Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Paco Ardura, life at a gallop in the cinema

Married to a carballesa, he has a long career linked to the big screen

La Voz de Galicia
By Fran Rodríguez Patricia Blanco

Radio Voz Bergantiños yesterday opened its doors to the cinema. Francisco Ardura Rojo, aka Paco Ardura, (Madrid, 1933), and his daughter, Lorena, approached the studio. Ardura, married to a carballesa, has just been honored by the Spanish Film Academy for his professional career linked to cinematography. It is the first of its scope with this merit: "I have been preceded by great people, but this did not come to them. I've been a lucky one," he says. Now he can participate in the nominations for the Goya. Perhaps little known by the general public, yes it is by the professionals of the sector, since he has participated in many films, some with Goya and Óscar. His link is the horses, carriages and chariots that have been seen on numerous occasions on the big screen. He is the owner of Fort Bravo (Almería), where there has been shot many films.

It was in 1954, he said, when we shot the first film, with Victor Mature. He was in the mili in Larache and signed himself up as a horseman: "That's where I got the hang of it and decided to change my life and to dedicate myself to the cinema." Back in Madrid, he started "doing things". "Everything", because he became the head of production. They offered him a fixed position as such, in the Canary Islands, but he had already started in the world of horses and wanted to continue with his passion. He worked 14 years for a company and became independent next to Juan Maján, to finally end up taking the reins of everything, now relieved to a certain extent by his children, "although you never retire from this."

Ardura has developed his profession alongside directors such as Spielberg, David Lynch, Sergio Leone and Anthony Mann. However, if he had to stay with one, it would be with Enzo Castellari, with whom he became good friends: "I had a real admiration for him. For me he is the one that has directed the action the best, the one that has handled the best specialists and special effects, " he says. He shared work and time, likewise, with Ridley Scott: "We both smoked Monte Cristo cigars."

Paco's horses have been in movies like “Gladiator” and “Braveheart”, among others, and have caused a sensation among the actors. Remember an anecdote with Hurácan, a pure Spanish black racer that conquered Stallone, who rode him in Rambo III. "All the horses had to be moved to Israel for the shooting. He was in love with Hurricane. The producer asked me to sell it to him, because it was necessary to continue filming in New Mexico, and he put so much pressure on me that I finally agreed, but later we found he had come down with the equine plague, so he could not take it. Hurricane had to stay here and then was used in “Indiana Jones”. The horse of Curro Jiménez or the one Águila Roja also has the seal of Ardura. Likewise, his wagons and chariots have participated in films such as “The Fall of the Roman Empire”, “Gladiator”, “Asterix and Obelix” (in which he actually appeared on screen) and “Golfus of Rome”. The restoration of carriages (until the 18th century) has been a necessity for his work, but he is also encouraged with the tasks and, he says, he can dedicate spare time to sanding and painting. He also furnished the garrisons of the horses of “Ben-Hur”.

In cinema, as in everything, things have changed: "We are talking about times when, if you wanted to see a thousand horses in a movie, like in “Lawrence of Arabia”, you had to put it on. “The Battle of Cleopatra” was shot with 1,150. Today, maybe, there are 40 or 50. The result may look good, but some people notice it, laughs Ardura. The business, therefore, has "hit a slump", but he continues. Although retired, he continues to supervise participation in a "very nice" project with director Alberto Rodríguez (“La Isla Mínima”, “The Man with the Thousand Faces ...”): it will be a series for television set in sixteenth-century Andalusia. He has also worked in Galicia and, in fact, remembers that the best medieval tournament was in the Obradoiro.

He has received several tributes, such as the National Association of Purebred Spanish Horse Breeders. He has also been able to forge friendships with professionals of the stature of Gil Parrondo -the only Spaniard with two Oscars and four Goyas-, who passed away this passed away on the 24th of December. With him, a native of Luarca, like the father of Ardura, he made several films, from “Los Ghosts from Goya” to “Patton”, among others: “I met him 60 years ago. He was still working at 95, and still drawing by hand". Ardura's daughter, Lorena, was his assistant for the past 16 years: "It imposes a lot of work with the geniuses," she said on Radio Voz.

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