James Gunn with Von Spears and Emily Monster
The Guardians of the Galaxy director has collected pets his whole life. He once had a rat who would steal cigarettes ("I quit 10 years ago," he says). These days, the single Gunn, 43, shares his home — and frequently his movie sets — with more health-conscious critters: "I think of myself as having one pet, my dog, and one roommate, my cat. She moved in on her own accord after screaming outside my house for three days." A lot of Gunn's work has involved animals: He wrote both Scooby-Doo movies and directed Slither, about alien slugs, and one of the superheroes in Guardians (which just got greenlighted for a sequel) is a talking raccoon. Gunn took his dog, a Cocker Spaniel-Siberian Husky-Greyhound mix, with him to London to shoot that film, which opens Aug. 1, but his best new pet pal there turned out to be a friend's meerkat. "It came to the set with me a lot," he says. "He'd sit on my shoulder, or on Zoe [Saldana]."
Jada Pinkett Smith and Friend Cesar Millan with Her Dogs
"Tsch!" Jada Pinkett Smith is saying. "Tsch! Tsch!"
She's strolling the grounds of the 150-acre Calabasas home she shares with her husband (that'd be Will), their two kids, Jaden, 16, and Willow, 13, and the eight dogs currently bounding around her legs, tails wagging. Also heeling by her side is her long-time friend Cesar Millan, the canine behaviorist from Mexico — host of Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel — who taught Smith the terse, Yiddish-like yelp ("Tsch!") that she's demonstrating on her lawn. It's a sound that, Millan believes, when used properly, can make a rebellious pooch snap to attention.
"A lot of things I've learned from Cesar, I've been able to pull into my relationships with my husband and kids," Smith, 42, tells THR. "You'd be surprised how parallel understanding dogs can be [to people]."
Smith and Millan, 44, became friends in 1994, years before she started dating Will (she recently had finished A Different World, was dealing with misbehaving Rottweilers at home), and long before Millan became a cable-TV personality (Dog Whisperer was National Geographic's top-rated program until it ended in 2012). In fact, at the time, Millan barely knew English. "But I was totally with him," Smith says. "It was his energy."
Millan's vocabulary has vastly improved since then. "My clients are famous and wealthy," he says. "But they can't walk a Chihuahua. But the only difference between leadership in the human world and in the animal world is that animals don't follow unstable pack leaders. Humans deviate and go after fame, wealth and power. In the animal world, it's energy. If you learn to lead with the energy of a dog, calm and assertive, your relationships are going to be harmonious."
Chelsea Peretti with Untitled Dog Project, Stephanie Beatriz with Banjo, Melissa Fumero with Bella
Three Brooklyn Nine-Nine actresses. Three very different dogs. "I actually got Banjo because these two were talking about their dogs all the time and how much joy they brought them," says Beatriz, 33, of the 10-year-old (possible) Chihuahua-Papillon mix she picked up at a shelter in Oregon (she thinks he looks a lot like Steve Buscemi, which she means as a compliment). Fumero, 31, got Bella, her French Mastiff, when Bella was just a tiny, adorable 3-month-old pup — and watched her balloon to a 110-pound tank with fur. "If she could talk, she'd sound like Bea Arthur," Fumero insists. And Peretti, 36, found her best friend — which she's named Untitled Dog Project — on a rescue website. "I knew I wanted a rescue, so I drove an hour outside of L.A., based just on his picture," she says. "The minute I met him, he promptly pooped on the floor and attacked another dog. I was like, 'I'll take him!' "
Brian Dow with Edie
As head of branding and marketing at APA, the busy agent spends his days repping the Kardashians and other clients. But his downtime is devoted to his fiance, their two French bulldogs and Edie, their potty-trained, indoor micropig (she'll grow only as large as 50 pounds on a diet of vegetables and miniature-pig food; micropigs mostly get along with other pets). "All pigs want to do is chill out in your lap," says Dow, 35. "They want to be fed, they want to be warm, and they want to be comfortable." Not too different from the Kardashians, come to think of it. The biggest challenge of pig ownership? Says Dow, "They're like roosters — they get up so early!"
William and Louise Ward with Buster
"It's a prerequisite for being a client that you have to meet our dog," half-jokes UTA agent Louise Ward. Considering her husband is a founding partner at management and production company ROAR, that's one well-connected pup (his clients include Chris Hemsworth; she reps Channing Tatum). At first, William, 43, wasn't keen on adopting a pet so soon. "We had three tiny kids, and the last thing I wanted to add to our life was the chaos of an animal," he says. But while he was away on a business trip, Louise, 357 ("in dog years"), and the children found the Scotti Apso on Petfinder, at a shelter known for its high kill rate. "I thought I would just go down and look at him," she says. "Cut to, 'Honey, we got a dog!' "
Mace Neufeld with Margie
"I've had dogs and I've had cats, but I'm a bird man," says the veteran producer behind the Jack Ryan movies and the upcoming Denzel Washington action thriller The Equalizer. He has had 19 birds since he got his first parakeet when he was 15, but his current winged pal, a 2½-year-old African gray parrot who lives mostly cage-free with Neufeld and his wife, Diane, has the advantage of being able to talk. "Come here!" and "I'm a good girl," are among her favorite phrases. "Margie is very bonded to me," says Neufeld, 86. "She'll sit on my chest and I can pet her for an hour, and she won't move." African gray parrots generally have a life span of 40 to 50 years, which means Neufeld eventually will pass the bird to his grandchildren. He already is preparing for that day. "I'm teaching her to say, 'I miss Mace,' " he jokes.
This story first appeared in the Aug. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.