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Ryan Kwanten Learned the Life of a Cowboy in Flicka

Flicka is a Movie with a Universal Appeal

You’d never know Ryan Kwanten was from Australia in the movie Flicka (set to be released on October 20, 2006), where he plays Howard, the brother of the main human star of the movie Katy. While Howard does not have the enthusiasm for the McLaughlin family ranch that Katy does he understands his sister’s passion and relationship with Flicka, the young mare she comes across in the wild and works diligently to befriend.

Howard’s role in this movie is a key element. He too is controlled by his father just like Katy. Yet Katy is more willing to defy her dad and speak out. She has the same wild spirit and horse vision her dad had when growing up but he can’t see that. “Katy is such a free spirit, like Flicka,” explains Kwanten.

It takes her relationship with Flicka and his wife Nell (played by Maria Bello) to turn the dad around. And while Katy is yearning to continue the family ranch tradition, Howard is hoping for a more urban life away from ranching.


Kwanten does a fair amount of riding in the movie but he came with no riding experience. “I’d been on a horse but nothing more,” he explained. “I didn’t even know what a trot was.”

Yet the appeal of horses is even stronger now than it was before. He enjoyed his time on horseback. “I think he liked it a lot,” explained the head wrangler, Rusty Hendrickson, who Kwanten refers to as “Mr. Cool.” “I think he would have ridden a lot more if they would have let him.”

One of the things that Kwanten learned was that “you don’t both need to speak the same language. When you are on a horse that horse knows you are in control. Pat my back and I will pat yours.”

Kwanten in turn admired the trainers. “We had such magnificent wranglers around us. The horse they put me on was very well looked after and trained,” he explained. The horse he was referring to was a Quarter Horse nicknamed Dollar. “Even if I didn’t know what I was doing he would make me look good. He could hit his mark every time. He hit marks better than I hit them. It was scary. They were so well trained!”

What impressed Kwanten even more was the connection he felt with his horse. “He would instantly recognize me once I walked in and when I got on him. I felt really comfortable. There wasn’t a time when I felt nervous. The horse knows if you don’t know. So, the quicker you learn the quicker the horse will realize you are in command and let you take over but up until that point…”

Kwanten talked about his learning curve and the fact that like Alison he also had to do some bareback riding. “I discovered it was a totally different style of riding,” he admitted. “It was painful.”

He also jokingly recalled a scene where the whole crew was filming them from a truck in front. “I was hanging on trying to make it look as natural as possible. Fortunately, it all worked out.”


As an aside Kwanten talked about the acting side when referring to the horses. “They understand the commands of rolling, camera, action. You can see them ready to spark,” he explained. “Sometimes they almost get too excited.”

Kwanten was constantly amazed by the talent of the horses and their patience. As an actor he realizes how little time is spent in the day acting and how much time is spent setting everything up. “There is a lot of standing around and these horses are pure motion; 10 seconds of riding and that is their only chance. If it is a dialogue scene the horses don’t do anything other than ride up to a particular point so the actors can talk.”

He also talked about the cowboy who “tells it like it is. They have such a non Hollywood way of looking at the world. That’s how I grew up in Australia with that no worries mentality.”

And there were his fond memories of the other actors. “Tim is such a big kid. I love him. He occasionally would break out into song, which was always nice hearing this famous country voice sweeping through the set. Alison and I really acted like real brothers and sisters.”

Kwanten went away from this movie enamored with the horses. “I have such a great respect not just for the horses but for the sport. It’s the people in that world that make it such an endearing sport. I find myself now stopping when flipping through the channels on TV; before I would have skipped right over them.”

When Kwanten looked back at the movie he recalled what he got out of it. “Don’t succumb. Always dream and if you believe in something you have to go out there and fight for it. I did my thing for my ranch and my family, but it was in the capable hands of Katy and once that time came it was time for me to move on.”

Kwanten also believed that the movie delivered the message that “you have to stand by your family. For me the family always came first. Yet, Katy was a more than willing substitute to take over the ranch.” However, he understood that in some ways for a rancher “it was almost considered sacrilege to hand down the ranch to a daughter.

“He wants to go to college. He wants to have a career outside of the ranch but at the same time he doesn’t want to let his parents down.”

In the end their father came around. “He recognized his stubbornness and the error of his ways and was willing to change. Unfortunately, it took a tragedy to realize that.”

Flicka’s had a long history. It’s been a book, a movie, a TV show, now a movie again. “This is one of those stories that have universal appeal,” added Kwanten. “It’s going to be of interest to everyone!”

PHOTO: Katy,Nell,Howard,Flicka,Rob

Courtesy of: Peter Stone Photo


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