06/14/2009 3:20PM

Penny Lane

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Admit it. We've all spent time wrestling with the question of "who plays me in the movie of my life?" It's clean, healthy fun. Nobody gets hurt. And if nothing else, it can be a constructive exercise in self-image. I once had a girl in high school tell me I reminded her of Don Knotts. High school can be so cruel.

Now Penny Chenery gets to play it for real. Diane Lane will portray Chenery--who went by Penny Tweedy then--in the Disney movie of the Secretariat story, due to start shooting soon under the direction of Randall Wallace. Wallace wrote Braveheart, directed We Were Soldiers and wrote and directed the 1998 version of The Man in the Iron Mask. That last one was fun, mostly because of Malkovich.

"Everybody says she's perfect," Chenery said of Lane. “I had not see her work, so I rented one of her movies and watched it last night. And she's just a wonderful actress.”

Chenery was 50 when Secretariat marched through the 1973 Triple Crown and she reigned as the undisputed first lady of horse racing. I am now picturing her, 36 years later, wandering the aisles of the local Blockbuster in suburban Boulder, Colo., searching for an old copy of Lonesome Dove or A Little Romance or even Cattle Annie and Little Britches. Chances are Penny would shy away from my personal favorite Lane movie, Judge Dredd (her interplay with Sly Stallone was reminiscent of Tracy and Hepburn). Instead, Chenery settled on a more recent film, Unfaithful, a gift from the guy who gave us Flashdance and Fatal Attraction.

“It's not a good movie," Chenery said. "But she was great in it. There was an awful lot of skin showing. I think Diane's very brave."

As a reward, Lane gets to swap Richard Gere for Secretariat as leading man. Asked how she would have played the casting game, Penny said her first choice would have been Meryl Streep (join the club), but if she could reach back to the all-time greats, there is no question.

“Barbara Stanwyck," Chenery said, with something like awe in her voice. "When I was growing up, she was just my heroine."

            Penny & co

"I don't have story approval or casting approval,” Chenery added. “But they want me to be 'happy.' I've seen the script--they keep me in the loop--and that's fine. I don't know how to make a movie, so why would I have any input? The horse part I just hope they'll get right.”

She’s not alone. Even Seabiscuit flubbed a few simple things about racing, and The Black Stallion, for all its wondrous mythology, is chock full of groaners when it comes to racing details. Cindy Pierson Dulay compiled a pretty thorough list of horse racing movies on her website (http://www.horse-races.net/library/list-movies.htm) -- a few good (Champions, Boots Malone, Casey‘s Shadow), most of them bad, and some downright ugly, although Hot to Trot does feature both Virginia Madsen and former jock Tom Wolski.

Other than sending out a call for perfect chestnut Thoroughbreds, the people making the Secretariat movie have yet to announce other casting choices. This gives the rest of us a chance to weigh in. I’m touting Kevin Spacey as Lucien Laurin (they‘d need to give him a nose), Matt Damon as Ron Turcotte (you‘re welcome, Ron), and Terrence Howard as groom Eddie Sweat, the man who spent more time with Secretariat than all the rest put together.

Penny Stocks More than 1 year ago
The blog you post is very nice and attractive. Thanks
horsing around More than 1 year ago
To the person who mentioned wanting Champions on DVD, it is. Netflix has it, and it is good. To everyone else, why not have some unknowns play the parts?
bill p More than 1 year ago
I never comment on web stories but when "Boots Malone" gets mentioned I had to break my streak. That movie is my father Dennis's favorite racetrack movie; it was required watching when we were kids. We were able to get him a grainy dvd of the movie somewheres. As far as Diane Lane goes, I'm a "Must Love Dogs" kinduva guy myself...Big fan of your writing; keep up the great work.
Jay H More than 1 year ago
Thanks, Bill. I'll bet your dad was of the era when William Holden was The Man, and Boots was one of his best.
Sirchas More than 1 year ago
Cattle Annie and Little Britches...one of my favorite alltime movies and for sure, my favorite Diane Lane movie..but apparently Jay and I are the only ones still alive who ever saw the movie. (It's never even made it to DVD) It contained several very sweetly memorable lines: (When Burt Lancaster's bunch of bankrobbers were in the bank and told the cashier to put all the money in a sack, the cashier said that he didn't have any sacks. When Burt ordered someone in his gang to give the guy a sack, the gang members were either looking at the ceiling or studying their fingernails. Burt sighs in equal parts frustration and resignation and slowly intones: "Nobody brought a sack?") As far as Big Red goes...how will they find any animal to compare to the sheer physical presence of Secretariat? I'd never even thought of picking up a Racing Form in 1973; there was nothing remotely interesting about the sport to me then...and I probably didn't consider it a sport. At least until that Kentucky Derby. The Marvel of Nature that took the Triple Crown that year simply jumped out of the TV set with his combination of grace and power. I wish the film-makers luck if they try to capture the agility and determination along with Secretariat's other unique traits. Eddie Maple once said that he'd never be able to properly convey the sensations of acceleration and blinding speed that he felt when Secretariat turned on the jets in his last race. And since then, yes, I have bought many a Racing Form. I can also say that the sport has indeed given me some great experiences. But it is probably true that all of us miss the class that Secretariat and his entourage gave to us. Let's hope the movie captures a sliver of that experience.
Dan The Man More than 1 year ago
I just hope the script includes some of the "real" things that happened around Belmont time, like Lauren saying to Turcotte "If this horse doesn't win tommorrow I'll turn in my trainer's license" to which Turcotte replied "I'll be there right after you turning in my Jockey's license". And one of the reporters in the press box, after seeing hte 1/2 mile time thinking "Turcotte you're an idiot! You are going to blow the Triple Crown! Don't you know how fast you are going?", while at about he same time Mrs Chenery is thinking "Don't fall off, Ronnie", and of course they must include the most famous line ever said in a race call (and IMHO one of the best lines any sportscaster ever said) "Secretariat is widening now, he is moving like a tremendous machine!"
Mike More than 1 year ago
Well I'm amazed at how similar in body measurements Affirmed and Alydar were. I stand corrected, it's strange how they were so different visually. It's a shame Affirmed rarely transfered that huge heart to his sons. As far as MTB goes, I was comparing musculature, not heart or size. Sorry for the confusion.
Mike More than 1 year ago
To $Bill, No offense meant sir, but if your going to portrait a horse like Secrateriat the colt in question should at least look the part and to Gene V, yes I'm as jazzed as you are Eddie Maple made it. He was one of my favorite riders back then along with Jeff Fell and Donnie MacBeth
John O' More than 1 year ago
Best horse racing movie was " Kentucky " a forties or fifties film with the great Walter Brennan. Absolutely hysterical
Jay Hovdey More than 1 year ago
Gene V -- Am I the only one jazzed about Maple finally making the Hall of Fame? Talk about a class act. As for show biz, who wouldn't want to cast him in anything, and how many recall his brief flirtation with TV racing commentary some years back? He was great, but it wasn't for him. Our loss.