The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
When Return of the Jedi flickered out with Darth Vader’s funeral pyre in 1983, I don’t recall thinking, I wonder what Darth was like as a boy? Who was Luke and Leia’s mom? Could there be a character more annoying than the Ewoks? Or C-3PO?
We wanted to move forward, to see what was next for Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia.
Of course, there have been books and other media that have done that. But when George Lucas decided to add to the Star Wars feature film canon, he decided to go a longer time ago to tell the origin stories that were alluded to in the original trilogy, an idea that was ultimately better in concept than execution. While I think Revenge of the Sith (2005) was a solid entry with a heckuva final battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan, The Phantom Menace (1999) gets more annoying every time you watch it and Attack of the Clones (2002) is just certifiably awful — any film that makes Natalie Portman that bad has deep, deep problems.
The most recent trilogy left a lot of fans very wary of any more movies, lest the franchise be defiled any more.
But the new hope with the announcement of Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and the planned new trilogy of Star Wars movies is that Lucas will not be directly involved and the story will finally be moved forward on the big screen.
With all due respect to the franchise’s creator, Lucas had really become more of a film technician and toy salesman by the time he took the helm of the prequels. It was nice in this week’s announcement to see he has the self-awareness to know that it is time to hand off the series. And we are moving ahead with the story of characters we have loved for decades instead of meeting new ones it was hard to warm up to.
At this point, there is a lot of room for speculation about characters, casting, and all that good stuff. While Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy books have long been seen as the Star Wars sequels, there are reports that Lucasfilm sources say the new stories will be entirely original, not based on anything seen before. If that’s the case, who knows what forms these stories make take, if they will even involve the characters we know, and if they do, if any of the original cast will come back to play space cowboys again.
It is all speculative at the moment with secrets known only to those in the know deep within Disney and Lucasfilm. But at least we know come 2015, we’re moving forward.
Diane Lane tops the bill in Disney’s Secretariat, and she tops the guest list of celebrities that will attend Sunday night’s screening of the new movie about the 1973 Triple Crown winner at the Kentucky Theatre.
Lane will be joined by Nelsan Ellis, who plays Secretariat’s groom Eddie Sweat; director Randall Wallace and producers Mark Ciardi and Gordon Grey. Secretariat’s jockey, Ron Turcotte, will also attend as well as Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day and three-time Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel. Gov. Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear will also attend.
Disney representatives say that is not necessarily the final guest list, but these guests are confirmed.
Secretariat will film Monday and Tuesday at Keenelend, and Central Kentuckians are invited to come out and party like it’s 1973 — minus any Derby Infield-like libations.
A flyer from Leonard Lusky of Secretariat.com touts “Disney’s ‘Secretariat’ 70′s Happening!” and invites all ages and types of people to come out in 1970s clothing (must find my old leisure suit). Sign in is at 8 a.m. Monday and Tuesday. Participants are directed to enter Keeneland at Gate 2 and follow “Chestnut” signs to park and “Win by a mile extras” signs to enter the facility.
The flyer also says to bring snacks and drinks, but no alcohol, and a good book, indicating the hurry up and wait nature of filmmaking that extras experienced when Seabiscuit filmed at Keeneland in 2002.
There is no word yet on what specific scenes will be filmed on Monday and Tuesday and whether film star Diane Lane, who plays Secretariat owner Penny Chenery, will be presented. We’ll keep you posted.
Also, don’t forget Secretariat filmmakers will be at the Bourbon County Secretariat Festival Saturday, and one horse from the festival’s Secretariat look-alike contest could end up in the movie.
UPDATE: John Malkovich has joined the cast as Secretariat’s trainer, Lucien Laurin.
Disney officials confirmed Thursday that part of Secretariat, a major motion picture about the horse, will be shot in Kentucky, and the horse’s owner says that’s as it should be.
“It will be real,” said Penny Chenery, owner of the 1973 Triple Crown winner. “Kentucky is the home of thoroughbred racing and breeding, and you can’t fake Central Kentucky.”
Disney officials did not elaborate on filming locations or any other information about what will take place when the production comes here.
Secretariat is the first major motion picture to announce it will film in Kentucky since the General Assembly passed a bill including tax incentives for filmmakers in June.
Leonard Lusky, president of Secretariat.com, has been working with the filmmakers and says the incentives were key to getting the film to come to Kentucky.
“They were not planning to come here, but at the 11th hour, the film incentives came through, and that changed everything,” Lusky said.
The Kentucky Film Office confirmed that they have received an incentives application for the film, and it will be on the agenda for the Aug. 18 meeting of the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority.
One of the big questions now is which horse, or more precisely, horses, will play the title character who died in 1989. Like Seabiscuit, which filmed in Central Kentucky in 2002, there will be a half dozen or more horses playing the champion.
“The difference is that Seabiscuit was a fairly standard horse, but Secretariat was the Charles Atlas of thoroughbreds,” Lusky said.
Chenery reflects, “He was red and white and his colors were blue and white. He was all-American and incorruptible.”
Secretariat.com has been the clearing house for applicants for the role, and Lusky said lead wrangler Rusty Hendrickson has been looking through more than 200 hopefuls.
Lusky said the Secretariat look-alike contest at the second annual Bourbon County Secretariat Festival, Sept. 26 at the Bourbon County Fairgrounds, could play a role in finding a horse for the movie. Chenery said she will attend the festival.
Already settled, much to Chenery’s satisfaction, is casting for her role: Emmy- and Oscar-nominated actor Diane Lane.
“She’s a wonderful, intuitive, very intelligent actress,” Chenery said. “The questions that she asks me tell me she gets me.”
Chenery says she’s been impressed by everyone she’s met connected with the film, which will be directed by Randall Wallace, who received an Oscar nomination for writing the screenplay for Braveheart (1995). His previous directing credits are We Were Soldiers (2002) and The Man in the Iron Mask (1998).
Chenery also spent time with screenwriter Mike Rich, whose credits include two successful sports-based films, Radio (2003), about a football coach’s life-changing friendship with a mentally challenged young man, and The Rookie (2002), about a high school baseball coach who fulfills his dream of pitching in the Major Leagues when he is 35.
Like those films, Chenery said Secretariat’s life was a feel-good story.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich