'Dog's Purpose' Star Dennis Quaid on Alleged Abuse Controversy: "No Dogs Were Harmed"
The actor spoke about the TMZ video that appeared to show a dog trainer trying to coerce a frightened German Shepherd into a pool.
Appearing Wednesday on NBC's Today show to promote A Dog's Purpose, star Dennis Quaid first had to field questions about the recent controversy surrounding the film after TMZ posted a video that seemed to show animal abuse taking place on set.
The actor insisted, though, that "absolutely no dogs were harmed."
Quaid reiterated what producer Gavin Polone explained in his Hollywood Reporter column earlier this week, that the TMZ video was edited in such a way as to make it seem as if the dog was being put in danger.
"This was a piece of video that was shot during the making of this. Some unknown person at the time. He also spliced, edited and manipulated that to make it look as if the dog was being abused," said Quaid, later questioning, as Polone did, why the shooter, if he was such an animal fan, held onto the video until so close to the movie's release date, when he knew he could get more money from TMZ for his seemingly incendiary clip.
As far as Quaid is aware, the dog seen in the TMZ video is "fine" and "every precaution was taken."
"The dog had been in that water happily and even afterwards, too," he added. "The dog was great. He wanted to do it again. … The dog is actually straining at the leash to get in the water because he loves it so much.”
Later, Quaid and co-hosts Matt Lauer and Natalie Morales shared their mutual love of dogs and discussed whether they permit their pets to sleep in their beds or lick their faces (Quaid's OK with both).
In his column for THR earlier this week, Polone said footage of rehearsal for the scene shows the dog not only "unafraid of the water but desperate to jump in."
Explaining more of what wasn't seen in the TMZ video, Polone continued: "In fact, [the dog] had to be held back by the trainer from going in too soon (the dog was trained to retrieve a toy sewed into the hoodie of the stunt woman and give the illusion that he was pulling her to safety). The dog did the scene in rehearsal without problem, though it was from the left side of the pool, not the right side, which is where the dog is in the TMZ video. Also, in the rehearsal footage, it’s clear that there is a safety diver and a trainer in the pool to protect the dog in case of a problem, as well as two trainers, a stunt coordinator and a safety officer on the deck, and that there are platforms built into the pool where the dog can swim to and stand, if need be. The pool was heated to between 80 and 85 degrees, causing it to steam.
"Before the first real take, the handlers were asked to change the start point of the dog from the left side, where he had rehearsed, to the right side. That, evidentially, is what caused him to be spooked. When the dog didn’t want to do the scene from the new position, they cut, though not soon enough, and then went back to the original position. The dog was comfortable and went in on his own and they shot the scene. The TMZ video only shows the unfinished take of when the dog was on the right side. What is clear from viewing all the footage was that the dog was NEVER forced into the water.
"From a front angle, when they shot the scene, you can see that there is a calmer path in the artificial water turbulence for the dog to move through. This is not visible in the TMZ video. You can also see, at the end of the scene, the dog going underwater for four seconds, which never should have happened, and then the diver and handlers lifting the dog out of the pool. The dog then shook off and trotted around the pool, unharmed and unfazed. They only did one take of the full scene and then ended for the day. TMZ’s edited version gives the impression that the dog was thrown in and eventually drowned, since the two parts seem to be connected. You never see him pulled out and OK. This is highly misleading."
Polone goes on to add that he saw footage of the dog, named Hercules, from last week and in it, "Hercules is obviously quite well."
Universal Studios, NBC's sister company, will release A Dog's Purpose on Friday.
Watch the full Today interview below.