Tessa Alvarado The Queen of Swords Anthony De Longis

Behind The Scenes And on The Set With Anthony De Longis


"Vengeance" packed more surprises into one episode than any other in my six pack of shows as Sword Master and Co-coordinator. You'll see what I mean. I'll run down the scenes as they aired but there'll also be a few descriptions of scenes that didn't make it to the screen at all. Think of this as the expanded DVD version and read on.


Tessie Santiago - Tessa Alvarado / The Queen of Swords
Paulina Galvez - Marta
Valentine Pelka - Colonel Luis Montoya
Peter Wingfield - Dr. Helm
James Innes-Smith - Latham
Freddy Douglas - Ramon
Julio Morales Merino - Don Aguillera
Javier Sandoval Alvarez - Don Fuentes
Edward Hughes - Ian Latham
George Bulloch - Ranchero

Is This a Party Town or What?

The episode begins with a fiesta. Now we seemed to have one of these blowouts just about every week. I guess it's just a party kind of town. Lots of extras and musicians and some mystery meat turning on the bbq spit. Our director, Brian Grant wanted to really do it up and spent hours on the details, like the children throwing the stuffed doll in the blanket. There was also a competition, much abbreviated, of young boys climbing the pole in the center of town. I happened to be crossing the square on my way to a rehearsal when the Assistant Director corralled me into spotting the boys from below so they could climb higher. I pushed from below with their feet in my hands, then on my shoulders, then in my face and on my head so camera would think he was really going to town. Alas, you barely catch a glimpse of the lad at ground level just starting his splinter shimmy.

Anthony and Carlos At left - Anthony sits with Special Effects key, Carlos, on the set of "The Hanged Man."

What was referred to as "the exploding melon" gag on the call sheets gave us more than a few laughs. The script called for the boy to be holding the melon when it exploded but I thought this was an unnecessary risk. Fortunately, this was an easy persuasion and our intrepid EFX key, Carlos Hernandez, rigged a plastic hand for the melon to sit on for the CU (close up) cut in. The director wanted to see a test so Carlos set up his practice off to one side and in between scenes we tested the effect of squibs (small explosive charges controlled by the EFX crew) on fruit. If any of you have ever seen the comedian Gallagher and his "sledge-o-matic," you'll have some idea of the mess. I believe the scientific term is called sublimation, the process of changing ice to vapor, from solid to gas, without bothering to pass through the intermediate water stage. That'll give you some idea of what evidence we could find of that huge watermelon. Isn't science a wonderment? There was a moment of stunned silence before a cheer went up and we all started laughing. The only thing left of the melon was a little pink mist that had sprayed across the front of Carlos shirt some thirty feet away from ground zero. He vaporized that sucker. The next test gave us enough chunky splatter to tell costumes how much gook to spread over the actor's costumes. Aah, the glamour of show business.

I'd stolen every possible moment with Tessie to rehearse her whip skills again. The sword action had been so fast and furious we'd had to put the whip on hold but now we were back at it between scenes and on what was supposed to be our "day off." Again, kudos to Tessie for her hard work and willingness to do what it took to get the job done. The results of her hard work are there for all to see in the Main Title whip sequences, the crossbow wrap that Tessie did with the guest actor herself, and my signature body wrap putaway that looks so good on Tessie.

When the mysterious Latham whacks a guard in the face with a board we did a last minute "cowboy switch." I hid behind the wall with our guest actor, James Inez-Smith and doubled the action with the board since it was a blind hit to our stunt soldier, Luis Miguel Arranz. We were shooting from behind Luis, so he only had to stop short of the corner and snap his head in reaction to make the hit play and still retain our margin of safety. Unfortunately, someone had walked off with the board we had rehearsed with earlier. They were ready to shoot so we grabbed what we could find, a flat bit of planking that was a little shorter than our original. When the director cued the hit, Luis did a perfect reaction. Unfortunately, the shot from behind revealed that the board was six inches too short to have reached his face. The director was laughing too hard to call cut and stop the action so Luis dropped like a stone and we made the switch with James dragging his body around the corner to complete the action. We got it on the next take.

different boots used by At right - The various footwear of the "Queen". At left, the flat leather riding boots favoured by Natalia. In the middle, the official "Queen of Swords" boots worn by Tessie in the lighter action sequences. At right, black hiking boots with black boot tops over them, worn mostly by Gaelle and Roberta.

The close-up shot of the Queen being stealthy is Natalia. I'm going to reveal a secret. In the early episodes it was easy to tell the doubles apart whenever the boots were in the shot. For the first six episodes, Tessie always wore the Queen boots, high-heeled leather with gold piping along the sides. They looked great but the extended heels often made the action much more difficult, especially when clambering over rocks and uneven ground. Also the heels had a tendency to break off, a situation both hazardous and time consuming for the shoot. Natalia Guijarro, the horse riding double, started with rubber boots before moving to the tall leather riding boots with flat heels and the tell-tale spurs. Roberta Brown was the first to get sensible black tennis shoes and black leather leggings with the gold accents painted on the sides. The first time I saw Tessie in leggings and flat shoes in the reshoot of the climactic fight with Montoya at the end of this show. Look for those heels to be back next week.

Location of the Church knife fight At left - The knife fight between the Queen and Latham occurs here on the back of the church. Small window is where Latham aims the crossbow.

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!

We again employed Mary-Jose's fall experience for the leap from the rooftop to the church porch, the twin disarms and the double fall into the cardboard boxes covered by a mat just below the camera's line of sight. I'll describe this falling surface in greater detail when I reach the description of Peter Wingfield's own leap of faith. I thought the editor did a nice job of assembling all the elements of this sequence which included shots from the roof and the ground, the swing of the sword to knock away the crossbow incorporating both long shots and insert coverage with the actors themselves. It was necessary for the later action to see both the crossbow and the Queen's rapier fly from the porch roof before the struggling combatants knock each other from the roof. This, combined with timing the struggle on the slippery and sloping surface and the leap itself took a couple of goes to get it right.

Frames from fight with Anthony and Roberta At right - Frames of Roberta Brown (Queen double) and Anthony De Longis (Latham double) from the knife fight behind the church. Click on the photo to download QuickTime mpeg (file size 1.1 MB) from filming the action.

We pick up our story with Roberta and I rolling on the ground and rising to our feet to begin the knife fight. One unlooked-for thrill was the fact that the carpenters had left nails strewn in the dirt when they built the platform we used to level the ground for the mat and falling boxes. When this was cleared away, we had a minefield of nails for Roberta and I to roll around in and no time to clean up the mess.

Frames from fight with James and Roberta At left - Frames of Roberta and James Innes-Smith (Latham) during the knife fight behind the church. Click on the photo to download QuickTime mpeg (file size 840 KB) from filming the action.

Roberta and I did the first master of the fight for speed and to establish the moving pattern for cut-ins. Then Roberta doubled Tessie for the guest actor James Innes-Smith's coverage. Having a professional guide allows the actor to concentrate on performance instead of the mechanics of memory. Roberta controlled story and safety by maintaining the proper distance while guiding him through his moves.

Frames At right - Frames of Tessie and Anthony during the knife fight behind the church. Click on photo to download QuickTime mpeg (file size 856 KB)from filming the action.

Then it was my turn to do the same for Tessie. This was our first chance to perform together on film. All of our training paid off and Tessie really cooked. I cranked up the level and she followed my lead. I was very proud of her. Unfortunately the editor cut an entire phrase from the fight. For my taste he relies a little too much on close ups and the story of the fight is very hard to follow. We'd all worked very hard to capture the danger and intensity of a knife fight. The Queen's flowing disarm of Latham's stab to her face is gone altogether. This takes some of the logic and emotional impact out of Latham's throat grab with his now empty hand before he slams her into the wall. We've included three long shot master MPEGs with Roberta and I, Roberta and James and Tessie and I. Between the three you'll get a good sense of the specifics and intensity of the story we were trying to tell.

Anthony with Roberta and James on set At left - Anthony discusses with James and Roberta the choreography for the knife fight.

This was James Inez-Smith's first high-action experience, and he was getting an education on many levels. Although he listed horseback riding as one of his skills on his acting resume, after his first ride with his Spanish tutors he admitted he'd never cantered before, let alone found himself at a dead run. Apparently, in Hyde Park you are never allowed to go faster than a posting trot. Sitting aboard an equine Ferrari that shifts from zero to sixty in two strides was an eye-opener as was James's first experience with a squib.

Anthony and Roberta photo at right - Anthony ("Latham" double) and Roberta ("Queen" double) at the end of the night. Anthony is unshaven because he was growing his beard for the role of Torres in "Destiny."

EFX expert Carlos had imbedded the small explosive in the side of a selected adobe pillar and covered it with plaster. During the fight Latham drives the Queen towards the wall and slashes vertically with his knife. The Queen avoids the attack switching positions so that Latham is against the wall for offscreen gunfire from the soldiers. This forces Latham to hurry his next thrust giving the Queen the chance to disarm him. Latham grabs her by the throat and slams her into the wall. The Queen clutches his chest to try to push him away, in the struggle tearing the plans with the sketch of Helm from his pocket. She drives her palm into his throat and kicks him away with a boot to the chest. To avoid the rapidly running soldiers, Latham is forced to flee. "This isn't over yet."

During rehearsals I'd always said "Bang!" so that James would know when the gunshot/squib would explode on the side of the pillar facing away from him. We made sure he knew his position so that Carlos could set off the squib without any danger to the actor. We did our master shots with the various combinations of performers and came in for our CU coverage. James slammed backwards into the wall and the squib exploded as planned and camera waited for James to exit the shot - and waited and waited. James' eyes were the size of saucers and his jaw had dropped to the tops of his shoes. We all started to laugh because James hadn't told anyone that he'd never actually experienced a squib up close before, and the scene suddenly seemed very real, indeed. ("That bullet was meant for me.")


On to the 2nd Page of "Vengeance"

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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 December 12, 2000