More than one dreamer
Stars and star-gazers come out for local filming of movie about a horse trainer
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
It all begins with Oded Fehr and a Mandeville woman chasing her dream of meeting her favorite movie hunk.
Well, he's a 34-year-old, Tel Aviv-born, British-trained actor who has appeared in "The Mummy," "The Mummy Returns," "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" and "Resident Evil -- Apocalypse."
Having seen none of those classics, I am going to take the word of fan Vikki Morvant, a real estate agent and romance novelist who tells me there are hundreds, maybe thousands of women who are swooning over this dark, handsome guy -- including her.
And when she learned that he was coming to Covington to film a horse movie named "Dreamer," she couldn't wait to get to the starting gate. "Most husbands indulge their wives' obsessions," she was telling me the other day, and since her husband, Rich Morvant, is a part owner in the famed horse-racing syndicate Team Valor, you pretty much figured he was going to go along with the game plan.
Let's cut to the chase. "Dreamer" is a feel-good movie about a trainer and his family nursing an injured horse back to health with the goal of racing her in the Breeders' Cup. Morvant dragged her family to the casting call to sign up as extras. Rich was asked to be the stand-in for Kris Kristofferson. Daughter Rachel was among the hundreds asked to be an extra.
Vikki had a different game plan. Being a writer, she asked the general manager of the local newspaper to allow her to get a press pass. She also requested an interview with Fehr through his management firm -- only to get the crushing news from SKG Dreamworks Studio that the film was a closed set; no press passes for television or newspapers.
Meanwhile -- hang in there, folks, this gets a little complicated -- another woman, an accomplished actress around these parts, Sandy Moorman, was also an extra. Moorman admits she has had a crush on Kurt Russell, who is also in the movie, for most of her 36 years.
Extras are not allowed to approach the stars, but hey, nobody said anything about sending flowers and a note to her heartthrob on the set. So Moorman did.
Now, getting back to Morvant: The only pipeline Vikki had to the filming was through the eyes and ears of her husband. So when he came home every day from long hours on the job, he got a third-degree grilling and Vikki started taking notes:
What did everyone say today? Not much. Was Oded there today? No. Did Goldie Hahn visit Kurt? Yes. Can I read today's script? Sure. I've only heard it about a hundred times.
Rich told Vikki about a scene that called for a horse trailer to arrive at the barn with Sonya, the star of the movie. Sonya is played by a gelding. A gelding is . . . never mind. One take had to be re-shot because a certain part of the horse's anatomy showed on screen and would reveal his gender.
When the horse was being unloaded, first off the trailer came a couple of goats. Goats often travel with horses as companions and a calming influence. The two apparently didn't have their lines down pat and were not cooperating.
After several failed takes, the director grumbled, "Get rid of those two old goats." Rich looked at Kristofferson and said, "Does he mean us? I guess we're out of work." The actor laughed.
But back to Oded Fehr and his groupies. Vikki posted daily updates to the Oded Fehr Web site, where she said more than 800 women around the country and worldwide were dialed in to her saga, as she strove to meet the star she is smitten with.
Some scenes were shot at the Fair Grounds. But Kristofferson's character was not needed for those scenes. And so, alas for Vikki, "Oded slipped in and out of New Orleans for his role without Rich ever knowing this or meeting the guy."
To console his inconsolable wife, Morvant sneaked her onto the set in Folsom, where she got to meet everyone, including actresses Dakota Fanning ("Man on Fire") and Elizabeth Shue ("Leaving Las Vegas").
"On the set," said Vikki, "you really get to see the personalities of the stars." The owners of the Folsom farm where the filming was being done were watching the process and wishing to meet Russell. Vikki, never shy, told Russell (who plays the trainer) that the owners would love to meet him. He scowled and said, "Are you kidding? No bleeping way!" Vikki said the actor then grabbed her arm, put his other arm around her shoulders and laughed. "I'm just kidding," he said. "Of course I'll do that. Let's go over there." "He sported that big, charismatic smile that fans love," she said. "He was a wonderful, regular nice guy."
After 49 days of shooting, they turned out the lights. The next night was the wrap party at which everybody celebrates. Vikki could now get on with finding a publisher for her first romance novel, "It Shouldn't Have Happened," about an affair between a real estate agent and an FBI agent.
But first, a report on the star-struck ladies: Moorman's star, said Vikki, is rising. She got to meet Russell and talk to him at a time in her life when she has acting credits to her name -- after 28 years of dreaming.
Vikki did not achieve her goal of meeting Oded Fehr.
"Most people don't know who he is, but someday you will," she said. So she will continue her chase through cinema, although, she admitted, "It is sometimes a difficult task to be a 'Fehr Lady' as we must sit through some really dumb movies in order to feast our eyes on this guy."
Odds are "Dreamer" won't be nearly as painful. And Vikki Morvant is far from discouraged. In fact, she is energized by friends she made among the cast and crew and knows she'll meet her hero someday because like a lot of horseplayers, she believes in long shots and happy endings.
Meanwhile, the best line of this whole saga is credited to Kurt Russell.
Seems he had a discussion with the director and some crew members about the marketability of the title "Dreamer," which does seem on the weak side. A new title might be in order.
Russell's reported response: "I like 'Shebiscuit.' "
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Columnist Angus Lind can be reached at email@example.com or at (504) 826-3449.