Today: June 19, 2024

Harry Connick Jr. Talks Dolphin Tale 2

Directed by Charles Martin Smith Dolphin Tale 2 sees return performances from the entire main cast of Dolphin Tale: Morgan Freeman as the creator of Winter’s prosthetic tail, Dr. Cameron McCarthy; Harry Connick Jr.  as the head of the Clearwater Marine Hospital team, Dr. Clay Haskett; Nathan Gamble as Winter’s owner and trusted companion, Nelson Sawyer; Ashley Judd as Sawyer’s mother, Lorraine Nelson; and Kris Kristofferson as Reed Haskett, Dr. Clay’s father.

It has been several years since young Sawyer Nelson (Gamble) and the dedicated team at the Clearwater Marine Hospital, headed by Dr. Clay Haskett (Connick, Jr.), rescued Winter.  With the help of Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Freeman), who developed a unique prosthetic tail for the injured dolphin, they were able to save her life.

Yet their fight is not over.  Winter’s surrogate mother, the very elderly dolphin Panama, has passed away, leaving Winter without the only pool-mate she has ever known. However, the loss of Panama may have even greater repercussions for Winter, who, according to USDA regulations, cannot be housed alone, as dolphins’ social behaviour requires them to be paired with other dolphins. Time is running out to find a companion for her before the team at Clearwater loses their beloved Winter to another aquarium.

Are you starting to feel like an honorary citizen in Clearwater, Florida? It is a great part of the world. Just being in Clearwater again and driving past the aquarium, I realized how much time I’ve spent here doing these films. And it’s just an incredible part of the world.

What kind of response did you get from fans after the first one and did that affect your decision to do the second one? It didn’t matter about the fan response with regard to doing it again. I mean, even if it had been poorly received or people didn’t like it, there probably would have been a reason behind it. But if it were exactly the movie that it was and people didn’t like it, I would have come back and done it again anyway, just for lots of reasons. It was just a great filming experience … I’d probably say, the best filming experience I’ve ever had. It was just great.

And people really like it. What’s interesting to me is as you go through your career in the entertainment business, new people are being born and growing up and becoming teenagers and young adults and a lot of the people that came to know me through Dolphin Tale, they have no idea that I do anything else – but it’s not a bad thing. It’s cool.

Is that because you’ve been doing more in front of the camera and less in music? Not really. I’m still making records and touring and stuff. If you happen to cross somebody’s path in a certain way, Dolphin Tale reached a lot of people, but maybe those people don’t go see me on tour, buy my records or watch TV or anything like that. So, I’m not doing any more acting than I was doing 20 years ago, but it kind of ebbs and flows with regard to how people are introduced to you, you know.

One of the about this movie is how it shows our interdependency – animal life, human life. What it is you take from Dolphin Tale? My trainer tells me all the time, when I’m complaining, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do another set or whatever.’ He always says, ‘No mind. Just do it. Just be quiet and do it. You’re going to get through it; you’re not going to die. Don’t think about it. Just do it.’

And there’s something about Winter… Obviously, she’s not a human being, so she doesn’t think about things the way we think about them, but it is what it is. This is what life gave her, and there’s something inspirational about watching a creature that has a mind that’s different in the way that we know it. This is the cards that were dealt to her, and what else you going to do?

Is it easier to step in the shoes of a character you’ve already played? Well I did a pretty considerable amount of research the first time around, because I really wanted to know who this guy was. The second one was, obviously, much easier, because I had done it before. What was really strange is that it was almost the exact same set of circumstances as the first one.  So, it was very easy to kind of remind myself of what that was. But for the first one, I went and interviewed marine biologists and marine veterinarians, just anything I could to try. I watched how they looked. But the second time was a lot easier.

At the end of the film, you see a lot of the actual footage of the events that are pretty accurately portrayed in the film. How much were you trying to remain accurate? And where did you have room to embellish and make it your own?

Well, this is really Charles Martin Smith’s area. He is a brilliant, brilliant guy. And every single nuance of what happened in real life was thoroughly considered with regard to how it was going to be dramatized in the film. Nothing was not fully considered. So, that’s really about him as a character. You knew you were working within the realm of what’s on the page. Was I able to manipulate things and do things? Sure. He’s a great actor’s director, too.

Sometimes you’d be on set and you wouldn’t know who was hired as an extra or a cast member and who was actually on the scene when it went down. We’d be standing out in the water with people with CMA costumes on or the kind of costumes with gear, and many times they were the people who actually did the rescue work. Sometimes they would be actors or whatever, but it was a weird kind of altered reality.

But that’s Charlie. He did a great job with that. It’s really hard to do, too. It’s easy to chalk it up as a family film, but it’s very complex to walk that line between what really happened and what didn’t.

Were you at the wrap party in 2011 when Hope was rescued? Oh, yes, I was. That was crazy because we had been through this wonderful emotional journey with the entire filmmaking experience and with the animals and stuff. We were at the wrap party and there was this bustling and people were coming in with cell phones and pictures of Hope, who had been rescued. It was just another nod to that weird line between what really happened and making movies, because as we’re celebrating the wrap of the film, 24/7, these guys are still doing what they have to do.

Did anybody toss around the idea of a sequel that night? No. I remember when I first heard it, I actually laughed. I said, ‘Man, you’ve got to be kidding.’ I thought it was a joke, really. And then I read the script and I’m like, ‘Holy crap” …I mean, this is, in some ways, better than the first one, I think.

Did you offer any advice to the kids in the movie, Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff? They’re incredible, and I love them very much. I love both of them and know them really well. And Cozi, who’s a very serious musician and very talented, we have a great relationship because she wants me to critique her. And I do. It’s not about being hard on her, but it’s just about being honest. She’ll say, ‘What do you think about this?’ And I’ll say, ‘Listen, I think this is great, and here’s what I think you need to work on.’ And she’s like a sponge. I mean, she’s so brilliant, so smart, and I’ve told her before, ‘I’m not being tough on you. I just don’t want to waste your time. I want to tell you what the real deal is.’ And she’s tough. She gets it. And she works on it.

She sounds good in that song at the end. That’s the tip of the iceberg. You have no idea how talented she is. Crazy talented.

We understand why you came back. Why do you think everybody was so keen to get back on board for the sequel? I think it was just the incredible filmmaking experience. It really was. You can take the subject matter of the movie, you can break it down into scenes that you’re really looking forward to doing. But when you look at it like as a package deal, you have to get on a plane, you have to come down, you have to block out a big chunk of your life. It’s a time commitment. It’s a great thing, but it’s a lifestyle. And a lot of boxes have to be checked off before you say, ‘That’s really what I want to do. I want to be away from my family, I want to stay up until four in the morning, whatever.’ It’s a commitment to make.

But it was such a great experience. It was just such a positive experience. That’s why everybody came back, because everybody loves each other. It’s a beautiful part of the world. You’re talking about a subject matter that everybody can relate to.

Did you get in the tank with Winter?

Yeah. That was cool. And swimming with the dolphins versus really interacting with Winter and the other animals was a completely different thing. I have done that before like in situations where you can go and be in the same vicinity as them, but when you’re actually working one-on-one with Winter, it blows that other stuff away.



Did you get in the tank with Winter? Yeah. That was cool. And swimming with the dolphins versus really interacting with Winter and the other animals was a completely different thing. I have done that before like in situations where you can go and be in the same vicinity as them, but when you’re actually working one-on-one with Winter, it blows that other stuff away.



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Dolphin Tale 2

Dolphin Tale 2 is the sequel to the 2011 film