ALISON LOHMAN on 'FLICKA' Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
October 13, 2006
In the family film Flicka, a headstrong teenage girl (Alison Lohman) who seems to be perpetually at odds with her parents (Maria Bello and Tim McGraw) finds a kindred spirit in a wild mustang that she discovers on her family's ranch. But when her father sells the fiery and uncontrollable horse to a rodeo, she takes it upon herself to embark on a mission to liberate her four-legged friend.
In this interview, Alison Lohman, whose apprehension of horses gave her pause about doing the movie, talks about working with her equine co-stars--from using her singing to soothe the savage beasts, to getting thrown by a horse that found her riding skills questionable.
MEDIA: How would you describe your character?
ALISON: She's opinionated and she's different from the rest of her classmates. When she wants something, she's fierce, and I don't think that many people are in touch with that emotion. So when people see it, they're surprised by it, and maybe people don't know how to handle that. But that's the beauty of her. That's why I was attracted to her--she has that kind of driven, determined spirit.
Her refusal to conform gets her in trouble at school. Could you relate to any of that personally?
I kind of was a little bit the same way. Like I failed my acting class when I was in ninth grade because I was shy and I didn't get up, and I gave these dramatic performances that the teacher didn't want me to do. It was like the only C I got. I had straight As.
Have you had contact with that teacher since you've gotten into acting professionally?
Four years later, I did Romeo and Juliet, and this was when I was like 17. And she saw it, and came up to me after and said, "I apologize for everything."
What attracted you to Flicka?
I just liked the story. I think the characters were beautifully written. I really enjoyed [director Michael Mayer] and the movie that he made before, Home at the End of the World. And he had done theatre, and I respected that. And I met him, and I really thought that he understood the material, and I thought he could have a deep understanding [of] this family relationship.
Had you ever been on a horse before in your life?
[No.] That was a whole nother story. That was one of the reasons why I didn't want to do the movie.
You were afraid of horses?
Yeah. I was very afraid. When I would watch movies, it looks so graceful, it's so beautiful. And then when you get up to this horse and you're standing next to the horse, the horse is so huge that you just honestly think that there's no way that it can happen. And I didn't think that it could happen. I mean, at one point, two weeks into the training, I called my agent and said, "I can't do this movie."
Didn't anyone give you a few words of encouragement?
See, I heard all these horror stories at the time that I was doing the movie. It was like everybody would tell me their horror story--they broke this and that. And that's what I was so scared about. I didn't want to break my neck for a movie.
Did a horse throw you at any point during production?
I got thrown, yeah. But it wasn't bad. I just kind of somersaulted out of it. But what was really hard was the trotting, because it compressed my spine to the point where I got a pinched nerve, and I couldn't ride. So they gave me two weeks downtime, and then I got back on the horse.
What did you think of the whole "call of the wild" theme in the movie?
Well, that was part of the story that really resonated with me--the preservation of what is natural and free and wild in us, in our souls, and the relation between that and nature.
How many horses were used to portray Flicka?
I think there were six. But I only worked with, I think, three.
Did they get to know you?
Well, one of the Flickas got to know me and didn't like me, and that's why I was thrown off. Because this Flicka knew...I swear, this horse...We didn't get along, to be honest. I mean, this horse knew that I couldn't ride him. And when horses know that, they'll take any chance to tell you, "Look, get off me. You don't know what you're doing."
Did you do any of the stunts involving your character?
Most of it was me. I think there might have been one stunt in there when the horse kind of goes up on his hind legs and then comes down on me...That wasn't me for part of it.
In one scene, your character sings to Flicka. How did the horses actually react to your singing in real life? Did they really stop and stare, or just walk away?
[laughs] It was interesting. And we got this on camera, thank God. We didn't know what the horse would do, right? That was the beauty of it--that it was all spontaneous. And we wanted the horse to come to me when I started singing. But obviously, sometimes the horses come to you [early], or they're still standing there. And it was great because I started singing, and it was literally like the horse was listening, and [it] slowly, tentatively, walked over. It wasn't like a run. It was so like the perfect actor. It was great. I love working with animals.
This wasn't the horse that was disagreeable with you, was it?
This was a different horse, yeah. The disagreeable horse was like all over the place. That's why they loved him, because he had that wildness.
Did the experience of making this movie give you a desire to go horseback riding again?
Right away, when I finished the film, no. But now, probably.
How did you feel about playing a teen who is some ten years younger than you?
I think if I can get away with it, I'm happy to be a part of that. But at the same time...I want to make sure that I do really understand what it's like to be 17. Otherwise, you're not giving a realistic portrayal. And I don't know if I could do another part like this. I remember, when I was doing it, thinking, "This is probably going to be the last one that I might be attracted to doing."
Would you say you were rebellious as a teen?
I wasn't very rebellious. I mean, I would say I was somewhat of a loner, but that's not being rebellious. I kept to myself. I was too quiet. I was too shy to be outspoken. I wanted to speak my mind...And that's why I really like this movie, because it will help girls to kind of open up in that way.