Learning To Be A Cowboy
To prepare the young cast of mostly "city kids" for their roles, the filmmakers sent the actors to cowboy camp for a month before shooting began in Austin, 'Texas.
Director Les Mayfield and co-producer David Robinson also spent time at the camp learning to ride with the actors. "'This was my first time working with horses," admits
Mayfield. "I love them and I hate them. Luckily, the camera loves horses. These animals just look wonderful on film."
"When my agent called me and told me that I got the movie, I was so excited but then realized I had to learn how to ride a horse," admits
McCormack. " The producers called me and said, 'You know how to ride a horse, right?' I responded with attitude: 'I'm from New Jersey,' which doesn't mean anything. It just means that I'm from New Jersey. But it turned out riding isn't that hard. Plus these movie horses are really good."
Lifelong horseman Scott Caan didn't need riding lessons, but he enjoyed the other aspects of cowboy training.
"We all learned how to twirl our guns and flip 'em and do cool dismounts and get on the horses quick and run and trot and rear up."
Working with the horse wranglers, doing drills, going on trail rides and learning to handle weapons provided plenty of time for the cast to bond. "It was a beautiful time," remembers Farrell. 'We practiced roping and shooting authentic weapons. We even
learned a few things -- like bullets replaced black powder after the Civil War."
The gun training included homework. "They gave us each a prop gun. I just sat in front of the TV at home, if I had the remote in one hand, I'd be throwing the gun with the other," explains
Farrell. "Just playing with it as much as possible to learn how to handle it flawlessly."
One of the members of the gang was particularly good with the guns and earned a nickname from the wranglers. "They call me 'Secret Weapon'," admits Gregory Smith. "I picked up roping, slinging guns and riding horses pretty fast. I have a bit of an addictive personality so I don't stop until I get it down. Anytime the camera's not rolling, I'm usually in the corner practicing."
The director was very proud of the work his cast did at the cowboy camp. "Before camp, Colin couldn't ride to save his life," remembers Les
Mayfleld. "By the end of the movie, he could outride the stunt guys. Once again, his fearless 'I can do it' attitude infuses his characterization of Jesse James."
Veteran movie horse wrangler Jack Lilley, who served as a historical consultant on the film, and his company, Texas-based
Movin' On Live Stock, provided fifteen vintage wagons and
stagecoaches for the film, as well as over two hundred horses and nearly as many cattle. The team of wranglers on the film was not only responsible for training the actors but also for the care and
training of the livestock. It took three blacksmiths to keep all the horses in shoes and the heard ate close to 200 bales of hay a day. (Two representatives from the American Humane Association
monitored their care and working conditions.)
The wranglers were also responsible for casting the right horse for each lead actor. "I rode a beautiful quarter horse called
Milagro," says Farrell. "He's a sixteen-year-old acting horse. lie has a better resume than
"Chester was my horse and I grew very attached to him," Scott Caan recalls fondly. "When he heard 'Action,' he knew it was time to work. After doing a specific action twice, like running a hundred yards and making a left turn, he remembered where to go.
Not everyone was lucky enough to ride the same horse throughout the film. "I went through four horses," admits Gabriel
Macht. "The first one was Drifter. He hurt his tendon, so he retired to the barn. Next, they put me on Winchester, whose color was close to Drifter's, but he was<
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