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THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK

How To Be A Musketeer

The word Musketeer doesn't just conjure up long hair, mustaches and high boots; it's also synonymous with swordfighting and horse-riding. Two disciplines in which all the leading men were trained by Swordmaster William Hobbs and Horsemaster Mario Luraschi, both during the preparation and the shooting of the film. For some of them, it was a discovery, for others a simple brushing up of acquired skills, but for all, it seems to have been a pleasure.

Jeremy Irons was amongst those already familiar with both disciplines: "I'd done some swordfighting a very long time ago. It's always nice to practice a skill again and I wish we'd done more really. I enjoyed that a lot as well as the riding. I always like it when there's the opportunity to do things in a movie." John Malkovich wasn't quite a neophyte either, having used a sword in films like The Libertine, Dangerous Liaisons and others, and ridden a horse in a film called Le Roi des Aulnes.

Leonardo DiCaprio was new to both riding and swordfighting, but took it all in his stride: "The sword fighting was great. I go to stand in a field and battle with big Johnny Malkovich. It's like anything else. It's like the dancing that I had to do in this film and the mannerisms of the King, all the things that go along with the period. You just have to practice it to the point where you look comfortable doing it and maybe even take it a step further."

For Gabriel Byrne, it's all about attitude: "I've learned from theatre and it's something that I understood immediately when I was reading this script that half the playing of a character can be in the perception of it. d'Artagnan running down staircases with a sword and jumping off battlements is not what he's about. It's enough to show in one or two very succinct movements what he is capable of, and people talk about him in a way that leaves no doubt that, if he's pushed, he's an incredibly dangerous and agile foe. That's a nice way of saying that I didn't do too much sword fighting!"

He may not have done much actual swordfighting but, in a scene where d'Artagnan has to fend off an angry crowd throwing a cartful of rotten vegetables at him, Byrne successfully sliced his way through the offending food with a sword, take after take.

For Leonardo DiCaprio, the task was slightly complicated by having to also learn how to be king. An expert in etiquette was hired, at his request, to help him with this rather extinct art, as DiCaprio explains: "Basically, Louis XIV set a standard throughout France for his mannerisms and the etiquette at the court and if you didn't go along with it, you were taken out of the palace and you wouldn't be in his entourage anymore. That goes for the dancing too. If you didn't know how to dance, you were also 'fired.' It was that strict at the time, so I definitely wanted to get an overall sense of it. I didn't want to be doing things wrong. I didn't want to make it look like there was no big deal that he was the king. He took all this very seriously. So I did have somebody who helped me out a lot with the mannerisms and the etiquette of the time, especially for King Louis, which I thought was very important to have."

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