Sorvino gets physical

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Mira Sorvino plays the lead role in The Last Templar, a four-hour mini-series filmed in Montreal.

A rather mean-looking fellow comes striding out of the Lucky Luc Stables in St. Henri just north of the Lachine Canal, bumps into Mira Sorvino and roughly throws the Oscar-winning actress to the ground. The tough guy is Montreal actor Danny Blanco Hall and it’s all part of the action on the final day of filming in town on the $20 million mini-series The Last Templar.

Luckily for Sorvino, there’s a mat on the ground in the stable to help cushion her fall, but on one of the many takes, it looks like she was actually shaken up and director Paolo Barzman runs over to make sure his star is doing OK.

“It rattled my cage a little but I was fine,” Sorvino said in a chat a few minutes later. “I’ve done a lot of my stunts in this movie and it’s been fun. I’m kind of a daredevil. Throw me on a horse or have me do a fight scene and I want to do all of it myself. They have to pull me back because insurance doesn’t let you do the horseback riding. I can only get on the horse and ride in and out of shots very slowly, even though I used to have a horse when I was a kid. I said, ‘Wait, I can do all of this. I can gallop.’ But you can’t do it.”

In the scene, Tess Chaykin, the Manhattan archeologist played by Sorvino, arrives at a New York-area stable to meet one of four masked horsemen who had earlier stormed into the Metropolitan Museum and stolen one of the items at an exhibit of Vatican treasures. But the horseman is killed just before Chaykin arrives and the murderer, Plunkett, portrayed by Blanco, is the guy who man-handles her at the entrance to the stables.

The four-hour mini-series from local producer Muse Entertainment will air on Global and NBC sometime in early 2009. The local leg of shooting wrapped this past Tuesday with the scenes at Lucky Luc stables, but the cast and crew will be shooting in Morocco later this month.

Wednesday was a day-off for the Last Templar team, a brief pit-stop before scouting locations in Morocco, and a tired Barzman took a half-hour out of his down-day to talk about the production. He admitted he was a little worried for Sorvino during that scene at the stables Tuesday.

“Strangely enough, it’s sometimes these simple little things where you get hurt,” said the Cannes-born, Paris-raised, now-Montreal-based filmmaker. “It’s the simple things where you’re maybe not that cautious. But Mira is very physical. She goes for it.”

He talked of one of the bigger set pieces in the film, in which the masked horsemen, who are dressed as Templar Knights, flee the museum and gallop down the stairs outside the Met – a scene filmed on the steps of Mary Queen of the World on René Lévesque Blvd. Sorvino’s character steals a police horse and chases down the steps after the thieves, but the insurance company forbade Sorvino from getting on the horse for that sequence.

“That was a major choreography,” said Barzman, whose previous film, the Holocaust-themed, Quebec-set drama Emotional Arithmetic, recently played local cinemas.

The Last Templar is set in present-day Manhattan, Turkey and the Greek islands, but it also flashes back to 13th-century Europe to follow a young Templar Knight who disappears with a chest carrying a secret that – in a Da Vinci Code-like twist – is still wreaking havoc several centuries later.

The other lead actor in the mini-series is Scott Foley, best-known for the TV series Felicity and The Unit. He plays FBI agent Sean Reilly, who, like Sorvino’s Chaykin, is in hot pursuit of these horsemen.

Foley cautions against taking The Last Templar too seriously.

“Growing up, I really enjoyed Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile, with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, and that’s what resonates here, with the chemistry between the two of us,” said Foley. “This has its heavy moments with regards to religion and the belief in God, but for the most part it’s kind of a light romp. It’s fun – we’re going to solve a mystery, to find the hidden treasure.”

For Sorvino, this is her fourth project shot in Montreal, following the 1998 Marlon Brando oddity Free Money, the 2000 TV version of The Great Gatsby, and the harrowing 2005 mini-series Human Trafficking (another Muse production).

“I like shooting in Montreal,” said Sorvino. “I prefer Montreal to Toronto. Maybe it’s because of the French element.”

Sorvino is fluent in the language of Molière, having studied it throughout high school and also spent some time in France when she was dating French actor Olivier Martinez several years back.

Turns out she also prefers Montreal to Paris because she finds the francos here “nicer and more courteous than the French.”

It looks like the only local not making nice with Sorvino is the thug who keeps pushing her to the ground at the stables.