainment. Her new children’s book about a talking horse, Rajalika Speak, was inspired by her own Egyptian Arabian stallion that “speaks on request.”

President and creator of TheBlackStallion.com, the official Black Stallion fan site, TIM FARLEY is based in Florida, where he furthers the spirit of The Black Stallion legacy along with his work as co-founder of the HorseTales.org literacy program.

Another article from Horse Channel coming soon!