Sequels are tricky. Not only do you have to hope that a second script will live up to the hype of the first, but the stars of your budding franchise must agree to return, lest you wind up with a hole in your cast. The 2011 surprise blockbuster hit, Dolphin Tale, featured big names like Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick, Jr. playing compassionate humans who band together to save a maimed dolphin named Winter.
And all of the film's stars, along with the supporting cast, agreed to return for a sequel.
Nathan Gamble, who plays Sawyer, thinks it has something to do with chemistry.
"Everyone had such a great time on the first one, whether it's the cast, the animals, the crew," explained Gamble. "Everyone really connected with each other and it just grew over the second (film)."
"The cast is all really close," echoed Cozi Zuehlsdorff, who plays Harry Connick, Jr.'s daughter, Hazel. "We all actually, in real life, really do love each other."
Of course, with an on-set dad like Harry Connick, Jr., who could blame the young actress for gushing? The notoriously good-natured Connick, Jr. would be a dream to work with. Maybe it has something to do with the advice his dad gave him as a young man.
"My dad used to tell me to be nice to people and be on time," said Connick, Jr. "And I think — as simple as that sounds — if you show up when you're supposed to show up and you treat people with respect, you're gonna be all right."
In the film, the handsome crooner-turned-actor plays Dr. Clay Haskett, operator of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida. Dr. Haskett is responsible for Winter's care.
In the first Dolphin Tale, Dr. Haskett and Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Freeman) develop a unique prosthetic tail for Winter, whose tail had to be amputated due to getting caught in a fisherman's crab trap. The movie ends with Winter learning how to use her new tail, which saves her life.
In Dolphin Tale 2, we find out that Winter's surrogate mother has passed away, leaving Winter without the only pool-mate she has ever known. Due to USDA regulations, dolphins cannot be housed alone (they're seriously social animals and solitary confinement would be cruel), so Clearwater has to find another dolphin to share Winter's pool before they lose her to another aquarium. They find hope in a young dolphin who, after being rescued by the aquarium, they name Hope.
The script attracted many members of the cast because of how special dolphins are. We asked a few of the cast why they think humans find dolphins so intriguing.
"Maybe there is some kind of an effable recognition," explains Judd. "I happen to believe that dolphins, porpoises, whales — they hold the history of the world. They were in the primordial stuff, and so to me, the evidence is what emanates from the eye."
Freeman believes our inter-species connection is related to the fact that dolphins are so highly intelligent.
"If you've got that kind of intelligence," says Freeman, "it means you have a certain kind of cognizance outside yourself. They're very curious about your presence in their domain and they come over to visit and they will cavort and hang around."
Connick, Jr. believes there's more mystery to it than that. "Maybe we're fascinated by the fact that one of us is on land, one of us is in the water and there's a constant — there's just a mystery to it. We're not on each other's turf."
Something else that's a mystery to Connick, Jr.? The romantic plot line of the films.
"There's a whole bunch of budding relationships in these movies. There's Sawyer and Hazel, Mavis and Rufus. I mean, the first movie, I thought I was going to get together with Ashley Judd — what happened there?" explained Connick, Jr.
And — spoiler alert — it seems the romance between his character and Judd's doesn't materialize in Dolphin Tale 2, either, which Connick Jr. sees as a challenge.
"We're going to have to do a third one just so me and Ashley can get together!"
If Dolphin Tale 2 does as well as its predecessor did, a third film might be a possibility. Of course, the fact that these films are directly inspired by real-life events might mean the two characters are destined to remain apart... we'll just have to wait and see.
Dolphin Tale 2 opens in theaters on Sept. 12.
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