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Film, like inspiring horse, overcomes obstacles

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In 2008, a charming little movie about a depressed girl and a broken-down racehorse who help each other recover was shot in Pittsburgh. It was called “Shannon's Rainbow.”

Finally, the movie, now under the name “Amazing Racer,” is getting its local, invitation-only, premiere Tuesday at AMC Loews Waterfront 22. The family-friendly film will be released on DVD the same day.

Wal-Mart has already ordered 50,000 copies “for prominent display,” according to John Mowod, who co-wrote the movie with Larry Richert of KDKA-AM (1020).

It was a long, sometimes excruciating, journey. But the little film managed to attract some big stars (Daryl Hannah, Louis Gossett Jr., Charles Durning, Eric Roberts, Steve Guttenberg), and enough backers to finally reach the finish line.

“We ended up in court,” says Mowod, citing a dispute with one of the film's producers. “It's not unheard of in this business. The film started as a little $5 million film, and everybody did what they had to do.”

“Once it started being produced, it became apparent that it was pretty good,” he says. “At that point, people came out of the woodwork. Normally, it would have been ignored and flown under the radar. ... Unfortunately, we had to go through the legal process, an in-house dispute, which took years.”

That such a simple, appealing story could take so long to tell was immensely frustrating. Mowod started working on it 17 years ago, while living and working as an actor in Los Angeles. It was inspired by a true story — and his brother Joe.

“He's at the Meadows Racetrack and trains racehorses,” says Mowod. “When you're training racehorses, it's a business. Situations come up, and you have to make a business call. A horse got injured. The ‘business call' would be to, at the very least, put the horse down. It would have had a hard time walking around.

“He made the mistake of becoming attached to the animal — one of the reasons he's a really good horse trainer. He put thousands of his own dollars into rehabbing this animal. He wanted the horse to live out its days in a field, eating grass.”

The horse wasn't supposed to walk normally again.

“They're built for one thing — to run,” says Mowod “It started running again. It began to win. The biggest race was the Red Mile in Kentucky. It wins the race. I'm watching this horse win the race that should have been put down. This is the kind of emotion that I'm able to pull from.”

Usually, it takes a lot more than $5 million to get this many accomplished actors interested in a movie.

“The woman that did the casting did a great job,” Mowod says. “There's a small scene with Steve Guttenberg and Charles Durning — I think it's the last film (Durning) did. We didn't have millions to throw at anybody. In this industry, when there's a story they can latch onto, they can sometimes get on board for a meager wage.”

When interviewed on-set back in 2008, Daryl Hannah, who plays a therapist in the movie, said simply: “I like stories about horses.”

“It really was a labor of love,” says Mowod. “People think of Hollywood as strictly business, numbers, dollars. For me and Larry, it was really a labor of love. We're glad we were able to see it through.”

Details: www.amazingracerthemovie.com

Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mmachosky@tribweb.com or 412-320-7901.

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