The Movie

Behind the Movie

When Robert Redford first called me about wanting to make the movie, he asked me if I wanted to write the screenplay. It wasn’t exactly an offer and I think he must have been greatly relieved when I said I didn’t. The truth is, I simply felt too close to the material to be sufficiently ruthless with it in the way that a screen adaptation usually requires. Also I didn’t relish the idea of being fired after a couple of drafts, which is what normally happens. So I wasn’t involved in the making of the movie.  And by the time it was released I had finished my second novel, The Loop.

They started shooting The Horse Whisperer movie in Big Timber, Montana in May 1997, with Redford as director, producer and star. Kristin Scott Thomas, who had just won the Best Actress Oscar for The English Patient, was playing Annie and, in one of her earliest screen roles, Scarlett Johansson was Annie’s daughter Grace. The supporting cast was packed with great actors too – Sam Neill, Diane Wiest and Chris Cooper.

It was a difficult shoot mostly because of the wet weather. The set flooded, the crew was wading around in rubber boots and there was a plague of the biggest mosquitoes anyone had seen.  Also it didn’t help that they’d had to start shooting before the script was finalized.

When I first saw the movie in LA in the spring of 1998 I was blown away by the opening scene and liked the first half very much. When the action moves to Montana, the horse work, I thought, was stunning. And the setting and landscape look gorgeous. I was less keen on the second half of the movie. I thought it got a little lost. But then, being the writer of the book, I’m probably the least well qualified person on earth to judge. Today I can still see the movie and enjoy it.