Harry Connick Jr. says working with his co-star everyday was “really incredible.” He’s not talking about Morgan Freeman or Ashley Judd, although he enjoyed spending time on set with them. No, he’s referring to Winter, the titular star of his new film Dolphin’s Tale.
Winter is the real-life inspiration of the story of a bottlenose dolphin whose tail was lost in a crab trap. Rescued and rehabilitated by the folks at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the giant marine mammal was equipped with a prosthetic tail that allows it to swim normally.
“When you really got to spend time with her you got the sense that she was aware of your feelings more than your presence,” he says.
“There were times when I had to apply the prosthetic to her, when you thought she could wipe me out with her tail if she wanted to but she was very calm. It was strange, like an otherworldly type of communication.
“I’ve been around dolphins before but there is something different about her. I guess it’s because she’s been so ultra socialized, she’s been around so many different people since she was months old that maybe there is a different type of relationship she has with humans. I’m not sure. There is something you can feel. It’s pretty cool.”
“When we got her she was about 60 pounds and about two-and-a-half or three feet long,” says David Yates, CEO and director of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. “Very, very small. A dolphin that small, with that kind of trauma, is not expected to live at all.”
But Winter defied expectations and is now an inspiration for visitors to the aquarium, and starting this weekend, to movie audiences.
“I know exactly how the movie is going to impact people because we see it every day around here in real life,” says Yates.
“Winter is a young dolphin who lost her tail and wouldn’t give up, simply wouldn’t quit. People look at her, especially kids and they realize she is different, and what kid doesn’t think they are different?
“But they look at Winter and go, ‘You know, she’s different and she’s OK. I’m different; I’m going to be OK.’ That’s the essence of the movie.”