Studio: Universal (released July 25)
Source material: “Seabiscuit,” the novel by Laura Hillenbrand
Storyline: Set during the Depression in 1937, the story centers on jockey Johnny “Red” Pollard (Tobey Maguire), entrepreneur Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) and horse trainer Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) — all suffering from loss and displacement — whose lives are transformed by the ungainly little horse who achieved astonishing success at the racetrack.
About the script: Avoiding the clichés of most previous Hollywood turns around the racetrack, this adaptation faithfully follows the course of the bestselling book to create a genuinely heartfelt story of the relationship among three men whose fates were forever changed by a horse.
“It was such an amazing human story,” says writer-director Gary Ross. “Every one of these characters should have quit and they didn’t because of each other. It was the interdependence and complexity of those relationships that drew me to it.”
Biggest challenge: “There was a voluminous amount of historical detail,” Ross says. “The book was a No. 1 bestseller at the time the movie came out, and that hasn’t happened since ‘The Godfather.’ At the same time, if I don’t make it personal, so I’m moved, then no audience is going to be moved. It has to be the balance of two things — and that made it challenging.”
Breakthrough idea: “Finding the spine of the father-son relationship between Red and Charles — one man having lost a son, the other having lost a father — and to (have them) come out of grief and re-engage life with the help of one another.”
Favorite scene: When Red Pollard asks Charles Howard, in a very clipped and ashamed way, for money to go to the dentist, right after Seabiscuit has come in last. “It says so much about the culmination of the relationship, and there was so much unspoken, which, as most writers will tell you, is the most satisfying kind of screenwriting. It’s under the text.”
Lines we love: Tick-Tock (William H. Macy) commenting on the race on the radio: “Well, hail the conquering hero. Yes, he’s back, folks, the little engine that could. No more match races for this little colt, because frankly, they’re all outta matches! Who’s he gonna race — Pegasus? Oh, I pity these other horses!”
Recognition to date: 10 Best List — National Board of Review.
Writer’s bio: Nominated for original screenplay Oscars for “Big” and “Dave,” Ross also previously wrote and directed “Pleasantville” before tackling “Seabiscuit,” which he also helmed and co-produced.