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Posted January 31, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Mule of a different color: Animal gets a makeover to be in new film with Robert Duvall

Janet Kondakor
Janet Kondakor, a hairstylist from Mechanicsville, applies makeup to Grace, a mule who will be used in an upcoming movie featuring Robert Duvall. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Grace and Steve Foster
Grace nuzzles owner Steve Foster, of Warren County, who will travel with her to Marietta, Ga. next month for the filming of “Get Low,” in which Foster is slated to double for Duvall in some scenes. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Janet Kondakor, a hair stylist from Mechanicsville, works with Grace to make her look older. Dennis Grundman/Daily

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By Ben Orcutt -- Daily Staff Writer

FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County resident Steve Foster says he believes it was divine intervention that allowed him and his mule, Grace, to be selected for an upcoming film starring Academy-Award winner Robert Duvall.

"I really believe that God's put her in my life for a reason," Foster says of 3-year-old Grace, who just a few months ago won America's Ultimate Horse Idol competition at Richmond International Raceway.

Doug Sloan, a 57-year-old Richmond wrangler who is working on the production of "Get Low," says that he knew that Foster and Grace would be perfect for the movie.

"I got a call from Atlanta," says Sloan, a 25-year veteran in the film industry. "They were wanting a mule that reared. I'd met Steve doing clinics down in North Carolina and then we met again in Richmond this last fall and so I knew he had a mule that would rear. So I called Steve and we kind of put it into motion, sent them some pictures and they liked what they saw."

On Thursday, Sloan brought Janet Kondakor, a hairstylist from Mechanicsville, to Foster's home to help make Grace look older for the movie and to take photos to send to the independent production company, Get Low Productions.

"We gave her some gray hairs on her face and forehead and around her nose," Kondakor says. "I did a lot of looking on the Internet and Doug has older animals, as well, so we went and looked at some of the aged horses that he has and we just looked at how we could create this look of gray hairs."

Kondakor says she put some white coloring on Grace that did the trick.

"She was wonderful," Kondakor says. "It's very exciting. She's my first mule. She was very cooperative."

Once Kondakor applied the make-up, Grace looked the part, Sloan says.

"It's kind of the story line of an old hermit that doesn't have any friends in town except this old mule and so it's gonna be him and Gracie," Sloan adds. "When they called me about this show, I was excited for Grace because I knew what she could do and I mean where they're wanting a relationship between a man and a mule, I mean you've got it living right here in Front Royal with Steve and Grace. To me, it was a natural for the film."

Sloan says Duvall met Grace last week and the two seemed to hit it off.

"I think he felt the same thing, that it's a good match and I think it'll work good for the show," Sloan says. "This is only the second time I've ever just seen something out that's impressed me enough to use it. I always watch, but it's rare that something impresses me enough to use. So Steve may be right. It may be divine intervention, but I don't mind being used."

Foster says he also felt that Duvall was pleased with Grace.

"Yeah, he was happy with her and he said she had the right name, so that made me feel good about it right there," Foster says.

"She gave him a big kiss," Sloan adds.

Foster and his friend, Larry Daniel, Sloan and Grace will head for Marietta, Ga., on Feb. 9 for two weeks of filming. The cast also features Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray, Sloan says. Foster is slated to double in some scenes for Duvall.

"Yes I am excited," Foster says. "Gonna have a good time."

Foster 58, says Grace also is excited about being in a movie.

"We have our little talks in the stall and she says she's gonna be good, so we'll see," Foster says. "Doug called me the other night and I said, 'Doug, I sure hope Grace does good in that thing.' He said, 'You know something, I think Grace is gonna do fine. It's that other ass with her that I worry about.'"

*Contact Ben Orcutt at borcutt@nvdaily.com

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