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Hoofed into Hollywood

Retired actor, stuntman provides horses for the big screen

Posted: July 23, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 23, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Jack Lilley, who owns and operates Movin on Livestock, spends a moment with Blanco in the company's barn in Canyon Country on Tuesday.

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In the Santa Clarita Valley, the movie stars aren’t just those with two legs.

Jack Lilley, who owns and operates Movin on Livestock in Canyon Country, has dozens of hoofed celebrities residing on his property. Many of his horses star in hundreds of movies, TV shows and commercials.

Lilley, whose name was added to Santa Clarita’s Western Walk of Stars in 2008, was born into the movie business; most of the men in his family have been stuntmen. Lilley was 13 when he landed his first gig as a stuntman, and he fell in love with the business.

“I knew what I was going to do from then on,” Lilley said.

Lilley joined the Screen Actors Guild in 1955. He eventually retired from stunt work and became a stunt coordinator.

He’s now on his third focus in the movie industry with Movin on Livestock and doesn’t plan to retire any time soon, even though he’ll be 79 in August.

“I’ve retired as an actor. I’ve retired as a stunt coordinator,” Lilley said. “There’s no reason to retire.”

Lilley trains all types of livestock but mainly houses horses and mules at his Canyon Country property. He avoids training exotic animals, although he has trained camels in the past.

Since Lilley began supplying animals, wagons, harnesses, saddles and other authentic tack for movies, he’s worked on a number of notable films — including “Young Guns,” both “City Slickers,” “Zorro” and “Planet of the Apes.”

“Last year we did ‘Cowboys and Aliens,” he said.

As Lilley walked through his stables, he names a few of his horses: Ghost, Venus, Dollar, Blanco.

Blanco, a rare pure-white horse with pink skin and dark eyes, is a special horse for Lilley. He considers the horse, now in his 30s, as part of his family. Blanco has starred in close to 1,000 films and now has cancer, but Lilley doesn’t want to euthanize him until he’s in too much pain and stops eating.

Blanco has starred as a unicorn in a Wendy’s commercial, along with starring in “Larry the Cable Guy,” “Delta Farce,” “City Slickers,” “Shogun Assassin” and many others, Lilley said.

He almost shipped Blanco to Japan once for a movie but decided not to after discovering that shipping costs would be about $60,000. He used a white horse in Japan instead.

“I could call him to me and rear him and everything,” Lilley said. He has a photo of Blanco rearing up for him in the horse’s younger years, along with photos of Lilley with Billy Crystal and other famous actors.

Blanco is retired now, but he still gets star treatment in Lilley’s stable.

After the hundreds of movies that Lilley has done throughout his lifetime, the names of the motion pictures often escape him, although he can name actors starring in the film and describe their plots.

Lilley trains the horses for different specialties, including “falling” horses that are pretending to be shot, rearing horses, horses that follow people, horses that pull wagons and horses that pull carriages. He often looks at 30 to 40 horses before he finds one that will work as a movie horse.

“To make a movie horse, he’s got to be very gentle and have an even temperament,” Lilley said. “They have to have that disposition.”

As for actors who claim they’re riding wild broncs? Lilley said the horses are extremely gentle and are far from wild.

Right now, Lilley has about 20 horses on location in New Mexico, Utah and Arizona shooting the new “Lone Ranger” movie — starring Johnny Depp as Tonto — scheduled for release next year.

kjonas@the-signal.com

661-287-5517

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