Laura Hillenbrand

AGE 34 MOMENT OF ARRIVAL Her book Seabiscuit: An American Legend, about the remarkable racehorse, was one of the year’s most unlikely best-sellers. A PBS documentary is in the works and Pleasantville’s Gary Ross will direct the Univeral feature. WHAT FAME HAS BROUGHT ”It’s been crazy,” says Hillenbrand, who lives in Washington, D.C. ”I have chronic fatigue syndrome and I’m mostly housebound. After the book came out, people started driving by my home. The first time I got out to take a walk, the first person I saw was reading my book.” BEST RESEARCH TOOL ”I had never used eBay,” admits the author. ”I typed in jockey and Seabiscuit and found all sorts of strange and wonderful things. I bought a porn magazine from the ’50s that had a story about [jockey] George Woolf that mentions he once ripped his pants while riding Seabiscuit in Tijuana. I called some sources and actually had the story confirmed.” WHO SHE’D CAST IN THE MOVIE For Red Pollard, the jockey hiding a big secret, ”I’d love to see Sean Penn or Ed Norton.” Real-life horse whisperer Tom Smith ”is more difficult since I see him mostly as hands and gestures — maybe Clint Eastwood. And, well, [owner] Charles Howard looks just like Gene Hackman.” WHAT’S NEXT Maybe a kids’ horse tale. ”The story of Seabiscuit,” she says, ”is in many ways about the importance of character.”