CowboysIndians.com - Full Article
BY Elizabeth Kaye McCall
November 25, 2019
Still fantastic at 40, one of the best-loved horse movies of all time almost didn’t get made.
It was 3 a.m. when Carroll Ballard’s phone rang with a call from Francis Ford Coppola, who was then in Sicily filming The Godfather: Part II. The two had gone to film school together at UCLA and the middle-of-the-night call was Coppola telling him he thought they should do a film together. Months and ideas later, Coppola sent Ballard a copy of a novel that producer pal Fred Roos had heard about from his then girlfriend. It was her favorite childhood book: The Black Stallion.
“I didn’t like the book when it was first presented to me,” says Ballard, 83, in a rare interview at his hilltop home in St. Helena, California. “I thought, What is this? Leave It to Beaver? I wanted to make War and Peace!” But he finally “wised up” about the opportunity at hand, and in a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction convergence of events — including a typhoon in the Philippines that destroyed the set on Coppola’s Apocalypse Now — the modern classic, turning 40 this October, came to life.
Ballard munches on a quesadilla in a sunroom looking out on the pond flanked by his vineyard, as recollections of years spent on his visual masterpiece return. “I wondered for a long time, How is it that this book became such a big hit. Because I was dwelling on the old trainer and the kid talking,” he says. “Stuff I thought was totally predictable. But, there is this thing. I really didn’t see it for a long time. There is a mythic element in the book. It’s every child’s desire to have a powerful friend who can do things and who will make him powerful too. That’s what’s in this film. It’s mythic and in the form of a black horse...”
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