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Noel Phillips


Phillips was spend­ing most of his time head­ing steers at jack­pots and cir­cuit rodeos in Ari­zona when he got a gig that def­i­nitely never crossed his mind grow­ing up.

Phillips, of Ben­son, Ari­zona, has spent nearly 30 years driv­ing teams of horses in films like Titanic, rob­bing banks and trains on­screen, and wran­gling horses on sets all over the coun­try. The 1972 na­tional high school team rop­ing cham­pion still ropes horns at WSTR events, too, when he’s not com­mut­ing to a TV stu­dio or movie set in his own Mooney air­plane.

He got into the busi­ness on a whim. Phillips was rop­ing in the early 1990s with guys like the late Byron Wilk­er­son and Fred Davis (he and Davis placed in a round at Tuc­son one year along with Pick­ett/Beers, Wil­liams/Culpep­per, and Cow­den/Cow­den). But it was in ’89 that he and Wilk­er­son au­di­tioned as ex­tras on the lo­cal set of the tele­vi­sion show Young Rid­ers. They were hired for the ABC show, which starred Stephen Baldwin as Buf­falo Bill Cody and Josh Brolin as Wild Bill Hick­ock.

“Then I came out to Cal­i­for­nia and just never stopped work­ing,” Phillips re­called.

For years, the soft-spo­ken Phillips just po­litely smiled when his thick horse­shoe mous­tache, cowboy de­meanor and deep, res­o­nant drawl drew com­par­isons to Sam El­liott.

“I met him once,” Phillips said. “He’s a nice guy, just like you see on TV.”

Phillips has wran­gled horses and done stunts and crew work on movies that in- clude Django Un­chained, 3:10 to Yuma, Wy­att Earp, The Pa­triot, Evan Almighty, The Post­man, Hi­dalgo and a Dis­ney movie called Oz: The Great and Pow­er­ful. He’s also worked on plenty of TV shows, in­clud­ing Quick Draw, Long­mire, True Blood, and The Homes­man. His fa­vorite as a horse wran­gler was HBO’s Dead­wood.

“My dad’s grand­par­ents lived in Dead­wood in the sum­mer of 1876, and my mother’s grand­par­ents moved into White­wood in 1877,” said the South Dakota

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