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Solly McLeod on Horse Skills for Viggo Mortensen Western: KVIFF 2024

Solly McLeod on Horse Skills for Viggo Mortensen Western: KVIFF 2024

If you have spent the opening weekend of the 58th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF) in the Czech spa town, chances are that you have seen, or even taken photos of, rising British actor Solly McLeod. He has been on stages, at a press conference and spotted walking around.

The 24-year-old, born in Scotland and living in London, came to the Czech Republic with Viggo Mortensen, whose feminist western The Dead Don’t Hurt opened the fest on Friday. When Mortensen was honored with the fest’s President’s Award, he even called McLeod onto the stage. On Saturday, the duo discussed the film at a press conference, and then they introduced another screening in the town. On Sunday, McLeod was again by Mortensen’s side when the star met the press for roundtable interviews.

Of course, as the writer, director, and star of The Dead Don’t Hurt, Mortensen got most questions directed at him, from queries about what he looks for in new projects to what he knows about the new The Lord of the Rings movies currently in development.

But McLeod added his charm and some laughs to the roundtables. For example, asked what kind of roles he is looking for after playing the antagonist Weston in The Dead Don’t Hurt, the actor shared: “I tend to like to do something different. I think especially when it’s a character like Weston, as troubled as he is, it does take a piece of you. It kind of changes you in a certain way, whether you realize it or not.”

How did he approach playing the baddie on set? “It was never about method or whatever you want to say when I was on set. When I wasn’t in costume and shooting, I was trying to be nice to everyone because they saw me as this horrific individual. But even then, this character definitely changed me a little bit.”

So future roles may best require a different focus to ensure a range of work, he suggested. “I’d like it to be different,” McLeod said. “Also, at the start of my career, I don’t want to just play bad guys forever.”

The British actor had journalists in stitches when he recalled how he learned to ride a horse for the movie.

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Mortensen recommended taking some classes. “I did a few sessions,” explained McLeod. “And I thought I was doing quite well. I thought yes, I can ride a horse.” Then Mortensen asked him to send him a video. “I sent it in, thinking this is a great video. I look amazing,” the actor shared. “I sent what I thought was the best take.”

There wasn’t much of a reaction on the other end. Mortensen had shared the video with legendary Hollywood horse trainer Rex Peterson. When McLeod arrived on set and met Peterson, the latter’s reaction was less than enthusiastic. “We got a lot of work to do,” McLeod recalled him saying. “We saw that video. It looked like a monkey fucking a football. We need to fix that.”

But the British actor was game and dedicated much time to get better, Mortensen said. “I spent five days on the horse, at least five to six hours a day. I was walking around my hotel (makes a pained face and pretends to be moving gingerly); I couldn’t sit down. But we got there.”

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