Thoroughly Fun Facts About Disney’s ‘Secretariat’

'Secretariat' Bus Shelter Ad © Disney EnterprisesCourtesy of Walt Disney Studios comes this list of fun facts about the cast, crew and making of Secretariat, the impossible true story starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich. Opening in theaters nationwide on October 8, be sure to check out all of our stills, facts, music videos and more from the film by following this bookmark.

Based on the remarkable true story, Secretariat chronicles the spectacular journey of the 1973 Triple Crown winner.  Housewife and mother Penny Chenery (Lane) agrees to take over her ailing father’s Virginia-based Meadow Stables, despite her lack of horse-racing knowledge.  Against all odds, Chenery—with the help of veteran trainer Lucien Laurin (Malkovich)—manages to navigate the male-dominated business, ultimately fostering the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years and what may be the greatest racehorse of all time.

  • IT TAKES FIVE — The production relied on five horses to play Secretariat—four thoroughbreds and a quarterhorse. Not only did they have to perform like the champion equine, they also had to look the part. To replicate Secretariat’s white signature markings, Lisa Brown (Horse Continuity) painstakingly painted the three distinctive white socks and the facial white stripe and star on to each of the horses each day.
  • NOSE TO NOSE — Nelsan Ellis (Eddie Sweat) experienced a very close relationship with all the horses—sometimes a bit too close. During the course of production he was nuzzled, bitten in the stomach and stomped on.
  • DISCOVERED — One of the horses that played Secretariat in the film, Trolley Boy, was discovered in true Hollywood fashion after winning a Secretariat Look-Alike contest held at the Secretariat Festival in Paris, Kentucky. According to Diane Lane, Trolley Boy brought his own special talent to the role. When shooting close-ups with Lane, Trolley Boy had a tendency to chew the bit loudly which often caused her to laugh and break character.
  • PUZZLED — The cast and crew of “Secretariat” were addicted to crossword puzzles, especially Diane Lane, John Malkovich and Margo Martindale. Lane was such a super fan of the brain teaser; she created her own crossword puzzle during production.
  • PEACHES — The fluffy blonde wig that Diane Lane wore in the film was playfully nicknamed Peaches.
  • INSPIRED — Make-up artist Julie Hewett used Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as her style icon when designing the look of Penny Chenery in the film. Photographs of the former First Lady were plastered all over the walls of the make-up trailer.
  • UP CLOSE — In order for the audience to get the jockey’s perspective, director of photography Dean Semler attached small, lightweight digital cameras to sticks and positioned them close to the horses as they thundered down the track. The horses got used to these cameras being in such close range, but the same was not true for the actors. When recreating Ronnie Turcotte’s famous look back during the Belmont Stakes, Otto Thorwarth peered backwards and was startled by camera.
  • AUTHENTICITY — The production used the actual Triple Crown trophy, on loan from the Kentucky Derby Museum. The coveted cup was created by Cartier in 1978 after Affirmed won the Triple Crown in preparation for the next winner.  It had to be handled with gloves and was hand carried back and forth between Kentucky and Louisiana.
  • DOUBLE DUTY — The head of the make-up department, Michael Mills, played a fellow golfer alongside John Malkovich’s character Lucien Laurin. Lead horse wrangler Rusty Hendrickson not only cast the horses in the film, but he also portrayed a fry cook in a diner scene.

Secretariat Stats:

  • BIG HEART — Secretariat’s heart was twice the size of an average horse’s heart.
  • RECORD BREAKER — Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths and still holds the record time at 2:24 for 1.5 miles.
  • COVER BOY — In 1973, weekly mags Time, Sports Illustrated and Newsweek all featured Secretariat on their respective covers the same week.
  • AMONG THE GREATS — Secretariat was ranked the 35th Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century by ESPN.
  • A STAR IS BORN — During the peak of Secretariat’s career, the William Morris Agency would book the horse’s appearances the same way they would any of their other (two legged) mega celebrity clients.

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