Tessa Alvarado The Queen of Swords Anthony De Longis

Behind The Scenes And on The Set With Anthony De Longis


Page Two

The Death Team At right - The "Death" team enjoy lunch during their location scouting. From left to right: Director Jon Cassar, Swordmaster/Stunt Coordinator Anthony De Longis, First Assistant Director Rob Urquhart, Director of Photography Alwyn Kumst, and Cameraman Jean-Claude Couty.

Hitting the Ground Running

I'll never forget my first visit to the beach and Hacienda locations. I was to follow our Director of Photography, Alwyn Kumst and meet our director, Jon Cassar, First Assistant Director Rob Urquhart, cameraman Jean Claude Couty and co-coordinator Ricardo Cruz to view the proposed location for our first day of shooting. I'd worked with Alwyn in South Africa when I guest-starred on The Adventures of Sinbad, and I like to call him "The Man who Turned Night into Day". We were slated to shoot a "magic hour" sunset shot by a lovely stream. Since it was a scene with a considerable amount of important dialogue for my character, I was a bit concerned when the sun sank behind the mountains and it got dark - and I do mean nighttime dark! Alwyn pumped in some smoke, bounced light off it to produce a lovely sunset-like glow, and we got our scene. I was very impressed. When the show aired, you couldn't tell that the sun had deserted our set half an hour earlier. It was magic.

Anthony's travel notes At left - Anthony shares his experience of following Director of Photography Alwyn Kumst to the location in San Jose while trying to take notes on how to get there.

Alwyn is quite the Renaissance man. He's an excellent DP, and for fun takes yachts on solo shakedown cruises before delivering them to their new owners. At the end of the Sinbad season he outfitted his motorcycle with cameras and set off alone on an odyssey across the African desert. Alwyn lived just below my house in the mountains above Turre and ultimately inherited the house when we left Spain. I knew he would appreciate the light show even more than we did. But I digress. It took me, driving quite quickly, an average of 35-40 minutes to get to the set in Tabernas. Alwyn confided to me that his personal best record was 22 minutes! Alwyn likes to drive fast and he's very good at it. After only 4 weeks in Spain, he had driven the tires on his rental car smooth. Following him along unmarked back country roads to the San Jose beach location while trying to write down directions, so that I could find my way home and back again the next day, was a terrifying, yet exhilarating, experience. Alwyn confided when we finally arrived that he saw me writing and had taken it easy for my benefit.

The actual fight location At left - In real life this is where the 2-on-1 fight was shot. The back edge of the rock drops directly into the Mediterranean. Even Marley, the dog, was afraid to watch.

Our first location scout was the top of a cliff high above the beach. The site was a sixty-degree uphill climb to a narrow peak with a 45-foot drop to the ocean below. Jon Cassar had selected it for its panoramic beauty and it was indeed stunning. However, it was less than user-friendly, and Jon wanted to know if we could safely perform our first fight at the top of this pointed rock equivalent to the head of a pin. Ricardo and I walked the ground and planned out our safety precautions. Fortunately, I had trained Tessie with a multiple opponent choreography sequence that could effectively accommodate the difficulties of footing and limited space.

Mary teaches sword class for the stunt team. At right - Mary teaches Domingo and Juan-Miguel, members of the stunt team, basic parries and cuts.

Welcome to Action 101

The days that followed were spent training the Spanish team with the sword. Everyone of Ricardo's team were seasoned horse specialists and stuntmen. However, their experience with the sword was minimal and we really had to cram as much training as we could into a very brief time. The job of the sword-fighting stuntmen goes beyond wielding the weapon without hurting their partners or themselves. The stuntman/actor must always protect the actor he's working with, keeping them safe no matter what, and always striving to make the actor look good. This requires excellent technique, timing and extraordinary sensitivity to your partner's energy. In other words, it takes the kind of experience you just don't get overnight.

Couple of the horses from the show At left - The amazing horses that appear on the show include Chico, the Queen's horse (left) and Montero, Grisham's horse (right)

Ricardo trucked in a variety of his horses to "audition" as the Queen's photo and stunt action horses. We selected "Chico" and "Champion" for starters and I began to ride them everyday to get them used to having a whip cracked from their backs by their rider. Once I'd trained Natalia with the whip, I hoped to choreograph mounted whip action for both her and Tessie in upcoming episodes. We also selected other horses for the cast, like "Montero" for Anthony Lemke and a highly trained black beauty for Valentine. "Montero" was the horse that Russell Crowe rode in "Gladiator," another of Ricardo's triumphs.

Luis-Miguel, the Rejoneador At right - Artistic rendition of Luis-Miguel performing on horseback as a rejoneador.

Ricardo and I also worked on trying out ideas for our horse action in "Death to the Queen." I had a gag with a lance in mind that I was pretty sure we could pull off. Ricardo introduced me to one of his team, Luis-Miguel Arranz. He said Luis was very good with horses and had some mounted experience with lances. I discovered later that Luis is one of the most famous rejoneadors in Spain. These are the extraordinary horsemen who fight bulls on horseback without any protection for themselves and their mounts other than the superb communication and skill both horse and rider share. Needless to say, my hopes for the lance gag soared.

I'd called Anthony Lemke in Toronto to ask about his experience and was very pleased at his enthusiastic interest in training to be as good as he could be with the sword. Anthony arrived on Sunday and started daily sword training and horseback riding lessons. Roberta also arrived on the weekend. I'd been working develop a "Spanish" style with Tessie for the Queen that I wanted Roberta to add to her own sword-fighting vocabulary. Monday morning, I immediately added Roberta to rehearsals for the two-on-one fight with guards Luis-Miguel and Tonio. We only had two days for everyone to be camera ready.

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Copyright 2000 Anthony De Longis. All contents, unless otherwise noted, are the property of Anthony De Longis or used with permission of the copyright owner. All text and photos herein may not be reproduced or distributed without the express written consent of Anthony De Longis, his official representative, or the copyright owner.

The Queen of Swords is trademark of Fireworks Productions, Toronto, Canada, and is a production of Fireworks (Canada), Amy Productions (UK), Morena Films (Spain) and M6 (France), and is distributed in the United States by Paramount. The Official Queen of Swords Website can be found at


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This page last updated November 24, 2000