He may be best known for writing the Braveheart screenplay, but
when it comes to screenwriter, producer and director, Randall
Wallace, there's much more to him than just a camera.
Check out Cosmotot's chat with "Secretariat" stars
Malkovich and Diane Lane!
The charming husband and father sat down with me at the Trump
Tower to talk about his method, theories on children and parenting,
and why the story behind a race horse named Secretariat inspired
The most famous Triple Crown winner in racehorse history becomes
a movie star on Friday, Oct. 8 with the release of Disney's
"Secretariat" - a story about a thoroughbred, his owner, and an
unlikely trainer managed to set records in 1975 that have not been
Going into the screening of the movie, I have to be
honest... I wasn't sure I was going to like a movie about a
I was wrong. The movie was fantastic and the audience
was cheering and clapping right along with the movie. It was like
being in a stadium!
Was there a big crowd?
Yes! People were actually cheering as though they were
at the actual Secretariat races back in the 1970s.
That's been one of the surprises for me. The hope that you have
is that people will get involved emotionally, and one of the big
directing choices I had to make early on was the approach of how I
was going to tell the story. I wanted the audience to be inside the
races and inside the lives of the characters.
You certainly succeeded! I was on the edge of my seat
for the majority of the movie. Tell me how you first became
involved with the story.
Well, I had never before worked on a project where I wasn't the
only writer. Disney had bought the rights several years before and
I had to fight for the job with several other directors who wanted
it, and all of my previous films had been about real masculine
points of view and battles: Braveheart, We Were Soldiers, Pearl
I want movies that have and that promote stories that help you
toward feeling more alive.
The film had such an artsy feel - cutaways and close ups
of the horse's nostrils, the pawing of hooves, the feeling of
tension inside the corrals and even the slow motion, soundless
takes. It really felt like life, and the way it happens from moment
to moment. Did you want to channel and evoke all of these emotions
that come with normal, daily life?
I'm going to say something that I realize as I say it, is going
to sound really artsy and pretentious.
I really think of myself as an every day person. I'm a father,
my parents grew up on farms, and I want to make movies that are for
my kind of people.
The world is my kind of people.
Everyone wants something that makes them stand up and cheer. And
they want to point their children toward something that's higher
and nobler. I think that capturing a moment is a talent.
When I was growing up, I grew up in Tennessee, I grew up with
working people, so when I encountered things like great art… when I
first saw a painting by Vermeer. One of his greatest paintings is
Woman with a Pearl Necklace, and the pearls are only one
half circle of white paint.
So here's this master using one moment to convey the essence of
what a pearl is, and I don't think it was laziness, I think it was
genius. So when I look at a movie, I try to be inspired by that
approach… by saying, 'What's a single image that can make me feel
everything, and give me everything I need to know.'
Trying to find those individual pieces that connect an audience,
and make the audience to realize the truth of this story, that we
didn't make this story up while sitting at our computers. Those are
flesh and blood animals running at high speeds like they do every
day of their life. And I think that's part of reason people are
cheering at the screen.
It sounds pretentious doesn't it?
No, not at all. I think it sounds like a parent. I'm a
parent myself, and when children come into the picture your
perception changes. And I feel like you can meld that better with
your art, and in this case, you do.
Nobody pays attention like young people do. They are blunt and
direct and they understand if something's crap.
What inspired you about the story as a whole with all of
the people who were involved in the history of it?
There were two things about it. I thought that the story had
potential, and this story placed high value on factual accuracy.
When I came aboard, I wanted to go beyond the statistics of trying
to sell the story. So I had to create some moments. And those
moments largely pertained to when Penny is with her girls; when
Penny is with her father when he's dying; when Eddie is on the
racetrack and shouts out to the world; when Penny is in the
ballroom and she's watching everyone else dance and though she's
surrounded, she's by herself; when Secretariat's coming through the
tunnel, and he's like a gladiator entering the arena. Those moments
are to me, a good story.
As a director, what do you want to see happen in a
I look for the defining moments. The chance to stand up and face
If you run away, one day you'll lay dying, and give anything to
get back to that one moment, that one time. That's what I look for
in movie moments. And that's what Penny did. She stood up and faced
the people that were supposed to love her the most.
It's one thing when you face your enemies, it's quite another
thing when the man you're married to, when your own brother are
telling you, ' You are a housewife. This is not your role. This is
way beyond your ability.'
When you show the courage then to say, 'I'm not running a
popularity contest and this is what I'm going to do,' that gives me
goosebumps. I want to see that happen.
What makes Penny remarkable?
That Penny came along in a time when women were expected to be
utterly different than they are expected to be today certainly
makes the story remarkable. At the same time, I'm always looking
for a story that's timeless, a story that doesn't have a limited
appeal to fashion, or that's not appealing only to the fashion of
the time. And by fashion, I mean whatever people are preoccupied
with at the time.
There is certainly a remarkable similarity between nowadays and
then when the country was mired in an unpopular war, a war no one
could really explain. And they questioned their leaders, much like
we question ours, and we were cynical about pretty much anything,
and along came a horse that everyone could root for and be inspired
by. So having said all that, I think that Penny's ability to stand
up actually transcended the time that she was in, and yet speaks to
Do you see Penny as a role model for modern
I don't have a daughter. And I think it's a good thing I don't.
I think I would be helpless. Girls are so strong with such an
unbreakable spirit, and I think that's how Penny is. And I think
there's something about every woman that has the opportunity to see
Penny and say, 'I want to be like Penny.'
But, I believe that men will look at Penny and say, 'I want to
be like Penny.' And this is the first movie I've had that hasn't
been so distinctly mature... that I would want to take my sons
Even a child will understand the heroism of what Secretariat
does in this movie.
Do you see women differently after filming
I'm not sure if this is obnoxious or not, but I just hit upon
this the other day, and I kind of believe it... that thoroughbred
racehorses, the stallions, and women, have a similarity, which is
that you really can't understand them. They're mysterious. And they
don't want to be understood. They want to be respected and admired.
They want to walk into a room and have people say, 'wow.'
No disagreement here! Do you think that taking the "wow"
approach in making the movie made it such a standout with
I would like to take credit for everything good in this movie.
But I'll tell you, where I can take credit for some of the
performances was when I was smart enough to get out the way.
When you're a good director you have to get out of the way. The
fact is, when a movie is wonderful it's because it's a combination
of the passions of so many that come together in a way that's very
The sense of family all across the screen and into the audience…
when people talk about their favorite movie, it's almost like they
become a tribe. 'Oh, we love that movie.' It's like my youngest
son, we had a shared experience with believing in the story. I
think it's emotionally powerful, and I don't think that filmmakers
can convey inspiration unless they themselves are inspired.
Maria Pilar Clark is a mom times two and Windy City-based writer.
See more of Pilar's stories here.
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