“Dolphin Tale 2” gets the wet — er, red — carpet premiere treatment next week at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium where the real-life stories of both “Dolphin Tale” features took place. The original cast — including Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman, Kris Kristofferson and Ashley Judd — is back for the second movie centered on Winter, the dolphin famous worldwide for learning to live with a prosthetic tail.
The actors never imagined there being a second film about Winter back when they were making the first one, according to the movie’s Betsy Landin — that is, until just after finishing production. “We’d been wrapped for about two hours, I’d say, and we were at the wrap party enjoying ourselves. Then all of a sudden someone got a phone call that there was a baby dolphin found in need of help in the same area where Winter was. We all just kind of looked at each other and said, ‘Oh, my gosh! Wouldn’t it be something if they made a ‘Dolphin Tale 2?'” She laughs. “And here we are.”
According to her, “You kind of get to see us kind of re-enact that scene in the movie. It was really at that restaurant where we shot that scene and heard about this little baby dolphin. Some of the cast members went to go see her.”
The new film, opening Sept. 12, follows the story of Winter and the little newcomer, named Hope. If you got teary over the first movie, you’re bound to get teary over this one, also written and directed by Charles Martin Smith, which also features surfer Bethany Hamilton in a cameo.
Winter’s first movie was such a hit that her Florida facility reportedly doubled its size and began to draw ten times the amount of visitors as it had prior to the film’s release.
The “Dolphin Tale 2” team has been queried continually about controversy over keeping dolphins and other marine life in captivity. Landin, who plays Winter’s trainer, is quick to dive in, saying, “I think when you breed in captivity, that’s a very different thing than the rescue, rehab and release work like they do at CMA. In a case like Hope — she was found as a tiny, tiny baby still feeding from her dead mother. She could not have survived if CMA had not taken her in. She was an orphan. Now she’s a healthy, happy dolphin. Or the older dolphin that they had there that passed away during preproduction — she had lost all her teeth and was found very malnourished. They found later she couldn’t echolocate. She was deaf. She was begging boats for food, things like that. So she couldn’t be released. If the animals can flourish in the wild, they’ll do all they can to help them do so, but if they can’t …
“I really believe organizations like this are important, and I’m glad they’re there. And these animals need to be exercised, they need to have fun, so sure, they’ll do the shows, which are actually training sessions for the animals to keep them active. And the places need to operate. I’m all for it,” sums up Landin, the up-and-coming Latina actress and former Puerto Rican beauty queen seen in a far different light in her recent sexy role on “Ray Donovan.”
For the “Dolphin” movies, she hung out with real-life trainers, carried around buckets of fish, did a lot of swimming and got to know the dolphins. Part of the “Dolphin 2” storyline has to do with the emotions involved when humans become attached to these animals and then have to release them back into the wild. Landin can relate.
“It was a great experience to see Hope again, 3 years old, kind of grownup and getting rambunctious. You’ll see — at first she was so tiny.”