LORD OF THE RINGS star Viggo Mortensen was stunned by the beauty of the Sahara Desert when he shot his new movie HIDALGO there - but he found the conditions extremely tough to deal with.

The actor, who shot the movie near Ouarzazate, Morocco - where co-star Omar Sharif filmed Lawrence Of Arabia in 1962 - admits the harsh conditions often made work on the horse project tough.

He says, "After the experience of filming Lord of the Rings, everything is kind of relative, I suppose, in terms of hardships and all of that.

"But being in the Sahara Desert was kind of tough. The surface was so hard, there was just the shock of it all the time. Dust was flying around all the time. It was sometimes blinding, and it would get in your lungs.

"Some people ended up in hospital, and some horses had trouble breathing because of it.

"But anybody that complained, I just said, 'You have no idea.' No matter how hard it got, every day you were still in an unbelievably beautiful place. And I do like horses, and I was on horseback all of the time. What's to complain about?"

09/03/2004 09:33