Maguire, star of Spider Man, The Cider
House Rules, Wonderboys, and Pleasantville, is starring
as Seabiscuit's regular jockey Red Pollard. Veteran
actor Jeff Bridges, star of such
films as The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Fisher King,
and The Big Lebowski, is playing Seabiscuit's owner,
Charles Howard. Academy Award winner Chris
Cooper (American Beauty, October Sky) is
playing Seabiscuit's trainer, Tom Smith. Elizabeth
Banks (Catch Me If You Can) is playing
Marcela Howard. Hall of Fame jockey Gary
Stevens is playing jockey George Woolf,
while Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron
is playing Charley Kurtsinger, War Admiral's jockey.
movie is being shot at several locations, including
Racecourse, New York's Saratoga Racecourse and California's
Santa Anita Racecourse. Seabiscuit is scheduled
for release on July 25, 2003.
six years ago, jockey Gary Stevens took home a miniature
statue of legendary George “The Iceman”
Woolf after being voted by his peers as winner of
the annual memorial award given to the rider whose
career has brought credit to himself and the sport.
Stevens will portray Woolf, whose star-crossed life
included victories aboard Triple Crown winner Whirlaway
and two-time champion Alsab and a tragic death after
falling during a race at Santa Anita Park in 1946,
in the movie adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s
bestseller, Seabiscuit: An American Legend.
are numerous parallels between the lives and careers
of Stevens and Woolf. Both began riding as teenagers
in small tracks in the West and later rose to the
top of their profession. Woolf obtained the ride
on 1938 Horse of the Year Seabiscuit after his friend
and the horse’s regular rider, Pollard, was
seriously injured. Woolf’s victories aboard
Seabiscuit included his legendary romp over Triple
Crown winner War Admiral in their 1938 match race.
After the victory, Woolf sent Pollard half of his
also took strong stands on behalf of the welfare
of jockeys. Woolf helped form the Jockeys’
Guild, an organization that Stevens served as president,
and both have been inducted into the Racing Hall
to Hollywood, racehorse style. This movie straight
from the land of make-believe even has a model Seabiscuit,
big enough to ride. The Seabiscuit model is for
use in scenes where star Tobey Maguire must appear
to be riding in a race. The model of Seabiscuit
will race alongside the model of War Admiral, both
powered by generators and mounted on rails on a
flat car set to roll around the Keeneland racecourse.
The magic of Hollywood will enable shots of the
model racehorses to be interspersed with footage
of real horses ridden by Hall of Fame jockeys Chris
McCarron and Gary Stevens.
won't be able to tell the difference," said
Stevens, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner who
took acting lessons for this movie.
this a Hollywood miracle of special effects. The
mounts are modified Equicizer horses of the type
jockeys use for fitness exercise. But Hollywood
has remade the Equicizer with a more realistic horse
head and neck that, like the original, moves and
bobbles as would a horse in motion. One recent morning
at Keeneland, Stevens climbed aboard one of the
Equicizer horses to demonstrate some race-riding
Seabiscuits were needed, 7 in all and 8 War Admirals.
All are thoroughbreds, except for a few lead ponies
and the Palomino Belgian (draft) horse whose role
is Pumpkin, Seabiscuit's companion. Most of the
thoroughbreds were racing when they were bought,
in order to meet important criteria of racing fitness
and soundness. There was one more requirement: all
the Seabiscuits had to be shorter in stature than
the War Admirals, to keep appearances authentic.
difficult job was matching up the various Seabiscuits
and War Admirals: horses had to be paired according
to their relative speed. Because Seabiscuit won
the match race, a horse playing his character could
not be matched for a racing scene with a War Admiral
who was a lot faster.
movie "take" of a racing scene is no farther
than two furlongs, or one-fourth mile. But a take
might have to be repeated twice. If more takes are
needed, another equine double is pulled in to keep
individual horses from being over-raced. Hence the
need for so many horses.
COMMENTS ABOUT THE MOVIE
Stevens never had acted, for many years he'd felt
a kinship with Woolf, a memorable figure whose passion
for telling the truth was as remarkable as his horsemanship.
"The Iceman" was only 36 when he died
in 1946 after a spill at Santa Anita, where a statue
of him stands in the walking ring. Each year racing
writers vote to present the George Woolf Memorial
Award to the jockey who has been a credit to his
profession. Stevens won it in 1996, one of his top
honors in a Hall of Fame career.
someone is one thing, but could he bring back to
life on the big screen a man who died 17 years before
he was born? Stevens wasn't sure.
was very intimidated by the idea of acting, to say
the least," he said. "But what made me
feel more comfortable was that I was a fan of George
Woolf. I had my 25th birthday party in his old apartment
above the Derby Restaurant [near Santa Anita], and
I really felt like I knew the guy."
prepare Stevens for his first role, the film's producers
sent Stevens to Palo Alto, Calif., to work with
Larry Moss, the acting coach for Maguire and Tom
Hanks. The plan was for Moss to counsel the rookie
in three five-hour sessions to see how much work
would be needed. Yeah, the articulate, handsome
athlete looks the part, but can he play it?
first night, we just sat and talked," Stevens
said. "The next night, we read through the
script together. I hadn't gone through it before
with anyone, just read it by myself.
through the script, Larry was very pleased and he
told me, "You're ready."
after being called a natural by a show-biz expert,
Stevens still was edgy. So was the star, Maguire,
though for different reasons. After bulking up for
the title role in "Spiderman," the 5-8
Maguire wondered how he ever could look like the
scrawny, battered Pollard.
held up a picture of Pollard and said to me, 'I
don't look anything like this guy,' " Stevens
said. "I told him, 'Don't worry, you will.'
After Tobey lost 28 pounds, his eyes were sunken
back in his head and he looked like Pollard did.
real hard part for him was gaining back the weight
quickly because they started shooting 'Spiderman
II' six weeks after we finished 'Seabiscuit.' "
and Maguire became close as they helped fill in
each other's gaps. "Tobey was intimidated by
the riding scenes, and I was intimidated by the
acting scenes," Stevens said. "I was able
to give him confidence, and he was able to do the
same for me."