11 Things You Never Knew About the Making of “The Black Stallion”
Nina Fedrizzi | July 23, 2015
It’s been more than 35 years since The Black Stallion film first captivated audiences around the world by bringing to life Walter Farley’s timeless story of Alec, the young boy shipwrecked on a deserted island alongside a wild Arabian stallion. This month, The Criterion Collection has released a new, Blu-ray edition of the movie, complete with interviews with director Carroll Ballard and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, bringing the tale to life once again for a new generation of horse lovers.
But no matter how many times you’ve seen this beloved flick, we’ve tracked down some fun facts that may surprise you. Here are 11 things you never knew about the making of The Black Stallion.
1. The film’s 12-year-old star, Kelly Reno, originally accepted the role of Alec in part because he wanted to learn how to swim.
(via youtube/The Criterion Collection)
Reno took lessons so he could film the movie’s underwater scenes.
2. The riding scenes, however, were a piece of cake.
Reno grew up on a ranch in southern Colorado. After injuries sustained from a serious car accident cut his acting career short, he returned to work as a cattle rancher for 20 years.
3. The Black Stallion was filmed at several locations around the world, including Toronto, Sardinia, and Rome’s Cinecittà Studios.
The movie’s shipwreck sequence took place in Cinecittà Studios’ huge outdoor water tank. Filming it took three weeks.
4. Four main horses were used to portray the Black throughout the film. The two most prominent were the Texas-bred Arabian stallion, Cass Ole, and his double, Fae Jur.
Cass Ole (via allbreedpedigree.com)
Cass Ole appears in 80 percent of the film’s shots, though he had white legs and a star that had to be painted black for filming.
5. Ironically, though, it’s Fae Jur that stars in two of the film’s most memorable scenes.
His independent streak and love of fake-fighting made him the first choice for the scenes where Alec befriends the Black on the beach, and also when the stallion protects him from a cobra.
6. Producers originally wanted the Egyptian racehorse El Mokhtar for the title role, but his owners wouldn’t negotiate.
They eventually relented, and El Mokhtar stars alongside Cass Ole in 1983’s The Black Stallion Returns.
7. For the swimming scenes, none of the actor horses were comfortable in the water, so the crew brought over horses from France’s Camargue region, which contains Western Europe’s largest river delta.
Camargue Horses (flickr.com/Philip Haslett)
Reportedly, the white horses were not much to look at and had to be painted entirely black before filming, but in the water, they were incredibly graceful.
8. The Black Stallion proved to be a cash cow for production company American Zoetrope.
Produced for about $4 million, it grossed roughly $38 million at the box office.
9. The film was produced by none other than Francis Ford Coppola, who used his Godfather clout to get The Black Stallion made.
Coppola may have needed the film to succeed more than he let on, however, after a typhoon wrecked his Apocalypse Now set the same year, leaving him severely behind schedule and over budget.
10. Francis’s father, Carmine Coppola, is responsible for the film’s beautiful score.
Carmine was nominated for two Golden Globes for Best Original Score in 1980, both for The Black Stallion and Apocalypse Now. Alas, the Vietnam War flick won the day.
11. Mickey Rooney was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Henry Dailey, a retired jockey who helps Alec train the Black for the movie’s final race.
Rooney also played the washed-up jockey, “Mi”, alongside Elizabeth Taylor in 1944’s National Velvet.
You can watch The Criterion Collection’s interview with The Black Stallion’s cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel, here:
Had an little adventure recently. We went to Las Vegas and you know what can happen in Vegas! But it wasn’t THAT Las Vegas, and it wasn’t what you think.
We were in Las Vegas New Mexico, a small city that was once a thriving entrance to the west and the biggest stop on the Santa Fe Trail.
There were always plenty of real cowboys in New Mexico. Did you know the word Rodeo is Spanish and the first rodeos were in Mexico?
This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Cowboy Reunion in Las Vegas! It’s quite a legacy that shows a small part of this multicultural historical city. The first Cowboy reunion and rodeo was in 1915 and horses were THE big deal.
This is the same city where Teddy Roosevelt gathered up some of his “Rough Riders” and changed the course of the nation and liberated Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. This was before he started the Panama Canal and gave Hawaii statehood, now that’s Presidential!
Here’s a few classic photos that show it’s about the ride, not whether it’s a cowboy or cowgirl. Ruth Bibb was one of the family founders and longtime rodeo rider. She’s in the race and not the only cowgirl competing. They say there were four groups in Vegas; Spanish, Anglo, Native American and real “Outlaws”. This made for a fast and dangerous race!
American Pharoah to victory, then donated winnings to charity
When it comes to horse racing, we tend to remember the names of the horses more than the jockeys, but here’s a jockey you really should know.
On June 6, American Pharoah became the first horse to win racing’s Triple Crown in 37 years.
It’s just the 12th horse in history to win all of the three major racing events in a single year — the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.
But there’s another part of this story you might not have heard about: the jockey.
American Pharoah’s jockey, Victor Espinoza, donated all his winnings from the Belmont Stakes to charity.
All of it. Reportedly $80,000.
The charity is City of Hope, and they fight cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other life-threatening illnesses.In an interview with ABC News, Espinoza casually mentioned his plans for the massive payday.”I won the Triple Crown right now, but I don’t make any money because I’m donating all the money to the City of Hope.”The group confirmed Espinoza’s plans to donate on their website, and included another statement from him:”Good health — that’s what I want for everyone. With good health, people can enjoy life and do those things that make them happy. By working to defeat cancer, City of Hope’s researchers and doctors are bringing a greater chance of health and happiness to people everywhere.”
American Pharoah’s trainer, Bob Baffert, also donated his Belmont winnings, splitting it between three charities.
Bob and Jill Baffert following American Pharoah’s win at the Belmont Stakes.
According to Louisville’s Courier-Journal, Baffert and his wife Jill will donate $50,000 to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, $50,000 to the California Retirement Management Account, and $50,000 to Old Friends Farm.
As the name would suggest, the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund provides financial assistance to former jockeys who have suffered severe on-track injuries. The California Retirement Management Account is a fund to care for retired racehorses. Old Friends Farm is a retirement facility for horses located in Georgetown, Kentucky.
Between Baffert and Espinoza, even those of us who aren’t fans of horse racing have quite a bit to cheer for.
Because at the end of the day, American Pharoah goes back to being a horse. A really cool horse and all, but still a horse.
Here’s a prime example of a cool horse.
His jockey and his trainer used their winnings to help save and improve some lives.
Years from now, when you think back on American Pharoah’s historic run, be sure to remember his team, too.