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Hidalgo (film)

Hidalgo film poster
Directed by Joe Johnston
Produced by Casey Silver
Written by John Fusco
Starring Viggo Mortensen
Omar Sharif
Zuleikha Robinson
Saïd Taghmaoui
Harsh Nayyar
Louise Lombard
Editing by Robert Dalva
Distributed by Touchstone Pictures
Release date(s) 17, 2004 (2004-02-17) (Texas)
5, 2004 (2004-03-05)
Running time 136 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $78 million
Gross revenue $108,103,450

Hidalgo is a 2004 film based on the tall tales of former circus employee Frank Hopkins and his fictional horse Hidalgo, a mustang. The movie was written by John Fusco and directed by Joe Johnston. It stars Viggo Mortensen, Zuleikha Robinson and Omar Sharif.


Plot summary

In 1891, a wealthy sheikh, Sheikh Riyadh (Omar Sharif), invited an American, Frank T. Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen), and his mustang horse, Hidalgo, to enter the Ocean of Fire, an annually held three thousand mile survival race across the Arabian desert restricted to the finest Arabian horses bred of the purest and noblest lines.

During the course of his career, Hopkins had been a cowboy and dispatch rider for the United States government. In this capacity he had carried a message to the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment, authorizing the massacre at Wounded Knee. While working as a stunt rider in Buffalo Bill's Wild West shows, Hopkins is advertised as the greatest rider the West had ever known. The Sheikh puts this claim to the test, pitting the American cowboy and his mustang against the world's greatest Arabian horses and Bedouin riders, some of whom are determined to prevent a foreigner - and especially an "impure" horse - from finishing the race. For Hopkins, the Ocean of Fire becomes not only a matter of pride and honor, but a race for his very survival as he and his horse attempt the supposedly near-impossible desert crossing.

A recurring theme in the film is the fact that Hopkins' father was White American and his mother a member of the Native American Lakota tribe. The tribespeople refer to him as "Blue Child" or "Far Rider". As a half-breed, he feels sympathy and pity for his mother's people, who are being driven to extinction by the settlers. However, he does not generally reveal his heritage, especially after the Wounded Knee massacre for which he feels partly responsible. Jazirah, who has become his friend, compares her desire not to wear a veil with Hopkins' heritage; that he mustn't "go through life hiding what God made you.... like me." In the end, he almost doesn't make it, with Hidalgo severely injured, and he himself dying of thirst, Hidalgo struggles up, and they both go the last stretch of the race bareback.

Throughout the race, there are many who attempt to kill Hopkins and Hidalgo. Chief adversaries include the wealthy, spoiled aristocrat Lady Anne Davenport, who owns a rival horse and is used to getting her own way, and the Sheikh's treacherous nephew, who wishes, contrary to his uncle's decree, to marry his cousin, the sheikh's daughter Jazira (Zuleikha Robinson). A spirited girl and a horse-rider in her own right, who had been somewhat indulged by her father because his sons are deceased, she is rescued from raids by Hopkins and Hidalgo, whom she grows to trust. Eventually, Hopkins wins the race and travels home to America, later to buy many mustangs who had been sentenced to death by the Government. These he releases into the wild, allowing Hidalgo to go with them.


  • Viggo Mortensen, as Frank Hopkins, one of the greatest long-distance riders
  • Zuleikha Robinson, as Jazira, daughter of the Sheikh who is a determined and headstrong girl
  • Omar Sharif, as Sheikh Riyadh, Sheikh who is unsure, but trusts Hopkins in the end
  • Louise Lombard, as Lady Anne Davenport, British aristocrat who bets her horse against Hopkins
  • Adam Alexi-Malle, as Aziz, betrayer of the Sheikh who is killed by Jaffa while rescuing Jazira
  • Saïd Taghmaoui, as Prince Bin Al Reeh, prince who is to marry Jazira by force
  • Silas Carson, as Katib
  • Harsh Nayyar, as Yusef
  • J.K. Simmons, as Buffalo Bill Cody
  • Adoni Maropis, as Sakr
  • Victor Talmadge, as Rau Rasmussen
  • Peter Mensah, as Jaffa, guard of Jazira who while on rescue mission for Jazira kills many of her captors but he is shot by Aziz and barely manages to kill him in time.
  • Joshua Wolf Coleman, as The Kurd
  • Franky Mwangi, as Slave Boy
  • Floyd Red Crow Westerman, as Chief Eagle Horn
  • C. Thomas Howell, as Preston Webb
  • Malcolm McDowell, as Major Davenport (uncredited)


Although Native American historian, Vine Deloria, questioned Hopkins' claims of Lakota ancestry, the movie itself employed Lakota historians, medicine men, and tribal leaders to be on set during every aspect of Native American representation. Many of the same Ghost Dancers who reenacted the sacred ceremony of 1890 were also involved with writer John Fusco's 1992 film "Thunderheart" and his later mini-series "Dreamkeeper." Fusco was adopted as a relative of the Oglala Nation in a Hunkyapi ceremony (Making of Relatives) on September 3, 1989 on the Pine Ridge Reservation.


The movie received mixed reviews from mainstream critics, garnering a 46% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes (46% also from the Cream of the Crop of that site) and a 54 from Metacritic.

The events on which the movie were based are disputed by many as nothing more than tall tales.[1]Roger Ebert offers a positive review of the film (three out of four stars), saying it's the kind of fun, rip-snorting adventure film Hollywood rarely makes anymore, adding, "please ignore any tiresome scolds who complain that the movie is not really based on fact. Duh."[2]

Though the bulk of Hidalgo was not set in the American west (or even in North America), John Fusco won the Spur Award for Best Western Drama Script. The Spur Award, given out by the Western Writers of America, is one of the oldest and most prestigious awards in American literature.

Box office

  • US Gross Domestic Takings: US$ 67,303,450
  • Other International Takings: $40,800,000
  • Gross Worldwide Takings: $108,103,450

Production issues

Multiple American Paint Horses were filmed as the horse "Hidalgo"; actor Viggo Mortensen later bought RH Tecontender, one of those horses in the film. Screenwriter John Fusco bought Oscar, the main stunt horse and retired him at Red Road Farm, his American Indian horse conservancy.


External links

http://www.red-road-farm.com/ writer John Fusco's Spanish Mustang Conservancy


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