Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: sailing my ship
For Seabiscuit fans--Hot to Trot article from the NY Post
HOT TO TROT
By MEGAN LEHMANN--NY Post
July 23, 2003 -- A horse is a horse of course, of course, but the feisty little red bay star of "Seabiscuit" was something else altogether - and it took a stable of ponies to portray him.
Eight different Thoroughbreds were required to bring to the screen the many moods and behaviors of the knock-kneed upstart who defied the odds to become an inspirational hero to Depression-era America.
The resulting performance manages to upstage the rest of the cast, including Tobey Maguire, who was paid $12 million for the role.
While the fastest five were used for the racing scenes - a fleet-footed charger called I Too Step Two became the go-to race horse - the others specialized in portraying Seabiscuit's various quirks.
"We taught those behaviors," the movie's "horse wrangler," Rusty Hendrickson, told The Post. "They're not acting, they're more reacting - reacting to stimulus off-camera or to what a trainer is doing."
In the movie, which opens Friday, Seabiscuit is introduced as a lazy, obstinate horse that's been mistreated and, having lost his first 17 races, is considered good for nothing.
He's sold for a pittance to self-made millionaire Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) who - along with the trainer Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) and a brawling, half-blind jockey named Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire) - helps Seabiscuit realize his full potential.
One of the most affecting aspects of this stirringly authentic horse-racing movie - based on Laura Hillenbrand's runaway best-seller, "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" - is the personality Seabiscuit displays.
Whether he's basking in the sun like a cat or looking genuinely pleased to see Red after a long absence, he's one of the more fully realized characters of the summer movie season.
Hendrickson was responsible for casting the four-legged actors - one was picked for his tendency to rear and buck, for example, while another was chosen for his lethargy.
"We were lucky that Seabiscuit was a pretty average-looking horse," says Hendrickson, a 49-year-old Montana rancher who was also head wrangler on "Dances With Wolves," "Wyatt Earp" and "All the Pretty Horses."
Hendrickson spent last spring scouring the country for horses that fit the bill: They had to be no more than 15 hands high and look similar, although some of them eventually required makeup to disguise facial differences.
The horse that gets the most on-screen time as Seabiscuit is a retired runner named Fighting Furrari, who Hendrickson found in Ohio.
Fighting Furrari is the horse moviegoers see in the winner's circle and the one Red Pollard recuperates with after both get injured.
"He was more photogenic than the others, more interesting to look at," Hendrickson says.
"By no means was he the greatest race horse of the bunch, but he was good to handle; he's sweet-natured and likes people.
"And he was one of the horses we really trusted with Tobey - he rode Fighting Furrari quite a bit, even on the race track at race speed."
A total of 45 horses were needed for the movie - plus one mechanical horse Maguire rode in a number of race scenes.
Four horses portrayed War Admiral, the enormous Triple Crown winner who was Seabiscuit's No. 1 foe.
The risk of working with animals who don't follow a script was highlighted during the filming of the centerpiece match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral.
War Admiral was supposed to lose the race, but Cobra Flight, the horse chosen to play him in that scene, insisted on winning - and the scene had to be shot three times.
Once filming wrapped, only one returned to racing, while others were sold or had homes found for them. The horse that plays Pumpkin, Seabiscuit's palomino buddy, went home with Hendrickson.
"There were a lot of nice horses," he says, "but there was just something I liked about him."