The Mask of Zorro
is an adventure that begins with a young Don Diego de la Vega
fighting oppression as the legendary Zorro. Twenty years
pass. Don Diego must now find a successor to stop the tyrant,
Raphael Montero, who years earlier left him to rot in prison.
He chooses Alejandro Murietta, a known bandit, and transforms
him into the fearless romantic hero he once was to carry on
the legacy of Zorro.
Who was that Hero Horse?
A magnificent black stallion named Casey played
Zorro’s beautiful horse, Tornado. In the film, the horse is
referred to as an Andalusian, but Casey is actually a
Friesian. Two other horses, Duke and Fedde, doubled for Casey
in some of the scenes.
Star Studded Performance:
It is unusual in the horse world for a stallion to be
used for performance purposes. Stallions are hormone driven
and can be dangerously powerful creatures. They are
territorial around other horses and can be aggressive in the
presence of mares. They are often unpredictable and high
strung. However, Casey is an exceptional animal actor who has
remarkable trust in his trainer, Bobby Lovegren, and was able
to socialize well on the set and accomplish the stunts
required of his character, Tornado.
Zorro rides back onto the silver screen.
Horses, Horses Everywhere….
used throughout the film performing many stunts. Trained
rearing and jumping horses were used with professional
wranglers and stuntmen doubling for the actors. For some of
the close-up, point-of-view shots, a fake mechanical horse was
used, built specially to double for the hero horse. Horse
make-up included water based non-toxic dye to match the stunt
horses. For the hero horse, Tornado, hair weaves were added to
the mane to give him a particularly opulent look. These were
not permanent and were easily removed.
In the opening sequence of the film,
trained horses were used to climb stairs and ramps surrounding
the walls of the city, as Zorro rescues innocent prisoners
from a firing squad. Zorro’s horse jumps across the rooftops
and rears atop a building with the setting sun as a backdrop.
This sequence was filmed in cuts and the trained rearing horse
was walked up specially designed stairs reinforced to hold its
weight. A special railing was built for the jump (which was
approximately four feet across) and was also performed by a
trained jumping horse. Padding was laid to protect the
horse’s footing. Rearing was filmed separately of the crowd
and an experienced rider was used. For the sword work done
while on horseback, or swords seen as costume pieces for
riders, prop plastic swords were used.
Zorro makes a
leap from the balcony to land in the saddle of his horse and
make his getaway. The scene was shot in cuts and a stunt man
doubled for the actor. The horse was prepped for this stunt
and additional padding was used under the saddle. The height
from which the stuntman jumped was not as great as it
Free or “At Liberty” Horse Work:
When Spanish guards ride into the marketplace with a
“wild” horse in tow, the horse breaks free and rears.
Alejandro, impressed by the beauty of the animal, rushes in,
calming the horse before the guards retrieve the steed. This
is only one instance of work done by horses working free of
human contact, or “at liberty” throughout the film. For this
free work, the horses were trained with visual signals, sound
cues and food rewards. To insure safety, five wranglers were
stationed surrounding the marketplace. Two key trainers, one
at point A and one at point B, gave the cues for the horse to
run, rear and calm down. In later scenes when horses are seen
running free, the procedure is the same, but the outlying
wranglers are on horseback acting as pick up riders.
All Fired Up
Alejandro is determined to
make the wild horse his own and breaks into the Cuartel, the
guard barracks, to steal the horse. The horse explodes with
energy, kicking and rearing, destroying bunk beds and doors as
he and the heir-apparent Zorro escape. Before leaving, Zorro
sets off a cannon to hold back the guards demolishing the
entire Cuartel in flames. For this scene, two trained rearing
horses were used in rotation, along with professional
stuntmen. The bunk beds and the doors that the horse strikes
were made of light balsa wood and glue with no nails or screws
used. Special rubber pads that looked like tile were used on
the floors for sound footing and a rubber sword was used on
the saddle for safety. Sound effects of horse’s hooves on tile
were added in post-production. The scene was shot in cuts and
no horses were on set when the explosions or fire were being
used. Sounds of frightened horses whinnying was added in
In a chase
scene where the guards pursue Zorro through the woods there
are a great many stunts and difficult riding scenes. Before
filming, the roads over land and through the woods were
prepared and cleared of any debris. Since there was some heavy
running, the chase was actually done as many short, fifty-yard
runs and the horses were changed out frequently and given lots
During this chase, Zorro not only rides two
horses at once in a standing position, but also jumps a log
and lands again atop the two horses that galloped underneath
the fallen tree trunk. Specially designed tack and padded
roman saddles were used for the stunt. The horses were trained
to run under the log in pre-production. There were actually
very few rehearsals on-set and the scene was accomplished in
one take. For additional safety, the galloping was really done
at a controlled lope and speeded up in post-production.
Throughout the sequence, pick up riders were placed in key
positions as a precautionary measure.
During the major battle at the gold mine,
there was lots of gunfire, swordplay, explosions and fire. For
the gunfire, either quarter loads were used or flash guns,
which had no sound. When quarter loads were used, horses’ ears
were protected with cotton. Flash explosives were also used
with sound effects added in post-production. Zorro and his
archenemy, Montero, engage in a violent sword fight near a
wagon team. The fight was actually staged with prop swords and
the sound of the metal striking was added in post-production.
During the fight, a sword strikes the wagon rigging and the
horses bolt away. Wranglers, out of camera range, held the
horses that were prepped for the action. The harness was a
specially designed breakaway rig that fell away as the horses
were released. When the wagon is filmed going over the cliff,
or when the fire and explosions were being filmed no horses
action consisted of horses pulling wagons, oxen pulling a
grinding stone at the gold mine and some background livestock.
In scenes where the wagons are giving chase, experienced
drivers and wranglers handled the horse teams with pick up
riders present. The grinding stone that the oxen pull was
actually a styrofoam prop, preventing any stress to the oxen.
Background animals were placed and cared for by experienced
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