Mario Luraschi: riding wild

Photography : Camille Noyon - Text : Elisabeth Grosdhomme
Mario Luraschi - BAT

Mario Luraschi is all at once Lucky Luke and D’Artagnan, Napoleon and James Bond, Fanfan la Tulipe and Marshall Blueberry. More exactly, he has embodied all these characters, and many more, in the most dangerous and acrobatic horseriding scenes of their cinematographic adventures.

Mario is a horse breaker for film production and live shows, and a stuntman. In his fifty years of career, he has performed in over five hundred movies and doubled for the most famous actors, from Louis de Funès to Terrence Hill, Roger Moore to Christian Clavier. With him, horses can dance, jump into a river, gallop through flames and detonations, or even play dead.

This unique know-how has been built along the way from a childhood passion for Native Americans. Born in Italy, Mario came over to France at age 13 in the footsteps of his parents looking for work. Still a teenager, he fell under the spell of a television series about Native Americans. Having discovered that the series’ set designer lived in the nearby village of Vineuil Saint-Firmin, he took the liberty of writing to him, and from then on, everything followed smoothly. A few years later, in 1964, his mentor invited him to participate in the creation of « La Vallée des Peaux-Rouges », a theme park centered around the Native American way of life which was being built in the village of Fleurines. And there he went: Mario spent his days riding horses bareback, dressed as a Native American.

As time went on, he was asked here and there to act in riding scenes for television movies and cinema. Little by little, with the development of audiovisual production, what started only as an occasional activity became a full-time job. In the beginning, it was only a matter of executing the scenes as they were written in the scenario, but with experience, Mario grew to advise directors on inventing new stunts, to train horses so that they could be ridden by the actors themselves, to teach new trick riders, to carry out himself the shooting of the most demanding action scenes.

In fifty years, he has seen the craft evolve. After the boom of the 1970s and 1980s, the 1990s were marked by the emergence of fresh competition from companies of stuntmen based in countries with lower labour costs, notably in Eastern Europe. Nowadays, a new wave of change is coming from digital technologies applied to cinema and video games:  stunts are not necessarily shot in the final setting of the film anymore, but sometimes on simple training fields; images are then digitally set in the movie’s background at the post-production stage.

Mario Luraschi is not only a rider but also an entrepreneur. He manages a 60-horse cavalry and a team of 45 people – stuntpeople, trick riders, but also stage managers or stablemen. The company is based in Fontaine-Chaalis but makes more than two thirds of its business abroad. The changing features of the trade and market do not frighten Mario; he has been able to adapt. He has broadened his range of services by putting together an exceptional collection of equestrian accessories (saddles, harnesses, yokes) from all time periods and all countries – enough to outfit five hundred horses. And if more are needed, he happily goes to work in his shop, surrounded by a reserve of fabrics, leathers and carefully selected ornaments, to make new items, meticulously copied from the originals.

To his activities for the film industry, he has added live shows. He is the one who devised the « Buffalo Bill Wild West Show » which you can still see today in Disneyland Paris, or the show « Excalibur – Tournament Of Kings » which has been playing for more than twenty years in Las Vegas. We also owe it to him for the equestrian scenes of « Ben Hur », the show by Robert Hossein which, in 2006, was attended by an audience of 280 000 people over five nights in the Stade de France.

The latest of his projects brings him back to the forest of Ermenonville. He has recently bought the property formerly owned by Jean Richard (known as the « Commissaire Maigret » to moviegoers), and built there a riding arena for horses and a vast wooden house. In the future, it will become a place dedicated to welcoming visitors, seminars and events of all kinds, to share the experience of direct contact with animals, that very emotion which no special effect will ever replace.

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