Anthony DeLongis Journal Notes

"Love and Honor" Journal Notes by Anthony De Longis


It started with a call from stunt coordinator extraordinaire, Walter Scott. Walter and I had first worked together on MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, when I played the role of the double-swordsman, "Blade." I also trained and choreographed Dolph Lundgren with the broadsword and ended up inside Frank Langella's "Skeletor" makeup to double him for his climactic staff vs broadsword battle with He-Man. Jumping back and forth in front of the camera made MASTERS a busy shoot for me, just the way I like it. Walter had also tapped my skills to box with Tom Cruise in FAR AND AWAY and bullwhip wrap both Drew Barrymore and Madeleine Stowe around the waist and throat respectively, for the film BAD GIRLS.

Walter wanted me to choreograph a sword duel for the MAGNIFICENT 7 television series as well as train the actors involved. I had left town to spend the summer working in Canada but was back in Los Angeles to guest at the HIGHLANDER Access Convention. So I popped out to the Melody Ranch location to read the script and meet the actors. I would have the five working days of the current episode before filming began on the "Love and Honor" episode to train, choreograph and teach the duel to the combatants. I had never met any of the actors and had no idea if they had any experience with the sword. But in television, any preparation is an unheard of luxury, so I was delighted that Walter was giving me a fighting chance. I discovered that in addition to a duel between the characters of Buck and Don Paolo, the as yet uncast guest star, there was to be a training sequence involving Nathan, Buck and Ezra. Only Anthony Starke had any previous sword experience. It was going to be tight. We got some good pictures of the boys in costume on the set on the day of filming.

Although Dale Midkiff, who plays Buck on the show, had never used a sword before, he thought it would be enough to just train on the days that he was shooting, whenever he had any time off camera and wasn't rehearsing other scenes. After our first session Dale signed up for extra time. This was exactly the attitude I was hoping for. As an actor myself, I wanted to offer Dale the best vocabulary with the sword that we could develop in the limited time that we had. This would offer him more choices for his performance and enable me to build greater subtleties into the story we were going to tell with our choreography.

When I trained Michelle Pfeiffer as "Catwoman", we developed her skill level to the point where Michelle performed all her own whip action for BATMAN RETURNS, no doubles, no inserts. The depth and credibility of her performance was enhanced tremendously. This was what I hoped to offer Dale, if only we could find the time in his busy schedule to rehearse.

Dale was terrific. He got excited by the possibilities for his character and recognized that the skills involved don't happen over night. We worked every day on location in between takes on the current episode and he even made time on the weekends to rehearse at his home. The more we worked, the more excited and proficient Dale got. It was a pleasure to be working with a pro.

Next came Rick Worthy and Anthony Starke. Their scene called for Ezra to show off his skills with the blade and offer to teach his friend Buck enough sword savvy to stay alive. Nathan would then exhibit skills of his own sufficient to convince Buck that it would be in his best interests to switch teachers. The easy choice would have been to make Ezra inept. The original script called for Ezra to accidentally stab a church pew while showing off and get his sword stuck. I felt that would lessen his character and make him a fool. I spoke with Anthony and Rick and we all agreed that the most interesting choice was to give both men good skills. Ezra is stylish and capable; exhibiting the kind of training a gentleman would develop in the competitive but sport environment of a formal fencing salon. Nathan has the combative edge that comes from fighting for your life. Nathan was used to surviving a superior opponent, since he had been selected by his former master as a sparring partner and had to learn quickly or be cut to ribbons. Now we just had to develop the skills that would let us tell this story.

Again, both Rick and Anthony worked hard and really put in the extra time including working the weekend and on days off. The director, Greg Champion, had selected broad-bladed fighting rapiers for the duel. We wanted to indicate that Don Paolo was the product of traditional Spanish rapier dueling in the style of the old country and the broad blades would play well on camera. The weapons choice also offered me the chance to incorporate some of the circular stylings of the traditional Spanish training style, the Mysterious Circle.

(Note: For more information about the circle, visit Anthony's site at: http://www.delongis.com/PalpableHit/destreza.html or read his cover article for Inside Karate entitled "The Martial Art of Zorro." Archivist's note: this fight technique can also be seen in the Highlander episode "Duende")

The script called for Nathan to recognize the rapier's death-dealing cutting and thrusting capabilities and correct Ezra's assessment that it was just an epee. To add to their differences in personal style, I gave Nathan a cavalry sabre for his short but telling encounter with Ezra. This allowed Anthony to execute flashier, more flamboyant movements versus the no-nonsense simplicity of Nathan's combative sabre style.

I had just portrayed one of my favorite guest-starring roles ever, the Spanish master duelist, Otavio Consone, on HIGHLANDER, the Series. The Mag 7 producers enjoyed my reading for the role of Don Paolo, but gave the nod to the fine Mexican actor, Jesse Borrego. Unfortunately Jesse wasn't going to arrive in town until the day before we started shooting "Love and Honor." He had also never used a sword before. But I knew he was an experienced and athletic professional and would rise to the occasion. I was also delighted that my old friend A Martinez would be guesting on the show as the antagonist gun expert and opposite number to Michael Biehn. A and I had performed in a musical in college and have always enjoyed when every few years our paths would cross in the professional arena.

A quick word about safety. I hide a strict safety protocol inside the sword technique that I teach. Awareness to distance, accurate targeting, fingertip control of the weapon at all times and a sensitivity to your partner's energy are just some of the elements that keep the performers in my charge safe. They give the actors the tools and the confidence to weave their characters' story for the audience without carving bits off their partners in the process. I just completed filming my latest teaching video incorporating over twenty-five years of professional experience as a performer, teacher and sword choreographer. It will be on the market in June. For news and details visit my website at http://www.delongis.com/ or my fan club site: http://www.adlfc.com.

With Jesse Borrego performing the role of Don Paolo, it was necessary for me to find a suitable double. It goes without saying that specialists are essential to dangerous stunts like high falls, horse falls, car gags, body burns and the like. It takes years of training and there's no reason to risk the health of your star with such hazards. In my opinion, it is always more desirable for the actor to do as much of his own action as he has the desire and the training to perform. Action is a powerful vehicle to define your character and involve the audience in your story. But when time is at a minimum and the action is fast and furious, it is a great advantage to have a highly trained specialist to perform opposite your stars. I had great confidence in my actors but the hazards of sword fighting are very real and the distractions and pressures of filming increase the dangers considerably. By doubling Dale, I could accommodate Jesse's energy to help him give his best performance when they were shooting his coverage. Since Jesse had the least amount of rehearsal, we knew he would be most relaxed in his performance when dealing with his teacher's familiar energy. To afford Dale the same advantage, we chose TJ Rotolo; the actor/sword specialist who performed in silhouette in the fiery opening credits and trailers for ZORRO, to double for Jesse. My friend and partner, Bob Chapin, is six-foot four and blond. That's just too hard a match since Jesse is closer to five foot seven, has jet black hair and dark, Spanish good looks. I knew that Walter had a whip sequence coming up in the next episode and I planned to recommend Bob to be "whip-boy" since I would be back in Canada. For a full account of Bob's adventures on the Mag 7 set, I refer you his article A Day in the Life of Robert Chapin

The day came to shoot the scene all too quickly. I had always complained to Walter about our lack of rehearsal time for certain key sequences and knew that the tight shooting schedule wouldn't give us much time for coverage. Especially since we had to shoot the duel in the street and the training in the schoolhouse as well as a dialogue scene for Buck, all in one day. On a feature you can shoot a fight scene for anywhere from three days to a week and really get it right. We had one day.

We started with a master of the entire fight with TJ and I performing the action. The two cameras were low and high angles, and both at a distance. The purpose of a master is to give you a sense of the entire street and the perspective of a distant observer. It is too far away to make out faces and that enables you to utilize specialized action doubles to take the greater risks involved with speed and movement over broken surfaces. It also gives the film editor and director a place to cut into the action and remind the audience where the fight is taking place and what the big movement picture looks like. Then you can move in closer with the camera and see the faces and expressions of the stars in their close and medium close coverage of the scene. This also serves to draw the audience into the action by letting them see expression and emotion on the actors' faces. TJ remarked that this was the longest fight he had performed in years. He's been working on "Power Rangers" and their sequences are choreographed and shot in very short action segments. When they called "Action", TJ and I blistered through our first take. It was a great warm-up and I was exhilarated and ready to do another one right away. The director and Walter were both so pleased that we went straight to coverage.

Jesse and I did our sword dance together and then TJ and Dale worked their way through the fight. It had been agreed upon that we would shoot only single segments and then cut and reset the cameras so that the actors wouldn't have to remember long sequences and could concentrate on their performances. But everyone had trained so hard and was doing so well, the director let the cameras roll and we flowed smoothly from one phrase of the fight into another without stopping. Dale and Jesse took center stage and their exchanges were both lively and lethal looking without ever losing control of their weapons or their performance. I was very proud of everyone.

We made a mad dash for the church set and shot our scene with Anthony and Rick. We even put in a variation on that swashbuckling classic bit of slicing candles with the blade. The boys did themselves and me proud. Anthony had all the style and dash of a peacock and added a lovely touch of comedy to his discovery that he had underestimated Nathan. Rick Worthy brought a brooding intensity to the scene and utilized the action to reveal another facet to his complex character. We got the scene and were just about to shoot some training sequences when we ran out of time. But what a day! What a team! What a show!

I was thrilled to be working on the Magnificent 7 series. I want to come back and contribute in front of the camera. I have been a life-long lover of Westerns. My dream is to play a great role on horseback in a western and I've been doing my homework, actively cultivating my horse and gun skills over the last five to six years. It's a lot of fun and great training for an actor. I am currently training a horse from the racetrack and I will be performing with whips, cavalry sabres and pistols on horseback April 23-25 (1999) at End of Trail's Wild West Show, the World Series of Cowboy Action Shooting. I will also be competing in the three-weapon live ammo ground shoot as well as the mounted shooting events. Mounted shooting is essentially barrel racing with guns and is a real test of both marksmanship and horsemanship. You must be very close to burst 10 balloons with blanks from the back of a racing horse. For more information about End of Trail, visit my website at http://www.delongis.com/ or my fan club website at http://www.adlfc.com or The End of Trail web site at http://www.sassnet.com/eotdocs/EOTTOC.html. And come on out and see us do our stuff.

And don't miss the Sword Spectacular Weekend with special guests Dale Midkiff and A Martinez (among others!) this coming June 18-20, 1999 at the Sheraton LAX hotel.

Archivist's note: See a report on the weekend from Sword Forum Magazine. Unfortunately, neither Dale Midkiff or A Martinez attended.

Happy Trails.
Best always, Anthony De Longis


Content originally Anthony De Longis, 1999. This article was retrieved via the internet archive and I don't believe it can be found on any other site. I have saved it here to share with other fans of The Magnificent Seven and Anthony De Longis.  I do not claim authorship or ownership, and extend all thanks to Anthony De Longis who originally wrote and posted it.