Seabiscuit
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While Americana has always been his stock in trade (see also Big, Dave, Pleasantville), writer-director Ross bumps himself up a notch with this heartwarming true story from the late 1930s, put on screen with a sweeping-epic feel. It's a real crowd-pleaser ... and probably an Academy-pleaser as well!

There are four main characters, all shattered by life but fighting back when given another chance to prove themselves. Red Pollard (Maguire) has a huge chip on his shoulder after being sold to a horse trainer (Bottoms) by his desperate parents during the Great Depression. Even though he's far too tall, he has a way with the horses. Charles Howard (Bridges) is an inventive entrepreneur, heading West to make his fortune and becoming very wealthy through sheer tenacity. But a deep personal loss is far worse than the Crash of '29, and he puts his energies into managing a racehorse with his young wife Marcela (Banks). Tom Smith (Cooper) is a grizzled Wild West has-been, still harking back to natural, earthy methods of horse-training and unable to get a job until Howard spots his talent. And last but certainly not least, Seabiscuit is a desperate loser of a racehorse. He has the pedigree, but he looks ridiculous--no style, too short, too many injuries. Still, Smith spots the spirit in his eyes, Pollard bonds with him deeply and Howard makes sure he becomes one of the most unlikely sporting heroes in American history.

This real story is almost unbelievably cinematic with its underdogs triumphing against adversity and expectations over and over again. And Ross cleverly applies a vintage style to the film, complete with newsreel narration (voiced by David McCullogh) and a bright spark of comic relief in radio journalist Tick Tock McGlauchlin (Macy). But the stroke of genius is to include Seabiscuit as a real character, drawing out his personality and making his story the central current in a film about four losers who triumph over some sort of disability. Yes, it's sentimental and sweet--sometimes overwhelmingly so--but it's also gripping and stunningly well made, with a fantastic collection of Oscar-calibre performances from Maguire, Bridges, Cooper and Macy (while very good, Banks is the only off note, because her character appears to be Mexican and yet she so isn't!). These are all characters we can identify with, right up to the insanely amazing comeback we all long for.

cert PG adult themes, language, violence 11.Aug.03

dir-scr Gary Ross
with Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Gary Stevens, William H Macy, Kingston DuCoeur, Sam Bottoms, Ed Lauter, Gianni Russo, Valerie Mahaffey, Paige King
release US 25.Jul.03; UK 31.Oct.03
Universal-DreamWorks
03/US 2h20

A tale of four underdogs: Maguire.

bridges cooper macy

See also: Q&A with Tobey Maguire

seabiscuit

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... seabiscuit "This movie has been at the box office for a while, and after seeing it, I can see why. This is based on a true story, and I have to say it is well done on the screen. You gotta go see this on the big screen - a wonderful movie! what more can I say? We both got lumps in our throats in parts, and cheered in others - I loved the way they showed the jockeys' point of vision - and I gotta wonder, do they really talk to each other like that when riding?" --Laurie T, Minneapolis 6.Sep.03
Q & A   W I T H   T O B E Y   M A G U I R E
maguire On horseriding...
Tobey:
I talked to Gary Ross about how it was all going to be done, and although I was on a racehorse and I did get to gallop, I was never in the most dangerous situations. You know these guys are professional jockeys and I donít belong in a tight pack with them!

On his favourite horse...
Tobey:
I did get on back of one horse the most and thatís the one I liked to ride the most Ė which was Fighting Ferrari. And I do believe you develop a relationship but there were so many horses in this picture and theyíre just kind of inter-changeable, so it didnít make much difference to me!

On injuries...
Tobey:
I've had some back discomfort for several years and it just goes up and down depending on what Iím doing. If Iím playing lots of basketball and running a lot it gets aggravated. So before I was to do Spiderman 2, I'd been experiencing some discomfort for a while. I looked at the script and I saw the storyboards, and the level of stunts I was going to have to do was many times more difficult than the first Spiderman. So I felt it was my responsibility to myself, my own health and to the studio to say, "Hey, Iím a little concerned. I want to make sure I can do this stuff." And they said, "Yeah, we want to make sure you can do it too!" And I went in and did some test days and several hundred people wrote a few stories about it and there you go!

seabiscuit On working with first-time actor jockey Gary Stevens...
Tobey:
We were doing the scene in the jockís room where Iím telling a story and he blows the story for me, and he did such a good job on this one take that everybody was applauding. I went up to him afterwards and I said, ďGary that was really good, but I understand you donít really understand the etiquette of how things work here on the set, but youíre going to have to tone your performance down a bit because youíre stealing my thunder!Ē And he thought I was serious, and he was looking at me like, "Oh my God, man. Iím so sorry. I wonít let it happen again!Ē And I said, ďNo, no Gary, Iím just messing with you!Ē Anyways that kicked off a really fun relationship for us and we would tease each other all the time.

On weighing 115 pounds...
Tobey:
The last time I weighed 115 pounds -- I donít know it must have been 17 years ago! I dipped under 140 for this; I never got to 115. I donít think that would be possible. It was tough, but it was just work, it was part of the character and I got into it. It was something that was necessary for me. I do look forward to finding a role where the physicality doesnít take part in it!Ē --London, 10.Sep.03 (Special thanks to Elsa O'Toole)

© 2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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