In the wake of surfer Bethany Hamilton’s newly released movie, Soul Surfer, that chronicles her incredible journey after losing her arm in a shark attack, Warner Bros. is preparing to test the waters with their family film release, Dolphin Tale.
Based on true events, Dolphin Tale is the story of a shy boy named Sawyer and the friend he finds in Winter, a young dolphin who loses her tail because of injuries she suffered while caught in a crab trap off the coast of Florida. Sawyer's rescued friend struggles to survive at her new home, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a rehabilitation center run by marine biologist Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.). To save Winter, Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) works to gain the support of the community, including his mom, Lorraine (Ashley Judd), and the help of a doctor (played by Morgan Freeman) who specializes in creating prosthetics for the disabled.
Kris Kristofferson also stars in Dolphin Tale, alongside new names to the biz, Cozi Zuehlsdorff (in the role of Hazel, Clay’s daughter) and Austin Highsmith as Phoebe, a trainer at the aquarium. Charles Martin Smith, who is recognizable from his on-camera work in The Untouchables and American Graffiti, occupies the director’s seat on this project, which is currently being filmed in Florida.
Winter: The Star of the Show
Since her first days at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Winter has inspired amputees of all ages, from all backgrounds. Even beyond inspiring aquarium visitors, Winter’s story compelled prosthetic experts to create her a specially engineered sock to which they could attach a prosthetic tail, freeing her to be able to swim again. The advancements they made in designing her prosthetic are helping doctors better care for amputees today. It’s one reason why actress Austin Highsmith is so happy to be in Dolphin Tale.
“The technology they used for [Winter’s] tail has enabled about 800 vets that came back from Iraq and Afghanistan to be able to walk again,” the young actress reports. “That’s a really cool thing to be able to say, 'Wow, I’m a part of telling this story'.”
Actress Ashley Judd, who works with humanitarian organizations focused on rescuing women and children caught in modern-day slavery, is also excited to be filming Winter’s story.
“I hope that I value all life, and so being a part of a story that’s about creatures two-legged and otherwise was really important to me,” Judd says. “I cried pretty darn hard when I read the script and even harder when I found out it was actually a true story and that Winter was not just a fictitious inspiration to amputees worldwide, but legitimately so. It’s been a real joy to be a part of it so far.”
High Hopes for Dolphin Tale
Though the cast and crew are still filming this 3D take on Winter’s story, they eagerly await when audiences can experience it firsthand in the theaters in September 2011. Nathan Gamble, who plays Sawyer, wants to see everyone walk out of the theater “inspired, feeling hopeful about life.” Stopping in the middle of his busy day of shooting, the young actor from Washington State says that he hopes children and adults alike will see that if a dolphin can an overcome incredible pain and a frustrating disability, then they can move passed obstacles in their lives.
During an on-set interview, Ashley Judd also expressed what she hopes people will take away from Dolphin Tale.
“The movie will give folks a lot to talk about,” the Golden Globe nominee contends. “It’s a very uplifting film, but it doesn’t shy away from heartache… a little bit like Bridge to Terabithia. Ouch, that had some deep zingers in there, but really good life lessons.”
One of the committed Christians on the project, actress Austin Highsmith is grateful to God for the opportunity to fulfill her dream of acting in a feature film, but also to be working on this film in particular.
“I really hope that people walk away from this realizing that giving up is not the way to go", she says. “I really and truly think everything happens for a reason – the good or the bad. And there’s a lesson to be learned in all of it.”
Watch the new theatrical trailer for Dolphin Tale!
Interviews with Dolphin Tale actors Harry Connick Jr. and Morgan Freeman, plus more behind-the-scenes info and a look at how faith inspires a few of the cast members, are coming soon!