There are many stars in Walt Disney Pictures’ The Lone Ranger, but not all of them are bipeds. Two of the actors about to grace the screen with Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp are probably best known by their on-screen monikers: Silver and Scout. They are the two noble steeds ridden by the Lone Ranger and Tonto as they seek justice in the west. We talked to Head Trainer Bobby Lovgren to learn more about the horses that played these extraordinary characters.
The Lone Ranger’s horse, Silver, was played primarily—as circumstance would have it—by a horse named Silver. “Silver was the one that (Director/Producer Gore Verbinski) really liked. Luckily for us, he had a very good personality. He did the majority of the work with Johnny and Armie,” said Bobby of the horse that was named Silver long before filming began. He was lead horse in the making of this movie, which is the one they call the “hero.” That’s certainly fitting for the role he plays in the film.
While Silver did most of the scenes with the actors, and is likely the horse you will see in close-up shots from the film, there were several horses playing Silver and Scout. Some of their names were Cloud, Parrot, Casper, Leroy, and Snowball.
Bobby took the lead in the several month process it took to get all of the aforementioned quadrupeds. He came to be involved in The Lone Ranger by way of a long career as a horse trainer. “I grew up with horses in South Africa and we did movies and commercials back there,” he said, adding that training horses was just “something that I found that I had a talent to do and enjoyed.” His favorite part of the job: “That I don’t have to be in an office.” And there was certainly nothing office-like while he was out on location filming for this movie. When it came to shooting in places like Monument Valley and the far reaches of deserts in the United States, Bobby said, “It was always a new movie every time we moved locations.”
Getting the horses camera-ready took cooperation from the crew, the actors, and the horses themselves. Bobby said that the cast and crew knew what they needed to do, and that all he needed the actors to do was trust him: “It’s just being open, having a really good dialogue between each other, and being able to communicate.” Bobby also noted that he can tell when an actor or other professional is lying about knowing how to interact with horses. “We know right away if someone’s comfortable or not,” he said.
Getting the horses to engage in scenes and play to the story is no easy accomplishment, especially when specific tasks are involved. When asked for the secret, Bobby said “To be able to get that personality out of them. It’s not a training technique. It’s about feeling how the horse is working with you and being able to do that.” Bobby’s ability to do just that contributed to many successful scenes in the film, in which the horses play a pivotal plot role. Bobby had to get the horses to do many things, like pick up hats and put them in very particular locations, run through western towns and streets, and engage with the characters in meaningful ways.
Of the challenges presented in filming this particular movie, Bobby could only name two. The first? Keeping the white horses clean. And the second was one particular attribute of the desert itself. “I think on Lone Ranger, one of our most difficult scenes to film was the grave sequence because of the logistics of all of the sand. It was actually very difficult to film, but overall I think it’s probably my favorite.” You can sneak a peek behind the scenes of what he’s referencing, and a little bit more, in this “Hi-Yo Silver” docupod:
Now that you’ve gotten a little background on what it took to bring Silver and the other horses in the film to life, there’s only one more thing for Bobby to add: “The biggest thing is I just really hope they enjoy it so we can make more films like this.”
You can see Bobby’s handiwork, and the performances of Silver, Cloud, and others, when The Lone Ranger rides into theaters this Wednesday.