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Academy Award-winning producer Jim Wilson’s latest film, the highly acclaimed “50 to 1,” which depicts the down-home Cinderella story of 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, will make its California debut on Friday, May 23rd in nearby Monrovia at Krikorian Premiere Theatre and at six other Krikorian venues in Southern California—in Buena Park, Downey, Pico Rivera, Redlands and Vista.
Wilson, who produced 1990’s “Dances With Wolves”, which starred Kevin Costner and took Best Picture honors and six other Academy Awards, is a longtime horse owner and passionate lover of horses and Thoroughbred racing. He participated in a question and answer session this morning regarding the film, its rollout and reactions that it has created, in advance of its Southern California debut.
Q.) We’ve heard good things about “50 to 1” and its depiction of a small group of New Mexico horsemen en route to the win of a lifetime. How long do you anticipate the film running locally?
“It’s all according to supply and demand. As long as people go, it will continue to run. Typically, theatres now will show a film for a week or two or longer, depending on how many people are coming. I’m in a theatre in New Mexico now where we beat Spider Man and we’re in our eighth week. You just never know.”
Q.) George Krikorian is very involved in the Thoroughbred business as an owner/breeder and he now sits on the California Horse Racing Board. Has he seen the film?
“I invited George to a screening, I would say five months ago…He said ‘When you get ready to release it in California, give me a call.’ So, obviously both of us being horse owners, I said ‘You betcha.’ So when we finished our seven-state tour, I called George and he said ‘Let’s put it up there.’”
Q.) This state-by-state rollout is kind of an unorthodox approach with a new film. What’s been your thinking on this?
“It’s really unorthodox. Part of it is I don’t have the money. I don’t have the funds of a giant studio that can put up 30 or 40 million dollars and gamble and see how we’re going to do. So part of it is financially driven in that we’re able to go state by state and as you do one state, you sort of take those proceeds and go on to the next. It’s kind of a throwback to the 70s and 80s when there were a lot of grassroots (movie) campaigns and it worked…The first idea was to go from New Mexico (where Mine That Bird was based) and weave our way up through seven states to Kentucky, which we did on tour. We were on a bus for nearly six weeks…It’s just that love and attention that I find really pays dividends…It may sound silly, but Mine That Bird was 30 lengths behind (in the 2009 Kentucky Derby) and he took his time. This kind of film is going to need a rollout. It’s a word of mouth film…If you go on Tomato Meters or IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base), people are loving this film…”
Q.) How would you compare your movie to recent films such as “Secretariat” and “Seabiscuit”?
“It’s a bit of a romp. It’s much more comedic than either “Secretariat” or “Seabiscuit” because the characters were just that and the horse was a bit of a character too.”
Q.) As you know, so many people say that our game is dying due to a variety of factors. Why do you continue to have a passion for it and continue to lay your own money down trying to promote it?
“Look, when you love a sport like I do this, like none other, that doesn’t go away. The economics could go to the absolute bottom and I will always love a man and a horse in unison racing around a track. That in and of itself will never be taken from me, or a lot of people. That’s just not going to leave them, it’s just such a phenomenal sport…One can point a lot of fingers. I actually think the product works very well. I think racing is attractive in terms of what it has to offer. We can always market wiser and better and there are new audiences to approach. I think ‘50 to 1’ is just a little kernel of that. No one movie is going to turn the whole thing around but I do know that as I play this film around the country, I’ve run into a lot of people who (for various reasons) have been driven from the theatres but they’ve come back to this movie and they’ve said ‘I haven’t seen a film in 20 years and you’ve brought me back and I greatly appreciate it.’ They give me a big hug and I know that we are introducing this sport to a lot of people who don’t know a darn thing about racing.”
Q.) By your own admission, the film is devoid of “A List” actors, but we’re told the acting is outstanding. HRTV’s Laffit Pincay is shown in the movie trailer interviewing trainer Chip Woolley during the pre-Derby walk-over and it appears very realistic. That said, it’s no secret that Bob Baffert is less than pleased with the way he has been depicted.
“I don’t know if Bob’s seen the film…Historically, you have to go with Bob as the competitor to these guys (Mine That Bird’s connections). Because he was that person. In the Breeders’ Cup in 2008 in the Juvenile, he won with Midshipman. He is the face of racing. There is no better, if you want to call it villain or competitor than this guy. He historically is the guy that took on Mine That Bird at Santa Anita in the (2008) Breeders’ Cup. Midshipman was owned by the Sheik, and these guys (Mine That Bird’s connections) finished dead last. And, you know, Bob is there pumping his fist and doing what Bob does. I’ve known Bob for 25 years and I know how Bob can be. I’m hugely respectful of him as a trainer and all of that. I love Bob. I like to watch Bob and see what Bob does, but he had Pioneer of the Nile in the following Derby (2009). He is the guy historically, to follow. If you are somebody who’s going to take on the industry, Bob is the one you want to beat. He’s the one that I want to beat when I go to the track. He’s hard to beat…With that shock of white hair and his swagger and all of that…
Q. We understand Baffert took time to meet with the actor (Bruce Wayne Eckelman) that portrayed him in advance of the movie being filmed?
“Bob was nice enough to meet with Bruce at Del Mar. He drove down to Del Mar and Bob took him to the backside and showed him around the barn. Bob couldn’t have been nicer. We can make a big brouhaha about it…I think Bob should just see it (the film)…To say that we painted Baffert as someone who is occasionally arrogant? Yeah. Am I occasionally arrogant? I can be.”
For the rest of the story, Southern California racing fans will have to wait unit “50 to 1” comes to town on May 23rd.