Swimming free, a young dolphin is caught in a crab trap, severely damaging her tail. She is rescued and transported to the Clearwater Marine Hospital, where she is named Winter. But her fight for survival has just begun. Without a tail, Winter’s prognosis is dire. It will take the expertise of a dedicated marine biologist, the ingenuity of a brilliant prosthetics doctor, and the unwavering devotion of a young boy to bring about a groundbreaking miracle—a miracle that might not only save Winter but could also help scores of people around the world.
Ashley Judd stars as a single mother raising a troubled son. Judd remarks, “I didn’t really know anything about Winter before I became involved in the movie, so it was an exciting process of discovery. As soon as I finished the script, I went to seewinter.com to look at her. I couldn’t wait to meet her, and it was even more magical and moving than I anticipated.”
“Ashley conveys the warmth and concern of a mother facing the challenges of raising her boy on her own,” director Charles Martin Smith says. “Then when she sees the bond between her son and this dolphin, the look on her face tells you everything. Ashley is really a wonderful actress.”
Harry Connick Jr., today’s most successful and multi-talented artists, who has garnered acclaim in both the music and acting arenas, stars as a dedicated marine biologist. Connick, who worked closely with dolphins in his role, notes, “When you look at a dolphin, you know there is a connection. You can see the intelligence in their eyes; it’s almost as if they can look right through us. I felt that the whole time I was making this movie.” Connick describes his character, Dr. Clay Haskett, as “the one in charge of Winter’s care, and he’s passionate about his work. He adds, “While he’s trying to save this dolphin, he’s also trying to save his rescue facility because they’re out of money. Adding to that, he’s a single father trying to raise a little girl, so there is a lot on his plate. I liked the character; I liked the struggle he goes through to figure out what to do, knowing he may have to make some tough decisions. Talking to the people at Clearwater, I learned that you truly have to be dedicated to working with animals because, even though it’s rewarding in one sense, there aren’t a lot of financial rewards and they’re there 24/7. I wanted to do them justice.”
The central thread of Warner Bros.' new, family adventure “Dolphin Tale” is the link between the dolphin Winter and Sawyer, the boy who saves her life. So before he won the role of Sawyer, young actor Nathan Gamble had to win over Winter. Gamble recalls, “It was funny because I went through four or five auditions with [director] Charles Martin Smith and the producers, but they still had to make sure Winter was okay with me. I flew down to Florida and it was one of the best experiences of my life; we clicked right away. When they said I had the part, I was thrilled because I knew I would get to spend the next few months with Winter and the other animals, which was really cool.” Sawyer first encounters Winter after the dolphin has somehow become entwined in the ropes of a crab trap. Unable to swim, she ends up beached and is barely alive. Mustering his courage, Sawyer approaches the stranded animal and cuts the ropes binding her. In that instant, a different bond is forged. Sawyer’s tie with Winter helps to fill the void left when his cousin Kyle, who is his hero, is deployed overseas after enlisting in the Army. Kyle, a champion swimmer, had dreamed of competing in the Olympics someday. But that dream ended in an explosion that spared his life but destroyed any hopes he had of returning to competitive swimming.
Playing the title role—as only she could—is Winter herself. Director Charles Martin Smith recounts, “When we were prepping, there was the obvious question of how to depict Winter. Because of the distinctive side-to-side wiggle that she developed to swim, which is also integral to the story, the best solution was to use the real Winter. The results were above and beyond our expectations.” Before Winter could make her film debut, the production needed the cooperation of her real-life “family” at Clearwater Marine Aquarium or CMA, which came with certain ground rules. The CEO of the Aquarium, David Yates, confirms, “I had many conversations with Charles and the producers because, first and foremost, I had to protect Winter; we wanted it to be a positive experience for her. They also had to understand who we are and what we’re about because they were pretty much going to be dropping into the middle of our operations, and we had to make sure we didn’t, in any way, put any of our animals at risk. From day one, they all said, ‘This is your call; whatever you say is how it’s going to be done.’ It turned out to be a fantastic partnership.”
Without exception, the human cast of “Dolphin Tale” did fall in love with their aquatic co-star. “I was looking forward to getting to work with Winter,” Morgan Freeman says. “I know she’s the real star of the movie, so I just tried to ingratiate myself,” he laughs.
Opening across the Philippines on Oct. 5 in 3D and regular theaters, “Dolphin Tale” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.