Veteran actor Morgan Freeman paid tribute to flippered film buddy Winter this weekend. The dolphin co-stars with the Hollywood legend in his latest family-friendly movie, Dolphin Tale, but Freeman is in no doubt as to who will make the headlines.
“I know Winter is the real star of the movie, so I just try to ingratiate myself," said Freeman. "I don’t mind being upstaged by anything, as long as I keep working.”
Dolphin Tale, which also stars Harry Connick Jr, Ashley Judd and Kris Kristofferson, is based on the true story of Winter’s rescue from a crab trap in the waters off Florida’s coast and how she was nursed back to health by the staff at the Clearwater Marine Hospital.
Freeman plays the talented Dr Cameron McCarthy who creates a new prosthetic tail to replace Winter’s damaged one, ensuring her total rehabilitation.
No stranger to the perils of working with children and animals, Freeman freely admitted resorting to the age old trick of bribery to encourage Winter to toe the line.
“Well, she’s like any kid. You have to coax her with food, so I spent a lot of time with fish, and tossing them to her," he explained. "After a while, she’d come and stay.”
If Freeman is fair in his assessment of Winter’s acting talents, she will be the latest in a distinguished line of cute sea creatures to swim into the limelight, though not all have been lucky enough to star as themselves.
Dolphin Mitzi played Flipper in the 1963 original version of the famous marine adventure story, but when the film was remade in 1996, the producers relied on animatronic dolphins to film sequences where the character of Flipper was required to interact with members of the cast.
Keiko the orca took on the role of Willy in the killer whale pic Free Willy and proved such a hit at the box office, he was invited back for sequels Free Willy 2 and 3.
When asked about his recent roles in March of the Penguins and Born to be Wild 3D, Morgan Freeman rejected the idea that he might be trying to push any animal-related issues.
“No, no. I’m not looking for message work. Documentaries are about the only message films I do,” he said.
When pressed further on his relationships with “all creatures great and small”, the 74-year-old actor summed up his feelings thus: “I have experience with mostly cats, dogs and goldfish. I had a dog who was the bane of my high school principal because he used to follow me to school.”
Dolphin Tale opens on Friday October 14.