Alison Lohman had never ridden a horse prior to taking on the lead role in Flicka, a new take on Mary O’Hara’s novel My Friend Flicka. But when the actress won the part of 16-year-old Katy McLaughlin, she did her best to become proficient in a short period of time. Having Tim McGraw on the set to help her handle the riding scenes was a huge help.
The Appeal of Flicka: “There’s something about this movie, when I saw it, this girl has this incredible spirit. That’s what really attracted me to this story. She inspired me to be opinionated, to be different and embrace the rebellious part of you. That’s not always bad. That can be good and, for the good of these wild mustangs she’s taking care of, the good of nature and preserving that and the freedom and the beauty in that.
She’s different, and that’s her big thing. Right now in school, well, it’s always been about uniformity. She embraces different thoughts and ideas. That’s why I liked it when they changed [the lead character] from a boy to a girl because it shows that, yes, women now are taking roles but they are using physical exertion doing ranch tasks and all that that men had previously done. That’s one of the challenges in this movie. She’s trying to prove to her dad that she can do this.”
Connecting with the Horses of Flicka: The emotional connection to the animals was just as important to Lohman as learning to ride. “Oh yeah. That was almost more important to me because I am first an actor and I relate experiences to emotions. It was easier for me to do that than actually the physicality of the part, which was incredibly difficult because I’m not an athlete.”
Thankfully, Lohman didn’t get hurt during filming. “I had physical discomforts. I had an MRI done because I thought that I had pinched a nerve. I couldn’t bend down. My spinal cord was compressed so much from trotting and then I fell off the horse at one time, but I didn’t get hurt.”
Learning the Ropes: “Tim really helped me with that. Every chance we’d get he’d be teaching me and [I was] awful. It was terrible, but I finally learned. You do it a million times and there’s that one time that you rope the cone, and you can do it after that once you get the hang of it.”
Handling the Dialogue with the Horse: “It wasn’t bad because it was how I wanted to portray this relationship. It’s a love story between a horse and this girl. If I didn’t get that then there would be no story, so it was crucial that I really could see behind these horses’ eyes. There were six different horses but there was the one horse they used for close-ups.”
Alison Lohman Plays Favorites: There were six horses used to play Flicka, but it was a different horse that won Lohman’s heart. “His name was Benny. I don’t remember his name in the movie but he’s the horse that I ride in the beginning. He’s my horse until I meet Flicka. He was my favorite because he was so big. He was like this huge teddy bear and his spine was nice and soft so when I’d ride him it would be like jelly. He had a sweet demeanor. He was very slow. He took care of me, I felt.”
Working with Tim McGraw and Maria Bello: “It was like a family. Everybody was really nice. Tim and Maria were great, were perfect. Tim…I think he’s a great actor. He proved that to me when I watched Friday Night Lights. There was nothing to worry about in terms of acting ability, so I was very comfortable that we would make it as real as we could.”
Alison Lohman on Beowulf: Working on the motion-capture film Beowulf presented a very different set of challenges from her work on Flicka. “I enjoyed that more, to be honest, because you have to really use your imagination,” said Lohman. “You don’t have the props. You have nodes like all over your body and a wet suit, and it’s very weird. It’s like raw, right there acting - nothing hiding. You can’t hide from anything.”
Up Next – Things We Lost in the Fire: “Susanne Bier directed it. She’s Danish. Halle Berry is in it, Benicio del Toro… I play a recovering heroin addict of four years so she’s in NA and helps Benicio’s character through his heroin addiction, but that’s not what the story is about. It’s about recovery and the recovery of Halle Berry’s character, of her husband who dies. That’s more the focus of it.”