Oregon’s Top Trainer Talks To The Animals


Lauren Henry and partner Roland Sonnenburg started Talented Animals in 2005, and, if a film was made in Oregon and there was a live animal in it, chances are they were trained by Talented Animals.

Willamette Week’s Jay Horton profiled Henry and Talented Animals which are now, arguably, the most sought-after animal trainer in the Pacific Northwest. Remember the llama and rattlesnake in “Wild?” Yup, that was them. But make sure you check out the upcoming “Lean on Pete” (playing at Portland International Film Festival on Feb. 28) to see their incredible work with horses.

We caught up with Lauren and her time on “Lean On Pete”  –

“It was a great production!  We really enjoyed working in some of the less typical parts or Oregon – usually everyone wants Portland, the lush green woods, the beautiful mountains, or the coast, so it was a fun change of pace to go to central Oregon and work in some of the expansive deserts.  The landscapes were phenomenal. The only drawback was they kept wanting to film the awe-inspiring sunsets, and we really wanted to stop working and just bask in the splendor for a while!”

“There were three horses that played Pete, the lead, Starsky and two doubles.  There were three other acting horses that played characters in the film, plus of course race horses race and pony horses that were not provided by us but were actual horses from the racing world. We even used a local horse in Burns for a few scenes, and she did a great job. Charlie (Plummer) , Steve (Buscemi), and Chloë (Sevigny) were all really good with the horses. They all came out and spent time training and getting comfortable with them and working with horses, and genuinely were all fabulous to work with. They rolled up their sleeves, put on boots, and got in there working!  Charlie especially had to get comfortable in the role, so for several days we pretty much put him to work cleaning stalls, grooming horses, and building a friendship with Starsky the lead horse, Charlie was great.  He has a natural gentleness that all the horses loved, and he was always happy to do what was needed.  The director,  Andrew Haigh, although a bit nervous around horses at first, had a really good eye and knew what he was looking for.  In the beginning, we sent him pictures and videos of many horses to look at, and then had several casting sessions where he came out and met them.  The day he met Starsky he said he knew that was “Pete” before he even got out of the car.”

“Lean On Pete”  premiered to exceptional reviews at The Venice Film Festival in competition and also played Telluride and Toronto earlier this year and will be in theatres Marhc 30th

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