While the wrap party for the first “Dolphin Tale” was underway, there was an emergency call about an adolescent dolphin Hope who was rescued by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Director and actor Charles Martin Smith went back to the hotel instead of attending the event and around 11 p.m. a call came in about a rescue.
“After the first movie none of us thought there really would be a sequel. If you did a sequel bringing in of Hope would have to be part of it,” said Smith. “One of the things about “Dolphin Tale” that really impressed people, and I think that it’s really strong, the original movie is a true story.”
If there was going to be a second film, it needed to be based on a true story. Still there was not enough material for a movie even with the news of Hope. Smith had actual footage of a dolphin released into the wild, but cut it out of the first film as it did not fit into the story. He also had a video that paired Winter and Panama in the tank. So Smith started to create the script and called the actors immediately for a commitment.
Harry Connick Jr. (Dr. Clay Haskett) was told by an Alcon Entertainment that a script was being written for the second movie, the American Idol judge and musician laughed it off, initially.
“When they sent me the script, I was like holy crap this is good,” Connick laughed. “In some ways it’s better than the first one, it’s more complex than the first one.”
Returning is Morgan Freeman for a brief appearance as Dr. Cameron McCarthy, Ashley Judd as Lorrain Nelson, Nathan Gamble will play Sawyer Nelson and Cozi Zuehlsdorff as Hazel Haskett.
The first movie was based on Winter’s rescue when she lost her tail in a crab trap. She survived because of a ground-breaking prosthetic tail and remarkable perseverance that’s become a symbol to many with disabilities. The film gave CMA a world stage that helped fund the aquarium and built a hospital for marine life and up to 750,000 thousand in visitors a year. In this movie, Winter senses that her surrogate mother Panama is ill and went into a depression after she died.
The USDA warned Clay Haskett that they would move Winter as she needed a companion. Losing Winter would devastate the community and Sawyer. There was another bottled-nosed beauty, named Mandy, but she was ready to released back into the ocean, so Winter’s time was running out.
Gamble related to this moment as he never had a lead in a film before “Dolphin Tale”, but pushed to make a decision.
“It’s just like what Morgan Freeman says in the movie, you got to shake life up a bit and to get it going,” said Gamble who received a Young Artist Award nomination for his work in the first film.
Moving forward and accepting change is never simple and Zuehlsdorff wrote a song called Brave Souls for the film and was encouraged to write about accepting change.
“The thing that bugs me about that I don’t like people saying [is to] forget your past, just move on because the past shapes who we are, the good things and the bad,” Zuehlsdorff explained.
If you talk with any of the “Dolphin Tale 2” cast there is one overarching theme in making the film.
“The effect of this movie on people who have legitimate obstacles is so much bigger than I could have imagined. I feel so humbled by that. The fact that you can really change somebody’s life by a three-month movie making experience? I didn’t sign up for that…it’s humbling.”
DT2 opens in theaters on Sept. 12.