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Alison Lohman and Katy Learn About Life and Riding in "Flicka"
Diana De Rosa
“I see in them my own restless spirit,” said Katy McLaughlin, played by Alison Lohman, when talking about the Wild Mustangs in the movie Flicka, which will be released on October 20th. You can see what she means as the movie opens with a herd of horses galloping across the plains of Wyoming, the state that is home to her family’s ranch. Katy is the only daughter in a long line of ranchers and her passion is in the land and the horses that roam there free and alive.
In the movie Lohman befriends a Wild Mustang mare, which she names Flicka after a ranch hand translates its meaning from Swedish as a young innocent girl, a pretty girl. Katy (16) like Flicka (a two-year-old) is also young and beautiful and they both have that same wild spirit and bold strength that her father misinterprets. Yet it is those characteristics that ultimately help them to understand each other.
Lohman’s character is very much tied in with her father. Instead of recognizing how alike they are, Katy’s dad (Rob McLaughlin) sees this as rebellion and tries to control his daughter who has just returned from boarding school with failing grades. He is disappointed in her and just like her teachers, he sees her as someone who needs to be controlled and redirected.
“Her father was rebellious,” explains Lohman. “Her father at that age was probably who she is. She has a strong sense of who she is which clashes with how the teacher sees everyone else,” explains Lohman.
FINDING FLICKA AND LEARNING HOW TO RIDE
Then this Wild Mustang comes along and for a moment the world stands still as they catch a glimpse of each other. “She saw her spirit in this Wild Mustang,” explains Lohman. While Katy was learning the lessons of life, Lohman was learning how to ride a horse. Her horseback riding began with this movie and just like Katy, Lohman learned that everything isn’t always as it appears.
“I had trouble learning to ride,” commented Lohman. “Horseback riding was a lot harder than I thought.” Knowing that her character was supposed to be at home on a horse made Lohman reconsider starring in this role, especially after she was thrown off the main character. Parting ways with Flicka left her discouraged. “I didn’t want to do the movie, but I had to do it; so I got back on the horse.”
What made things worse was that Lohman had to learn bareback, which unbeknownst to her is a lot harder than riding in a saddle. “I’m glad I heard that after because I just think knowing what you are getting into would have made it worse. I started riding bareback two weeks into the filming. There were times I felt I can’t do it today,” she recalled.
“My character is an amazing rider,” said Lohman as she reached for the words to explain what was going through her mind at the early stages of her riding career. It was “the fact that I knew I had to be good and that people had to believe I had ridden all my life,” that worried Lohman.
LOHMAN WORKS THROUGH THE DIFFICULTIES OF LEARNING TO RIDE
While a big part of the reason that she took the role was because she wanted to learn how to ride and wanted to do an outdoor movie, the beginnings of her riding education were tough. “We rode maybe five hours a day,” continued Lohman. “Then I got thrown off. I somersaulted out of it so I didn’t get hurt. I was fine with that. It was just that I didn’t know how to ride and the horse that threw me off was the horse they wanted to use because he looked good on camera.”
If you watch Lohman in the movie you would never know that for most of the film she was working through the frustration of not feeling quite right on the horses she rode. Since on a movie set many different horses play any one horse she was quickly learning how to catch ride and some of those rides were better than others. Most of the horses had “bony backs,” she noted, but there was one horse that quickly became her favorite. “His name is Benny. He wasn’t bony! I felt that he was nice to me,” she added.
It took most of the film for Lohman to feel one with the horse. “The turning point was the last three days of riding when we shot in Wyoming. I wish I had started the movie then. There is a shot at the end and it is my most comfortable moment. The backdrop was mountains and a sunset. I could never ride the horse that threw me off. It was really a frustration of mine and in that scene I finally got comfortable.”
FLICKA HELPS KATY CONNECT WITH HER DAD
That was also at a time when Katy was at last at ease with whom she was as a person. Throughout the film she and her father were constantly at odds. He was upset that after they had done without in order to send her to boarding school, she had failed in the eyes of the school and therefore in his eyes.
It was just at that time that while out riding she encountered Flicka and her life seemed to have meaning as she worked to tame yet not lose the spirit of this Wild Mustang. Lohman relived in the movie the same scenario she had experienced herself. The first time Katy tried to ride Flicka she was thrown off. Yet her determination was solid and she gave Flicka the love and encouragement she so wanted from her dad. It was that quiet yet determined approach that eventually won Flicka (and her dad) over.
In the end Katy recognizes that the free spirit she saw in the Mustang was that same free spirit she saw in herself. Even though it took time for her father to recognize this vision of himself they realized each in their own way that this characteristic was okay and not necessarily a bad thing. It was probably that wild spirit that gave them the strength they all needed to survive on different levels, whether dealing with the day-to-day issues of running the farm or the more challenging life threatening situations they confronted. And it was that same wild free spirit that had kept the farm in the family because of her father’s determination to do just that despite numerous hard times over the years.
While Lohman “was glad to be off the horse after riding so many days, I would love to go back to it. I never would have thought that six months ago but now that I know how to ride I’d like to again one day.”
In the film Katy made a soft but profound statement. It is a phrase that while its meaning was totally clear for Katy, it took Lohman almost the entire movie to understand. In the end this remark truly did come from both the character and the actor. With no hesitation she stated, “When we’re riding all I feel is free!”