Tessa Alvarado The Queen of Swords Anthony De Longis

Behind The Scenes And on The Set With Anthony De Longis


Preparing to "strip" the Queen

Rehearsal time with Tessie had been almost non-existent since "Honor Thy Father," our third episode. I knew that rehearsal time on this episode would be no different. The script called for a climax between two expert and deadly sword fighters, both trained by the same teacher - Maestro Ramon Torres. This was the Queen's big fight, and I wanted to recapture the same high quality performances we'd achieved in the opening episode, "Destiny," where Tessa's fighting skills are revealed in a training session with her teacher. Writer/producer David Abramowitz and producer Ken Gord both sent letters of praise and congratulations. More importantly, the scene showed the audience that Tessa had the training and skills to become La Reina de Espada.

Anthony & Tessie fight during At left: Anthony (as Torres) and Tessie (as Tessa) fight with sword and dagger on the Circle in the opening sequence of "Destiny". This scene demonstrates both Tessa's weapons skill and style.

Ken Gord told me after "Destiny" that he was worried I was setting the bar too high by choreographing with both the sword and dagger and asked that I keep most of her action to a single weapon. Since I was getting less and less time to rehearse with Tessie, I agreed - until now. I built a new story using elements of the rapier and dagger phrases I had taught Tessie during her training and utilized in "Destiny." Her body knew the moves, and I knew she'd adjust easily to the new story. Director Richard Martin and I scouted the location and Mary and I walked him through the action. Richard was delighted.

As anticipated, I was only able to rehearse Tessie the day before we filmed the Queen's fight with Antonio. We worked through the story in the streets of the pueblo and she left to shoot her hacienda dialogue scenes. That, and the few minutes before filming was all the rehearsal time we got. I knew Tessie would rise to the occasion.

Anthony with Al Dacoscas and Joe Lewis At right: Anthony (far right) in Spain on the location of Jaguar Lives! with Al Dacoscas (center) and Joe Lewis (left). Twenty-three years later, Queen of Swords was filmed less than an hour away from many of the movie's locations.

I'd taught the fight to Gaelle Cohen before she returned to Paris to finish Brotherhood of Wolves, a feature with my old pal Mark Dacoscas. Mark played Young Conan when I took over the Universal Studios Tour "Conan Sword Spectacular" 1990-1993. I'd also met his father, martial arts great Al Dacascos, while starring with Joe Lewis in Jaguar Lives, filmed in Almeria some twenty-three years earlier. Small world.

Gaelle flew back late in the afternoon the day before we shot the opening soldiers' fight. I taught Phillipe and Olivier the two-on-one choreography in the dry riverbed in between shots of Natalia's mounted whip action. We'd get to their fight in two days. Gaelle returned home with Mary and I to rehearse into the night so we'd be ready for the morning's unmasking of the Queen at the ruinas.

Love Amid The Ruinas

The location for the big fight between Queen and Antonio At left: these ruins in the ronda are the location for the final fight between the Queen and Antonio. The fight was choreographed so that it would move up the slope to the ruins, allowing Antonio to trap the Queen against the stone wall before removing her mask.

The story of the fight is one of flight and pursuit. Tessa doesn't want to fight but Antonio keeps cutting off her pursuit and forcing the issue. I'd also chosen rapier and dagger for this final confrontation because they've each tried the other and won't underestimate their opponent's skills again. Two weapons requires a mastery beyond the sword alone and mathematically increases the offensive and defensive capabilities.

Paco Ardura At right - Paco Ardura, the horse wrangler, is considered by many to be a horse legend in the entertainment industry. Here, he monitors the action from horseback.

I'd choreographed four exciting phrases. Richard told me we'd only have time to shoot three and to choose which one I wanted to cut. I begged Richard to let Tessie and I or even Gaelle and I shoot a master of the second phrase. We could get it in one take, and he could decide in editing if there was time to include it. You can't use what you don't shoot. But our morning schedule required that we we shoot horse action and dialogue with Antonio and Grisham, ride aways, dialogue and coverage with Antonio and the Queen, and the most important fight and story character revelation sequence in the episode. We had to scrap the entire second phrase - the beast of episodic television.

We cooked on the day, and not just because it was over 100 degrees down in the ruinas of the arroyo. We shot one phrase at a time. I'd shoot the master with Gaelle and repeat the action with Christian and Tessie. Then Gaelle doubled for Christian's coverage and I did the same for Tessie. Tessie remembered our days of training and the work from "Destiny" and she performed with grace and fire. We fought our way up the hill until the Queen is finally cornered.

Queen vs. Antonio
At left: Both the principals and the doubles performed this final fight. Anthony doubles Christian for Tessie's coverage (left) and Gaelle doubles Tessie for Christian's coverage (right). Download video clips of Anthony and Tessie and Christian and Gaelle. Both doubles were also shot at a distance, and most of the fight's second phrase (where the Queen kicks the dagger from Antonio's hand before running and he follows her) seen in the episode features this footage.

I was a little dismayed at the editor's choices in the first phrase, especially having viewed the effectiveness of the full-figure action in dailies. The show's opening sequence between Antonio and the soldiers was a beautiful balance of long shots to tell the story, interspersed with close-ups of the star's faces. Why the editors chose super close-ups of hands, blades, feet and shadows on the ground instead of letting the bodies tell the story is as mysterious as what was going on between the characters.

I wanted to incorporate the unveiling of Tessa into the action of the final phrase. The Queen has already disarmed Antonio's dagger with a kick in the previous phrase. In the final encounter Antonio catches her sword arm and uses it to block the attack with the dagger. This tangles her arms and she must use both weapons to defend against Antonio's horizontal blade driving towards her throat. Stalemate. Neither can move without creating an opening. Antonio maintains blade pressure but releases her arm and pulls the mask from her face. This reveal sets up the emotionally charged character moment that is the climax to the action.

Comedy's end in Marriage - Tragedy's end in Death

When Antonio steals the gold from Montoya's treasure room, he is forced to kill a soldier who holds him at gunpoint. The ubiquitous Chencho sacrificed his moustache before taking the thrown dagger in his chest.

In the poignant climax Antonio is trapped and has the chance to buy his freedom at twice his fee, all he has to do is betray the one woman he has always loved. Montoya: "That was well bartered Antonio. You have finally named the price for your honour." A: "I cannot sell something I have already lost."

Antonio charges Montoya At right: Domingo, as Antonio, charges at Montoya, sword drawn. Seconds later, he did a perfect backoff, falling "dead" at Montoya's feet.

Antonio throws down the gold, draws his sword and charges. Montoya wheels his horse, Grisham takes aim from his hidden position, Tessie screams, Grisham fires and Antonio tumbles from his horse right at Montoya's feet. This sequence, I'm happy to say, was very well edited to include all the players to maximize the emotional impact. Tessa runs to his side, Montoya demands the identity of the Queen and Antonio dies in her arms after a tender moment of redemption.

Anthony and Valentine enjoy a break in shooting At left: the day of Antonio's death, shot at the hacienda, was hot and sunny, and umbrellas were about the only shade around. It was also a very busy day for the flies, which kept the horses uneasy with their biting.

Christian de la Fuente proved an enthusiastic horseman and handled the first part of the ride himself. We moved cameras to cover the stunt and we shot the fall from the horse twice. Domingo's first tumble carried him a little too close to Valentine Pelka's horse. The horse spooked and did a fancy series of side steps. Only Val's experience as a rider kept him in the saddle. Val also prevented the startled horse from stepping on Domingo sprawled almost under its hooves.

The final shot has Tessie cradling Antonio with Marta watching. The soldier picks up the gold as Montoya and his soldiers ride past the grave stone of Tessie's father who has observed it all from above. Very nice, Richard Martin, very nice indeed.

* That's a Wrap *

I was very pleased with my "Duel With A Stranger." We were able to create the kind of action I'd always imagined. I now had three weeks vacation before guest starring on "The Hanged Man," one of the original five stories that sold the series with a script written especially for me. After working seven days a week for three months, I now had the chance to see some of the glories of Spain. Class act that he is, Ken Gord gave me the car to use, and Mary and I set off on a road trip. We drove to Albacete and I bought some of Spain's distinctive navaja fighting knives. Then on to Madrid to revisit the Prado museum and attend a bullfight at the Plaza de Toros. My parents met us in Madrid and we leisurely toured Cordoba, Seville and the incomparable Alhambra in Granada. Visit our website (one featuring our tour of Spain will be done soon!) and join us on our adventures. And stay tuned for my behind the scenes report on "The Hanged Man."

No me ha, dehado.



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Copyright 2000-2001 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 1, 2001