Dramatic-actor-turned-action-star Liam Neeson claims a horse he worked with on his latest film recognised him from a previous gig, with Russell Crowe backing up the story.
The ruggedly handsome Northern Irishman, who forged his reputation on powerful performances in movies such as Schindler’s List and Michael Collins before more recently reinventing himself as an ageing action hero, said at the New York Film Festival that his equine co-star in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs knew him from a Western they once worked on together.
“I play a traveling impresario. We filmed in New Mexico. The odd thing is the horse who pulls my wagon knew me,” he told Page Six.
Neeson said he made an impression on the horse through his kindness on an earlier film, possibly 2014’s A Million Ways to Die in the West or, at a stretch, 2006’s Seraphim Falls.
“You won’t believe it. I’m saying this horse knew me. He actually remembered me from another Western we made a while back,” revealed Neeson.
“I love animals. When we worked together before I took special care of him. I fed him treats. Gave him apples.”
Neeson did not reveal the name of the horse, but said he knew it knew was him by the way it greeted him.
“He whinnied when he saw me, and pawed the ground,” he said, describing what many would consider to be standard horse behaviour.
Crowe backed up Neeson’s story on Twitter, saying he was lifelong friends with horses called George and Rusty.
Whether you believe the 66-year-old actor or think he may have spent too long playing make believe, there is no doubting Hollywood has a long history of fomenting relationships between its stars and their steeds.
James Stewart and Pie
Legendary actor James Steward appeared with his favourite horse Pie in 17 Westerns.
According to Stewart, Pie was “one of the best co-stars I ever had” and would “act for the cameras when they were rolling”.
“He was a ham of a horse,” he said.
When Pie died in 1970, Steward had him buried at his California ranch.
Viggo Mortensen and every horse
Argentinian-American heartthrob Viggo Mortensen actually published a book of photographs called The Horse is Good.
In an interview with AMC TV, he said: “As far as getting along with the horse, the same rules apply anywhere, with any horse, to some degree.
“Every horse is different, and even the same horse is different on any given day,” he said.
“But if you show them a certain respect, and you don’t try to force them to do things, you end up getting better results, and — on a practical level — it will make shooting a movie that requires you to actually be riding a horse easier.”
Mortensen rode a bit in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but really got to practice his childhood talent on horsey movie Hidalgo.
He ended up buying two of the horses he rode in Lord of the Rings, and his favourite version of the five that played Hidalgo, called TJ.
“I had no intention of buying a horse off of this movie. But with TJ he was … I don’t know, I just got to really, really like him. He’s got such a unique, strong personality.”
John Wayne and Dollor
Iconic Western star John Wayne did not actually like horses, according to a biography written by Garry Wills, and would only ride while filming.
He did, however, develop a special bond with a sorrel gelding called Dollor, and liked it so much he signed an exclusive rights contract with its owner, the Dick Webb Movie Company.
Dollor featured in movies such as Big Jake and True Grit, and was even mentioned by its real name in The Shootist.
Dollor died at the age of 27 in 1995, and was reportedly stuffed.
Elizabeth Taylor and King Charles
A 12-year-old Elizabeth Taylor was the only one on set who got along with King Charles. (Supplied: IMDB)
Elizabeth Taylor may have had numerous husbands but there was only one horse for her: King Charles. She knew the horse from her country club and personally chose him to be her co-star on National Velvet.
The horse was apparently a massive pain on set, biting crew members and such, but it did respond well to a 12-year-old Taylor.
She was gifted the horse for her 13th birthday and kept him at her California stables for years.