PLUS: RYAN’S RAVE, KEEPING IT SIMPLE WITH CHRIS BARTLE, KERRY MACK TALKS SAFETY, SUZIN WELLS’ PARA TRIUMPH, LONG-DISTANCE DRESSAGE, GLENHILL SPORTHORSES, BELLA MOWBRAY’S CALIFORNIAN VENTURE, THE HORSES BEHIND ‘THE HARDER THEY FALL’ & A VET’S LOOK AT JAW FRACTURES.
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A Few Words
FROM THE PUBLISHERS
PARIS PELOTON MOVES GO CRAZY
BY HEATH RYAN
ANDREW & TOSCA: THE CREAM RISES TO THE TOP
BY ADELE SEVERS
STUART & ‘JOSIE’ SCALE NEW HEIGHTS
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DAVE & ROBBIE’S DYNAMIC FORMULA
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CHRIS BARTLE’S LESSONS IN SIMPLICITY
BY ROGER FITZHARDINGE
PLAY IT SAFE FROM THE GROUND UP
BY DR KERRY MACK
YOU CAN’T KEEP A GOOD WOMAN DOWN
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THE HARDER THEY FALL
BY SUZY JARRATT
BELLA FULFILS HER AMERICAN DREAM
BY SUZY JARRATT
NO REST FOR THE AMBITIOUS AT GLENHILL SPORTHORSES
BY ADELE SEVERS
BY DR MAXINE BRAIN
'The Harder They Fall' director, Jeymes Samuel with Idris Elba, who played Rufus Buck. Image supplied.
The Harder They Fall is a western, a bloody tale of revenge featuring an all-Black cast – and a bunch of horses. Its characters are based on real cowboys, lawmen and outlaws of the 19-century American Wild West.
The Harder They Fall originally was an American film starring Humphrey Bogart in his final role in 1956. The Bogey movie was about the shady aspects of professional boxing. The 2021 The Harder They Fall is very different. It sets out to better represent the African Americans who were an integral part of the Wild West.
With a budget of $90 million it was directed by Jeymes Samuel, also known by his stage name The Bullitts. The Harder They Fall is his first feature, although several years earlier he’d directed a short film, They Die By Dawn. Samuel, who was born in Britain in 1979, is also a singer, songwriter and producer. In 2013 he had worked alongside Baz Luhrmann and Jay Z on the music for The Great Gatsby. (His older brother is Henry Samuel, better known as Seal).
'The Harder They Fall' (2021) film poster. Image supplied.
Around the age of 13, having grown up watching westerns he felt drawn to research the historical environment in which they took place. He spent hundreds of hours at a library in north-west London which housed a wealth of books about the Old West.
“I learned that one out of four cowboys were Black, and then I started reading about real-life characters like Cherokee Bill, Nat Love and Stagecoach Mary,” says Samuel. “We were always there in the West, and the women were as dominant as the men. For whatever reason Hollywood just wiped them out, and for me that’s just bad storytelling.”
His award-winning R-rated film, which he directed and co-wrote, is packed with action, violence, smart talk and wonderfully tough women. Not surprisingly, some critics have likened it to the work of Quentin Tarantino – in fact ‘The Notorious Nine’ had been its working title.
“It tells the story of an outlaw who discovers his enemy is being released from prison.”
The film is packed with action, violence, smart talk and wonderfully tough women, including Cuffee (played by Danielle Deadwyler) – pictured here robbing a bank! Image supplied.
Because Samuel is also a musician he was heavily involved in the soundtrack. Some sequences are edited with heavily remixed rap songs – which is acceptable, however, the inappropriate whinnying laid over many horse scenes is not. It’s been happening in movies for decades.
“The worst part of filming this movie was that I was in a pretty bad space mentally. I couldn’t see what life had in store to teach me about myself that I needed to know. I loved the horses so much because of their silent strength and beautiful patience with my reluctant fear at having never ridden a horse before. They weren’t shy in making me be great.” – LaKeith Stanfield (‘Cherokee Bill’)
Made in New Mexico it tells the story of outlaw Nat Love, who discovers his enemy, Rufus Buck, is being released from prison. He rounds up his gang, his rival does the same – and all hell breaks out.
Playing Buck is Idris Elba who, according to one reviewer, brings “graceful menace” to his character. The actor first rode horses in Concrete Cowboy(read more in the June 2021 issue of Equestrian Life) where it was discovered he was allergic to them. Because his nose ran and he would continually sneeze, he had to wear gloves and long-sleeved shirts when near them.
In The Harder They Fall he was given the antihistamine Benadryl whenever filming with horses. “In one scene it was starting to wear off and I began sneezing,” recalls Elba. “One of the extras told me to drink pickle juice, and it worked!”
Actor Jonathan Majors had no trouble being close to them in his role as Nat Love. The film was his second western, and he had also starred in the TV drama series Lovecraft Country. “My first was Hostiles which was also shot in New Mexico,” he says. “Many of the wranglers on that also worked on this one which was very beneficial.
Jonathan Majors, pictured here riding Cinco, starred as Nat Love. Image supplied.
“The horse I had was the same one another cast member had ridden in the other film. His name was Cinco and I love him dearly. I’m from Texas and I’ve always been around horses.” Realistically he’s probably spent more time on movie sets and in Manhattan than galloping around the Lone Star state. But he did look the part when up in the saddle.
“My character was good at shooting, fighting and riding,” says Majors. And the stuntmen showed him how. (It was disappointing that the names of these experts, as well as the livestock contractor, trainers and wranglers were not mentioned in the credits).
“There’s a lot of preparation before you actually get on a horse. If you’re in a bad mood it will know – Cinco did. You have to find a way to be calm and get into a good mood so this beautiful animal will hold you.
“Some of the moves in this film were quite dangerous. I did all the stunt work on Cinco and much of it was at high speed. I’d meet up with him at the weekends, we’d go for a ride and I’d talk to him about what was happening in the scenes.” Majors worked so hard and for so long that often he could barely feel his legs.
“I didn’t know Jonathan could ride like that…”
Equine star Cinco with Zazie Beetz (Stagecoach Mary) and Jonathan Majors (Nat Love). Image supplied.
Jeymes Samuel was impressed with his performance. “I’d been told the actors couldn’t do more than trot; anything faster and they’d need stuntmen,” recalls the director, “but everyone surprised me. I didn’t know Jonathan could ride like that when I cast him. There’s a scene where he gets on his horse and does a full-tilt gallop, no hands, while shooting enemies on target. Then he stops and gets off at the end. I asked him where he learned to ride like that. ‘I can’t really ride a horse,’ said the actor – ‘but Nat Love can’!”
The real Nat Love was no outlaw but a professional cowboy who’d been born into slavery. When he became a free man at the end of the Civil War, he won a horse in a raffle and set off on his own at 15. He earned the name “Deadwood Dick” after winning a shooting contest in Deadwood, South Dakota. He was also an expert at roping, herding and branding livestock and horses. He settled in Kansas and worked as a cowboy on the cattle trails and as a Pullman porter on the railroads.
Most of the cast went to cowboy camp learning how to rope and ride; for many it was hard work. Regina King especially found it quite challenging. As “Treacherous Trudy” Smith she spends a lot of screentime wearing a fetching bowler hat and fighting. “Riding wasn’t my forte,” she confesses, “but my horse, named Cowboy, and I had an understanding and we got along.”
Regina King as “Treacherous Trudy” Smith. Image supplied.
A very effective scene is where she initiates a heist by parking her horse in front of a moving train then shooting the conductor. The horse doesn’t move from the railway lines as the locomotive approaches. No CGI was used, it was all done for real.
“A supera cool, visceral, and above all, thrilling ride, underpinned by some really effective use of song and shot choice. It is classic popcorn fare that had me punching my fist in the air more than once, harnessing the true spirit of its influences which range from 70s blaxploitation and pulp cinema to the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone.” – Cinemania
The Harder They Fall (Overbrook Entertainment 2021) can be viewed on DVD and is currently streaming on Netflix. The Harder They Fall 2 has been confirmed and is presently in development. Jeymes Samuel is returning to direct the sequel. Next month, something completely different – Misty, Twentieth Century Fox, 1961. EQ