Actress discusses making the film, learning to ride a horse and her role as Ursula in Beowulf

Alison Lohman has had quite a career for someone who is only 27 years old. She co-starred with Nicolas Cage in Matchstick Men, gave a strong turn in Atom Egoyan's thriller Where the Truth Lies, and most recently won raves for her portrayal as the 16 year old Katy McLaughlin in Flicka.

In this contemporary motion picture adaptation of Mary O'Hara's beloved novel My Friend Flicka, 16-year-old Katy McLaughlin (Alison Lohman) dreams of fulfilling her family legacy by working on her father's ranch in modern-day Wyoming. But Katy's father wants more for her, insisting that Katy go to college. Katy finds a wild mustang, which she names Flicka, and sets out to make her a riding horse. But Flicka and Katy are more alike than she could have imagined. Like Katy, Flicka has a disdain for authority and is not about to give up her freedom without a fight.

What attracted you to the role of Katy McLaughlin in Flicka?

Alison Lohman: I was anxious to work with Michael Mayer. I had liked Home at the End of the World, the independent film he did. I liked the story, I liked the characters. I wanted to do a movie... I wanted to be outside, in nature. I'd read the book and I'd enjoyed the book. I thought it would be a good story to tell.

Had you ridden horses at all before you did the film?

Alison Lohman: No, I hadn't.

Oh wow, was that a big learning curve?

Alison Lohman: It was, definitely. I hadn't ridden so it was a new experience. We did about a month of training. You just kind of train and hope that it looks real on camera.

What for you was the most difficult part of doing this film?

Alison Lohman: Probably the horseback riding. Obviously, because I'd never ridden, that was probably the most challenging. Making it look like it was real, like I was one of the best riders in the nation.

What was it like working with Maria Bello and Tim McGraw?

Alison Lohman: Maria Bello was great. She was really nice. I'd admired her work in other movies she'd done, so I definitely wanted work with her and Tim McGraw was great. I think he's very talented. He's a great actor.

Other than riding horses did you do any other kind of preparation to play someone living and working on a horse ranch?

Alison Lohman: I did. For the month we'd go out there, start our morning pretty early, and stay pretty late. I learned whatever a ranch girl would learn to do. Probably the hardest part for me was putting on the saddle because it was heavy, and the horse was bigger than I expected. There was feeding the horses and just kind of watching the cowboys.

What would you people to take away from watching Flicka?

Alison Lohman: I think it's a great story of a horse and a young girl... a good coming of age story about this girl, trying to find herself, and being herself. Seeing this fierce, independent spirit of a horse in herself. Connecting with animals and nature and what's wild and untamed, you know? And that's the beauty of life, for her... and also saving the ranch is really another important message. To hold on to tradition and what's majestic and wide open about pastureland and farming. To be independent and not sell out to corporate money and tract homes. I think it's Norbert who comes and wants to sell the ranch. She feels very strongly about not doing that. She's not dealing with issues that high school girls are dealing with at that age.

That is interesting because in a lot of movies you see younger people rebelling against their families. Yet Katy, she want's to be a bigger part of hers.

Alison Lohman: Yeah, and who didn't want to sell out to something that would dilute or compromise the family heritage and what's beautiful about America. The wide open space, the green pasture and the farmland.

Having done Matchstick Men, Where the Truth Lies, and now Flicka, has it always been your plan to do different and varied characters with each role?

Alison Lohman: I would hope so, yeah. That's definitely what I love about my job is that I can take so many different roles, and try to get inside the minds of each character. I find that really exciting.

Can you talk at all about your upcoming roles in Beowulf and Things We Lost in the Fire?

Alison Lohman:Beowulf I did awhile ago, so I can't really... going back into all the mythology. We used motion capture. As for Things We Lost in the Fire..., I don't know , I can't really tell what the movie's going to be until I see it. It's hard to explain but I think it's gonna be great because it's directed by Susanne Bier. I really like her work. I think the actors are really great. I think it's gonna be a really good movie. Beowulf the same. I think it's got a great cast and a great director. I can't really say until I see the movie.

Flicka comes to DVD February 6 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

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Cinemark Movie Club
Evan Jacobs