Churchill Downs Backdrop for Movie

By Kathleen Adams

His father, the late Jerry Romans was a Thoroughbred trainer and his older brother Dale is one of the leading trainers at Churchill Downs, but Bruce Marshall Romans, never felt pressured to join the family business.

"In fact, I was encouraged not to do it," Romans said. "My brother is a great trainer. He sees all these things when he looks at a horse that I can't see."

So instead, the Louisville native moved to Los Angeles and became an actor and screenwriter.

In July, Romans brought cast and crew members from Louisville, New York and Los Angeles to Churchill Downs to film scenes for his upcoming movie "Sweet William."

"The racetrack is an interesting backdrop," he said. "It's very much a feast or famine world."

Romans, 33, wrote, co-produced and stars in the independent film along side two-time Tony award winner Frank Langella and Laura Allen, whose credits include "Mona Lisa Smile" and the USA Network sci-fi drama "4400."

Based loosely on his own experiences growing up within the racing industry, the movie's protagonist, William Randall, has a father and brother who are successful trainers.

"But he doesn't have a gift for the family business," Romans said. "He drops out to become a writer."

On the way to becoming a writer, William enrolls in graduate school. He eventually befriends several other young men.

"It's about guys realizing who they are and who they can be."

The situation parallels Romans' own life.

Two long-time friends with Louisville connections helped him raise money for "Sweet William."

Romans won't disclose the size of his budget. He will only offer "that it changes all the time."

But he said money for the film came from a variety of sources including venture capital clubs and race horse owners.

One of Jerry Romans former clients, Frank L. Jones, who now has horses stabled with Dale Romans, provided some funding. So did owners John Rathwell and Steve and Merry Kay Poe.

While not a huge production by Hollywood standards, Romans was able to lure veteran actor Frank Langella to the project with a strong script.

Langella plays an aging university professor who advises William.

"We all agreed he would be perfect for the part," Romans said. "We sent him the script through his agent who told us he said 'it was a gem of role and a gem of a script.'"

Laura Allen portrays William's love interest, Jane. She said as an actress, she was attracted to "Sweet William" because there's an opportunity to have more of a creative influence in an independent film. But like Langella, the script ultimately won her over.

"The script is very sensitive. She's (Jane) tough in the beginning, but she's a vulnerable character. She sees in William a like soul and tries to draw him out.

If everything goes according to plan, "Sweet William" will premiere in Louisville late this fall. It will then be shopped around at major film festivals such as Sundance in hopes of securing a distributor.

As for Romans, he's already writing his next screenplay; a western.