This weekend in theaters Secretariat, the story about the horse that made the impossible happen hits the big screen with Diane Lane and John Malkovich leading the pack! The actors bring to life two of the most outrageous real life characters from the racing world during the 70′s — and they do so better than anyone else. Lane is both charming and fierce, so that you side with her and fight along with her when necessary. Malkovich once again makes acting crazy look easy — and this time he gets colorful hats to add to it!
Check out our interview with the couple from the Santa Anita press conference below…
Diane, what was it like recreating “Penny” and being able to spend time with her? Was she happy with your portrayal of her and how her story was portrayed?
Diane Lane: First of all it was very surreal to spend time with the real Penny SJFD, because invariably it’s unusual to spend time with someone that you’re going to be bringing to the screen. It raises the steaks, I really personal wanted to make it a gratifying experience for her. As far as the times the film took place in, I don’t think it was an issue – I don’t think Penny ever saw herself in a vain, glorious manner at all representing any gender or any generation. It was, rather, a timeless story from her point of view of her family business and doing what needed to be done to save it. She rose to the challenge and really inherited the mantle of that task. It’s interesting to me because she’s such a strikingly handsome woman. You could spot her from across the racetrack with that hair. I think it was distracting to journalists, they wanted to say “Hey, what are you doing here?” and she would never stoop to being defensive, so I take a page from her book and salute her for not letting this become an issue. But more one for the history books, with the patina of time for people to say, well, there’s a hero.
John Malkovich: For me, the challenge is always the same. Which is to try and do something well, really. And I don’t often think of that challenge in terms of playing a specific role. I think about what is your part in this film? What can you bring to it that will help the film as a whole? So, I can say there was a specific challenge beyond what’s normally in movies – which is, you have very little time and almost no rehearsal. We almost never do. There just isn’t the time – it’s not how they make movies
What was your experience like working on a real set and is Penny are hard person to bring to life because of all she’s done?
DL: I think we were all so informed by the era and being reminded of it physically is very helpful – like being in location, if we were sitting in a back lot in LA trying to recreate these spaces and the sky. As tactile as we can become serves us all. For Penny, she was a woman of her time. She was a beautiful specimen of her time and they say the clothes and shoes make the man – but I think, maybe, she’ll bring it back. I love those shoes with the authentic heel. I had to fight for it at times, because sometimes in film people say, “Oh, can you do the sexier version of this?” I’m grateful that it’s as celebrated and respected as it is to be authentic to the time.
I think that this story is a bit larger than I could draw an analogy from my own life if I had to step out of my comfort zone – which is where they say life begins, so that’s a good thing. To live up to the scale of the story I feel like a mere mortal compared to Penny.
Has Penny seen the film? If so, what did she think?
DL: I just feel very grateful and sort of daunted by the prospect of living up to Penny’s legacy. She called me yesterday and I got the shot in the arm I was hoping for, that she was happy. She’s bringing her ten grandkids to the premiere and we’re gonna get our kids all together – it’ll be like old home week. We can finally relax and celebrate a pit.
You got to watch the real footage of the races, how did that help you?
DL: Watching the original races in their original broadcast form with Penny in a VHS was a reminder to see all the commercials in between – to know where we’re at in our history. Then to be watching Penny watch it again, she was absolutely reengaged, and it really sealed the deal for me that I better not screw this up.
JM: There isn’t so much material available on, say, video or even written things so much –he does make a very brief appearance on a very nice program that ESPN sports century did. But I think Randal and I chose not to base it on his actual person very closely. We are so different, and he was a jockey before so he was very diminutive. It wouldn’t have made a lot of sense, really.
John what was your experience like, what did you bring to the set? Did you enjoy the racetracks?
JM: Not particularly because it’s immodest, it’s hard to say what I brought to this film or any film, that’s up to the audience. I hope I communicated the love I felt for that horse and for the story – if I didn’t communicate that than that would be a failure. The other thing probably that I brought to it is unlike my grandfather and older brother, I’ve actually been able to make some money at the racetrack.
What did you think of our outfits?
JM: 1973 I would’ve thought was really the nadir of the history of fashion. When you just watched the races on YouTube the kind of astonishing ugliness of the clothes just blinds you.
Were you aware of the story of Secretariat before the film? Were you able to connect to how important his story was?
DL: I selfishly and very personally love horses as a species – it’s my totem animal if you will. It’s a little corny to give away at a press conference, but there it is. Secretariat was always the blend of mythology and reality that I didn’t understand at as a child. It made perfect sense to me that a horse was finally on the cover of magazines, I took that personally being eight years old. Everyone was finally waking up and appreciating the great species that they are. I’ve learned a lot in this process, but aside form that child like aspect and the similarity between my father and his wish for me and Penny’s father and his wish for her – that was sort of a very sweet meeting spot of intention on this particular film.
Secretariat is scheduled for release on October 8th, 2010.