The horse Tom Cruise rode in The Last Samurai is now earning his living on The Great New Zealand Trek. The second stage of the trek that will eventually take in the length of New Zealand kicked off on Saturday.
Trek organiser, and Felix's owner, Steve Old, was horse co-ordinator on the samurai movie filmed in Taranaki. He bought the 15.1hh station-bred chestnut gelding in Gisborne three years ago for the film.
With his big, free movement and kind temperament, Felix was originally one of 50 to be singled out for special training by Spanish horse master Jesus Tieran. When the quarter horse Tom Cruise was supposed to ride proved unsuitable, Felix jumped the queue to stardom. However, in true Hollywood style, Felix had to have a bit of a makeover - a white star painted on his head, not to make him pretty, but to match the mechanical horse used in some scenes.
Mechanical horses replace the live flesh in scenes that could breech the Animal Welfare Act.
Apart from The Last Samurai, Mr Old has been horse co-ordinator for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Arthur (in which he doubled for one of the knights) and 10,000BC. Last year he worked in Sudan for six months as a logistician for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders).
He organised the first Great Trek last year following his success with The Great New Zealand Trail Ride, which raised more than $160,000 for multiple sclerosis.
Last year's stage one of the trek - from Cape Reinga to Kohukohu - raised $21,000 for the same cause.
Stage two extends from Rawene to Pouto Point and stage three is likely to begin somewhere near Wellsford.
Last Monday disaster almost struck some of the people and horses involved in the the trek when the team lost track of time and tide on Ripiro Beach, near Dargaville, during some brand-building filming.
The tide sneaked in around the vehicle and, despite a powerful motor and four-wheel-drive traction, it got bogged in soft sand.
In true Kiwi fashion, a neighbouring farmer on his trusty tractor arrived in time to pull the vehicle free.
- GREAT TREK STAGE 2
Feb 25: Rawene-Pakanae
Feb 26: Pakanae-Waikara
Feb 27: Kai Iwi Feb
28: Day at Kai Iwi Lakes
March 1: Kai Iwi-Baylys
Mar 2: Baylys-Te Kuri
Mar 3: Te Kuri-Pouto