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'Secretariat' races to the finish with a Hollywood premiere

October 1, 2010 |  1:54 pm

Diane Lane and John Malkovich at the Secretariat premiere The premiere of "Secretariat" at Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre on Thursday brought out all the front-runners of the much-anticipated Disney film: stars Diane Lane, John Malkovich, A.J. Michalka, Nestor Serrano, Dylan Walsh, director Randall Wallace and the horse.

Well, not the horse. A horse. Even onscreen, Secretariat was played by five horses, including the winner of a lookalike contest judged by the owner of 1973's record-setting Triple Crown winner.

Amanda Michalka at the Secretariat premiere. It's not every day you see a horse on a red carpet, but then it's also not every day you see the puckish Malkovich sporting brightly colored sport jackets and clashing hats, as he did for the role of Secretariat's flamboyant trainer, Lucien Lauren. Malkovich is scrupulous about his personal style, which has drawn a bevy of admirers, including Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, and he has his own fashion label, called Uncle Kimono. Imagine Armani dressed up as Superfly. (Click on the picture of actress Amanda Michalka at right to launch a gallery of arrival photos.)

The year 1973 "was sort of the end of fashion, and that was the nadir of fashion, probably," said Malkovich, dressed in a relatively conservative gray suit and bow tie at the Hollywood Roosevelt after-party.

"Actually, if you YouTube what very staid newscasters and sportscasters had on, what [Lauren] wore was very mild. That's a frightening thing to contemplate, but true. None of those clothes will ever burden my suitcase."

Malkovich had just been chatting with Peta Wilson, longtime girlfriend of one of his oldest friends, Damian Harris, who directed him in 2008's "Gardens of the Night." In another room, Lane chatted with Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross, who perched on the arm of her chair next to Lane's husband, Josh Brolin. Scattered throughout the space were copies of racetrack tickets, dusty horseshoes and Secretariat's Newsweek and Time covers.

For the real Secretariat's owner, Denver-based Penny Chenery Tweedy, 88, and her family, the premiere vied with the steed's Belmont Park win –- which cemented his Triple Crown status -– for excitement. Tweedy had pulled out the blue sequin jacket she had bought for the occasion five years ago, when she signed the contract with Disney.

"This whole event tonight -– second to watching the Belmont -– is just phenomenal," said her daughter, Kate Chenery Tweedy, author of the new book "Secretariat's Meadow" (and portrayed by Michalka in the film.) "All the press, all the people and the red carpet and stopping traffic and the gorgeous El Capitan Theatre, oh my God. This is a hoot. It's amazing. Very, very cool."

"Secretariat" opens Oct. 8 in U.S. theaters.

-- Irene Lacher

Upper photo: John Malkovich kisses Diane Lane's hand outside the El Capitan Theatre on Thursday. Credit: Eric Charbonneau / WireImage

Lower photo: Actress Amanda Michalka at the "Secretariat" premiere with a red carpet pal. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

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Justin Timberlake, Andrew Garfield and cast premiere 'The Social Network' in NYC

'You Again' premiere: Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis and other frenemies on the red carpet