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Andrews to Ride a Sweeps Entry

Not many actors look good on horses, when you come to think of it. Which is why when they’re in front of the camera, they’re usually getting on or off a horse, not just sitting there.

But that’s not the case with British actor Anthony Andrews. He’s been riding all his life, he owns horses, hunts and generally feels fine in the saddle. And now he’s notched up a couple of roles where he’s simply surrounded by horseflesh.

Just talking about it makes him happy. He reacts to conversation about horses the way some men react to talk about showgirls.

“Oh, yes,” he said the other day, discussing his role in “Bluegrass.” “That wasn’t work; that was a vacation. There I was in Kentucky surrounded by all those thoroughbreds. I couldn’t have been happier.” CBS hopes the four-hour miniseries will give the network a big finish in the February ratings sweeps on Feb. 28-29.

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“Bluegrass,” in which he stars with Cheryl Ladd and Brian Kerwin, is about a woman (Ladd) who returns to her hometown to fulfill her dream of breeding, training and racing world-class thoroughbreds. It is not, she discovers, an easy task. Andrews plays a smooth-talking Anglo-Irishman whose eye, when not on horses, is on her.

It was filmed in and around Lexington, Ky., and features Keeneland Racetrack, Churchill Downs and Turfway Park. Thirty-four thoroughbreds took part.

“It was probably one of the happiest experiences in my acting career,” said Andrews. While there, he was invited to join a local hunt competition--and walked off, or rather rode off, with a trophy. “And it was great to work with Simon Wincer again.”

Wincer’s credits include the much-praised “Phar Lap,” and last year he directed Andrews in another horse movie, “The Light Horseman.” He shot in Australia “in the middle of nowhere,” according to Andrews. Actually, it was 700 miles north of Adelaide, which is not exactly nowhere but not far from it. In the movie, Andrews plays an eccentric English officer attached to a horse regiment.

Andrews’ enthusiasm for horses--shared by his wife, Georgina--helped forge a friendship with the Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, and her husband, Mark Phillips, both of whom share his passion.

Recently some of the more scurrilous British tabloids have had a field day discussing the relationship between Anne and Andrews, who are known to be close.

What does he have to say about that?

Nothing.

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“I’ve learned,” he said, “that you cannot win in that kind of situation. Whatever I say is bound to come out the wrong way, so it’s better to say nothing.” Privately he has vented his anger at the newspaper innuendoes.

Andrews, who first made his mark as the manic-depressive Sebastian Flyte in the TV series “Brideshead Revisited,” has just finished playing Anne’s great-uncle, the Duke of Windsor, in another CBS drama, “The Woman He Loved,” due to air April 3.

This is a story of Edward VIII’s abdication from the throne in order to marry the American Wallis Simpson (played by Jane Seymour). They then became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

“At first I thought, ‘No, it’s all been done before,’ ” said Andrews. “But then I reasoned that, as one of the great love stories of the century, it’s going to be told again and again--so why not? And it is a great part. What’s interesting about this version is that it’s told entirely from the duchess’ point of view.

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“It starts with the duke’s death. We see the duchess coming back to England for the funeral, and the whole saga which led up to the abdication and their subsequent marriage is told in a series of flashbacks.”

Andrews has much of the boyish charm associated with the duke, and Seymour has the same bone structure and sleek, groomed look the duchess had.

“I hope it works,” Andrews said. “It really is such a compelling drama.”

In between all this, Andrews, 40, starred with Ellen Burstyn in “Hannah’s War,” shot in Hungary and Israel, then put in a stint at London’s National Theatre and starred (with Jane Curtin) in a British TV remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Suspicion.”

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“I’m getting to work on stage, in TV and in films,” he said. “That’s what I became an actor to do. So it’s been a great couple of years.”


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