Is Hidalgo really based on a true story?

What really happened.
March 4 2004 6:27 PM

A Mirage in the Desert

Viggo Mortensen's Hidalgo is based on a not-so-true story.

(Continued from Page 1)

Fusco, also a horseman, has slightly better evidence for his claim that some version of Hopkins the equestrian existed. He researched the Hopkins story in America for over a dozen years, mainly by recording oral histories from members of the Lakota and Blackfeet communities of Sioux Indians (Hopkins said his mother was a Sioux princess) and by seeking out articles—mostly from mid-20th-century equestrian magazines—that recount different aspects of Hopkins' tale. Fusco has since posted some of these articles online; a close look at them reveals that many seem short on primary sources. Fusco says he speaks the Lakota language himself, and that tribal elders told him "the story of the small pinto mustang who had won many long-distance races under a half-breed cowboy." The elders had also heard about the great victory in a long-distance race in Arabia.

Fusco's research is difficult to verify, but some of it does lend credence to the notion that Hopkins was an accomplished rider. CuChullaine O'Reilly claims that the only known image of Hopkins in cowboy attire shows him sitting on a stool, and that "the idea that there is no documented photo of Hopkins in the saddle is staggering." Fusco, however, correctly points to a set of newer images found at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming. One of the images shows an older Hopkins seated on top of an unidentified horse.


Fusco likens the controversy to "a shoot-out between posses" in the equestrian community, but the larger question about whether Disney should promote Hidalgo as "based on a true story" remains. To call Hopkins an enthusiast seems fair, but to present him as a real-life champion cowboy is outlandish. It's unclear why Disney felt the need to gussy up its timely epic—the movie is a tale of American triumph on the Arabian peninsula, after all—with the "true story" moniker. Perhaps they were looking for a Seabiscuit competitor. Perhaps it was a misguided attempt to lend their jingoistic narrative some historical heft. But whatever the rationale, the scale of their fabrication would probably have made Hopkins—an enthusiast of horses and tall tales alike—proud.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Sept. 21 2014 11:00 AM Sometimes You Just Need to Print Your Photos the Old-Fashioned Way 
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.