To say that young actor Nathan Gamble enjoyed his time in the pool with Winter -- the dolphin at the heart of the story Dolphin Tale -- would be an understatement. When I was on the Clearwater, Florida set of Dolphin Tale, I caught up with the young and talented actor to talk about the magic of movie-making and how that fact was never more magical for Gamble than on Dolphin Tale.
Dolphin Tale lands in theaters September 23 and follows the story of Winter, who lost his tail to a fishing contraption. Without their tails, dolphins will die. Winter was moved to an aquarium-hospital in Clearwater where a group of passionate individuals got together to save her life by building a prosthetic tail that the real life Winter wears to this day.
Gamble stars with Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman and found all three astounding to work with and learn from.
Movie Fanatic: So how has it been working with Winter, the star and subject of this true story?
Nathan Gamble: I think all this movie stuff has gone right to her head [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: Has this been the greatest experience of your life?
Nathan Gamble: You know it. When ever in your life do you get to swim with a dolphin? It’s pretty rare. It’s truly one of the best projects I’ve ever been a part of.
Movie Fanatic: Were you nervous on the first day? You’re kind of the anchor of the film!
Nathan Gamble: A little bit [laughs]. I wanted to be cool because dolphins can read people’s auras and I didn’t want to come across too nervous. I was a little nervous, not just with the director, but for the dolphin.
Movie Fanatic: Some kids can be afraid of the water. You weren’t or you couldn't have made this film, right?
Nathan Gamble: Actually, I’m afraid of Harry Connick, Jr.
Movie Fanatic: [Laughs]
Nathan Gamble: He’s a great guy. I think the one fear of this movie, because there’s so much coordination with the dolphin when we’re doing the ballet, that was the one fear with me was that I would do something wrong. I was worried that if I did something wrong, she would flip out.
Movie Fanatic: Tell us about this ballet -- where you dance underwater with Winter -- we’ve heard all about it.
Nathan Gamble: It’s all underwater! It’s beautiful and great for 3D. There’s one where we hold on to each other’s hands, or fins as it may be, and swim to the surface. There’s a lot of cool stuff.
Movie Fanatic: Was that a real challenge?
Nathan Gamble: It takes a lot of practice, I’ll tell you that [laughs]. Usually though, we take what we get on film -- because, you never know with the dolphin.
Movie Fanatic: Are you holding your breath the whole time?
Nathan Gamble: Yes I am. I once passed out and laid on the bottom of the pool floor for about a minute. Everyone was looking down, “That doesn’t look right.” And they quickly dove in and picked me up. I’m just kidding! [Laughs] You are so gullible!
Movie Fanatic: [Laughs] What made you want to do Dolphin Tale?
Nathan Gamble: Being with a dolphin is unreal. I know I said it before, but being with a dolphin is a once in a lifetime experience. I knew this film was about a dolphin, but I never knew we were using the real Winter. That’s what made me really want to do it was to see and meet the real Winter while we film and see what she actually went through.
Movie Fanatic: What did you learn about her?
Nathan Gamble: I learned that sometimes she is temperamental. I’m not going to lie. But, she is really sweet and really is an amazing creature. That’s why Charles (Martin Smith, director) wanted to make this because it is truly an amazing story. It really shows not to give up. She never gave up when she lost her tail.
Movie Fanatic: What was the biggest challenge in today’s shoot that we’ve been witnessing?
Nathan Gamble: The scene today that you’re seeing is where we put on the first effort at the prosthetic tail. Of course, it goes haywire. The difficulty is that we need to do it with the real Winter and the animatronic Winter because we can’t put the bad tail on Winter. So, we have to use the animatronic. The biggest difficulty is going back and forth between the animatronic dolphin and Winter.
Movie Fanatic: As we saw you filming, Winter seemed to want to be in the shot when the animatronic dolphin was used.
Nathan Gamble: Told you this Hollywood movie thing is going to her head. She wants to be in every scene [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: How similar are you to your character?
Nathan Gamble: Actually not at all. Sawyer is very nervous, shy, and temperamental -- like Winter -- and he believes everything’s his fault. His dad is leaving. Winter might die, and he just feels it’s all his fault. That’s not me at all [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: What do you want kids to take away from Dolphin Tale?
Nathan Gamble: It’s a really fun story about a kid and a dolphin and all the stuff they go through. Everyone had to work hard to save her life.