Tessa Alvarado The Queen of Swords Anthony De Longis

Behind The Scenes And on The Set With Anthony De Longis

"DESTINY" - Page 2

Anthony Lemke on Montero
Photo at left - Anthony Lemke, as Captain Grisham, enjoys his time on his character's steed, Montero.

The things you see and hear - I got a kick out of the scene where banditos stop Tessa and Marta and the head bandit turns out to be her father's servant, Carlos. There is a shot and in closeup, we see Carlos' sleeve explode with the force of the "bullet." This effect is created with a squib, a small explosive devise wired to the actor's sleeve. The actor is protected from the tiny charge, usually by a layer of metal and leather and is quite safe, but often the squib is a bit loud. In dailies, instead of a close-up of just the sleeve, camera saw both Tessa and Fernando when the shot occurs. Tessie finished the scene but when the director called cut, she turned to camera laughing and said quite loudly, "I'm deaf now."

It was also fun to see Anthony Lemke ride up on his beautiful white stallion, Montero. He was probably the most educated horse on the set. Ricardo Cruz had trained Montero for Gladiator, and Russell Crowe rode him for six months. Anthony came to the show a novice rider, but very enthusiastic to improve his skills, and spent free time when possible on horseback.

The British enclave in Sierra Cabrera
Photo at right - Our perfect home on the side of the mountain in Sierra Cabrera, just outside of Turre.

Another surprise when we least expected it. We only received one English language channel on our television. We would have welcomed Spanish for our language practice, but inexplicably, the cable satellite system in the British enclave that was our mountaintop home transmitted the majority of its programming in German - less that helpful in our efforts to learn Spanish! Late one evening a 1971 western called Catlow, starring Yul Brynner, Richard Crenna, Joanne Pflug and Leonard Nimoy came on the tube. The locations looked startling familiar. Sure enough, they were our very same Sergio Leone desert canyons and arroyos. What really struck us as funny, however, were the scenes shot in and around the Alvarado hacienda. During the Catlow shoot, the cactus fields that surround the approach to the main house looked like seedlings, in severe danger of being trampled to dust by the horses. Twenty-nine years later, the aloe fields are six and seven feet high with stalks on some of the plants stretching to a height of twenty feet!

Which brings us to the interior where Tessa practices alone with her sword beneath the portrait of her father. This quietly emotional little scene was jammed in between the rest of a rather heavy action load that Tessie was shouldering. Rather than learning something brand new that we didn't have time to rehearse anyway, I suggested to Tessie that she perform a "kata." Long a tradition in Asian martial arts, a kata is a training ritual wherein you fight imaginary opponents - perhaps the first "virtual" combat game. We employed, as her core, moves from the two-on-one fight from "Death to the Queen." Although we had shot the episode two weeks earlier, the moves were still in her body and Tessie could concentrate on acting the scene instead of trying to remember unfamiliar lines of movement dialogue.

Director John Cassar had set the scene with candles and a camera that moved laterally back and forth as the action progressed. Now John really liked what he was seeing through the camera -a beautiful girl, light glinting off the blades of both sword and dagger, candles, the portrait of dad beaming down from behind, beads of sweat welling forth, gutteral sounds of emotion -- what's not to like? As John said, "I could shoot this all day." And he did, kind of. Long past the choreography of set moves and into the realm of improvisation. All well and good. The sword flows from position to position and the actress gets deeper and deeper into the scene discovering new positions from which to launch the next imaginary attack. Now I've heard a few remarks online about the questionable wisdom of a blade balanced on the shoulder behind the neck with the dagger extended forward in invitation. Admittedly, this is unorthodox and risky, but the one truth of combat is how effective the unexpected can be. Personally, I found this piece of misdirection quite workable in the fight in the rain in "Duende."

Anthony and 1st AD Rob Urqhuart Photo at left - Anthony and 1st Assistant Director Rob Urqhuart try to look cool on the hacienda interior set as they prepare to shoot the "kata" sequence.

But back to our scene in the elegant living room of the beautifully restored hacienda and the healthy glow that's beginning to form on our hard-working heroine. Little wonder. The temperature is at least ninety-five degrees, and rapidly rising. What you don't see is the bank of lights beating down on the actress. The flaming rows of candles do nothing to cool the confined space, nor do the the thirty crew members crammed behind the camera, sound and video monitors. We're shooting during the day, so the sun is beating down on the metal roof which has been fully tented with heavy black material so that no light can leak in to spoil the painting with light and shadow painstakingly crafted by the director of photography. This is in the early days of shooting, so there is no air conditioning. That will come weeks later, and must always be shut off during filming anyway. The ambiance on camera is nothing compared to the sensory overload occurring behind the scenes. Ah, the glamour of show business!

The dream sequence where Don Alvarado appears to his daughter to give her clues to help her discover where he has hidden the money to save the hacienda and to nudge her towards her destiny takes place at the graveside. Did you notice how the wind was blowing? Very dramatic. It would have been less effective and certainly distracting if you had seen the hewn granite headstones waving in the stiff breeze. If gale force winds are measured by an anchor chain stretched horizontal by the wind, what would be the measure of gusts that could topple a headstone? Let me explain. In order for the headstones to be portable enough to be carried to multiple locations, they are made of styrofoam. A lightweight, high profile wind magnet. Imagine the scramble to come up with a quick solution to solidly brace these flimsies before the scene could be shot. Movie magic.

The Queen's guard
Photo at right - the guard of the Queen's sword, designed and crafted by David Baker, the Hollywood Combat Center.

By the way, the beautiful Queen sword discovered behind the wine rack and used for the rest of the series by the Queen of Swords was made by blade maker Dave Baker. Dave did a wonderful job creating distinctive, durable swords for the show. You can see more of his work on his website,


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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 October 14, 2000