When the Trumpet Sounds
By Linda Canup
Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?
Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting?
He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray.
He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword.
The quiver rattles against his side, along with the flashing spear and lance.
In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
Job 39:19-24 (NIV)
“It was not part of the [original] script and it wasn’t even part of the script when we were filming,” says director Randall Wallace regarding this passage from Job that appears in his latest film, Secretariat. I think he likes that I’ve asked about the movie’s opening sequence. He tells me its creation story with enthusiasm.
“We originally started the movie with Penny at her house, but that made for too long a section without seeing horses,” he says, “I wanted to tell the audience, ‘Horse racing is coming!’” His team moved the opening to the starting gates, wrote—and scratched out—a narration, and searched for words of biblical proportions to introduce the story. Finally, they put together the perfect opening sequence, which included the passage from Job.
Based on the true story of the horse by the same name, Secretariat shares the legendary saga of the 1973 Triple Crown winner. With the loss of her mother and her father’s deteriorating health, housewife and mother Penny Chenery Tweedy (Diane Lane) agrees to take over the family’s Virginia-based Meadow Stables. Despite a number of setbacks, she manages to navigate the male-dominated business, and with the help of veteran trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich), she becomes the proud owner of the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years—and perhaps the greatest racehorse of all time.
As executives discussed the movie, there was some concern that the under-30 crowd wouldn’t know who Secretariat was. Randall briefly considered titling the movie When the Trumpet Sounds to invoke the power of the biblical comparison, but decided to stick with Secretariat.
This blew my mind. At 29, Secretariat is still the greatest athlete in my world. As a kid, I didn’t just want a pony for Christmas—I wanted a superhorse like Secretariat. He was my Barbie and Superman rolled into one—beauty and strength beyond anything that had existed, or has existed since.
I suppose my love of horses makes me an easy sell for the movie. But I wondered what the attraction might be for someone less star struck by the horse. I asked Randall what drew him to the story.
“Secretariat, first of all, is a hugely entertaining story, with a transcendent theme—that there are possibilities in life greater than we can ever imagine,” he explains. “I knew about the horse, but I did not know about the courage and the faith and the love of the woman who owned him.“
He recalls the time he was visiting the church his family planted in Tennessee. It was Father’s day, and he was attending the service with his sons. The pastor said, “I would like to give my son a lot of money. But I’m not going to because I don’t have a lot of money. Now you are here in church because you want to give your children faith. How are you going to do it if you don’t have it yourself?”
Randall was struck by the truth of that statement and feels the principle is true for storytelling as well. “I can’t make a story that inspires other people unless I’m inspired by it myself. And the story of Secretariat and the woman who owned him stirred my heart. It suggested to me that it had potential to make people’s hearts soar.”
Even though Randall grew up in a Christian home and went to seminary, he never seriously considered full-time ministry. “I’ve given truer sermons, more effective sermons [through storytelling] than I would have known how to give from a pulpit,” he says. Randall has a notable ability to find the greater themes that exemplify values like faith, hope, and love. This is evident in his filmography—which includes moves like Braveheart, We Were Soldiers, and Pearl Harbor. Those who work with him notice this talent as well. Diane Lane, who stars in Secretariat, fondly considers him a romantic and compliments his talent for bringing out the archetypes in a story.
I ask him if he thinks being a Christian makes him different as a writer and director. “Well it certainly makes me different as Randy Wallace,” he says. When working on a script, he gets up early and starts with prayer, asking God to bless others and himself through his work. For him, writing and telling stories that move him—and hopes will move others—is an act of faith. It is work that both fulfills and changes him into who God wants him to be. “[It] makes me less selfish and less afraid, less angry, less absorbed in myself," he says, “Making movies makes my heart sing. It’s extremely challenging and yet it brings wonderful fulfillment.”