Did You Hear About The Morgans?

The marriage of two high-powered New Yorkers is on the rocks, but before they can even decide if it is worth reconciling, they witness a murder, forcing them into the Witness Protection Program and relocating them to a tiny, slow-paced rural town with no outside communication.

  • Starring: Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker and Sam Elliott
  • Director(s): Marc Lawrence
  • Producer(s): Martin Shafer
  • Screenwriter(s): Marc Lawrence
  • Distributor: Sony Pictures
  • Animal Coordinator: Moving On Livestock
  • Release Date: Friday, December 18, 2009

Featured Animal Action

Horses and Bulls at the Rodeo
The Morgans (Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker) attend a rodeo to escape a killer. The rodeo scenes feature horses with riders, horses tied to trailers, horses being walked near the arena and in the parking lot, and cattle in the background. The trainers doubled as actors whenever possible for these scenes. The riders were experienced and the horses were accustomed to the mild action. Pickup riders and wranglers on foot stood nearby at all times in case they were needed. Food was scattered on the ground for the cattle to keep them occupied.

The two scenes with men riding bulls were both achieved in the same way. The riders were professional bull riders, and the bulls were regular rodeo bulls accustomed to being ridden. The cast and crew allowed on the set were limited, and the area was checked ahead of time for hazards. The trainer backed up the bulls’ trailers to the chute and each bull was released into the chute. An experienced bull rider mounted the bull right before the gate was opened. Shortly after entering the arena on bull-back, the stunt rider fell off in a choreographed fall. The men in the arena, including the clown, were also experienced rodeo men so they were comfortable with the bull in the arena. They were accustomed to trying to grab the bull after a rider falls off.

The scene in which the bull rams the mascot was filmed separately. The mascot (which was a two-person costume supposedly containing Mr. and Mrs. Morgan) and the bull were filmed separately and then the shots were combined in post-production. The people inside the mascot outfit were never in the arena with a live bull. A wrangler pushed a fake mascot mannequin into the path of an oncoming bull, which ran into it. For the rest of the bull scenes, pens were set up for the bull on both sides of the arena so the bull had a place to go when cued to run from one point to another. A trainer would release the bull either from the chute or a release pen (depending on what the scene called for) and another wrangler stood near the other pen to retrieve it. For close-up shots of the bull, the trainer attached a tether to its rear leg and held it just off-camera. Another trainer used a “crop whip,” which is struck on the ground to get the bull to paw at the ground and to look and walk in various directions. To complete the scene, two horseback riders rode around in the background to make some dust fly up.

Meryl (Parker), Paul (Grant), Emma (Mary Steenburgen) and Clay (Sam Elliott) approach the corral where there are four horses saddled up and ready to go. They begin to mount, and three of them are seen riding down a dirt road. A horse is then seen running riderless with Meryl chasing it. Later in a brief scene, a horse and rider cross in front of Meryl and Paul as they are jogging through the woods. At the end of the film, Emma rides up to a gunman at the rodeo and points a gun at him. All of these scenes were achieved in the same way. Trainers and stunt riders doubled as actors whenever possible. All actors who rode in scenes were given riding lessons and instructions on the handling of the horses before filming began. All grounds were checked ahead of time for safety, and pickup riders and wranglers on foot surrounded the area to make sure the horses and riders stayed where they were supposed to. For scenes involving guns, the guns were props (gunfire sound effects were added in later).

There is a scene in which a man is riding a horse on the side of a street. A stuntman rode the horse and stuntmen were in the cars driving closest to the horse and rider. They had radios in the cars so they could hear directions given. The horse was kept a safe distance from the cars and was well-rehearsed for the action.

An experienced stuntwoman performed the trick riding on the horse as it galloped around the arena during the rodeo.

Three cows stand in a barn. Clay milks one of them and tells Meryl to grab a nearby bucket and do the same. Trainers brought the three milk cows into the barn and provided hay and water to keep them on their marks. Both actors were given instructions and rehearsals to milk the cows properly.

As Paul is out in the yard, a bear approaches him. Paul and the bear look at each other, and the bear begins to come closer to Paul. The bear stands up on its hind legs and begins to walk toward Paul, who runs inside the cabin. The bear turns away from the door and begins to walk away. Later, as the gunman walks up to the cabin, the bear approaches. The gunman shoots at the bear and the bear runs off.

Both of these scenes were accomplished in the same way. The guns were props (all shooting noises were added in post-production). The bear arrived to the set in a cage in a truck. A trainer removed the well-trained bear and walked it to its mark. A huge wire and metal barrier was set up to separate the area where the bear was from the area where the actor was. The actor stood on one side of the barrier while the bear was on the other side. Cameras were set up on both sides of the barrier so filming could take place without the barrier showing, and any wire or metal that remained in the picture was digitally removed in post-production. The grounds were checked ahead of time for hazards. Only necessary cast and crew members were allowed on the set and several safety meetings were held before filming began.

Production provided documentation that the dead animals and wall mounts that appear in the film were props.