Gillian Flynn
May 30, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

HIDALGO Viggo Mortensen ponies up in ”Hidalgo” (out this fall), based on the true story of cowboy Frank T. Hopkins, a mustang rider who in 1890 became the first American to compete in the Ocean of Fire, a 3,000-mile race across the Arabian Desert. Here, Mortensen, 44, who sharpened his equestrian skills as ”The Lord of the Rings”’ Aragorn, is back in the saddle on location in Morocco. ”The race isn’t so much about whether he finishes or how well he does,” says Mortensen. ”It’s about what happens to him and the horse, to their relationship, what they have to overcome, and what he has to learn about himself.”

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