'A Dog’s Journey' Cast Praises Rescue Dog Co-Stars at Premiere

Morgan Lieberman/FilmMagic

Author and co-screenwriter of 'A Dog’s Journey,' W. Bruce Cameron told THR, “We really want people to understand that dogs are thinking. They're sentient, spiritual, loving creatures,” on the film premiere’s green carpet.

After a career of directing for TV, Gail Mancuso switched gears at the premiere of her feature directorial-debut, A Dog’s Journey, on Thursday evening, which began with a screening at the ArcLight Hollywood and ended at the nightclub Le Jardin.

Dog houses paired with abnormally sized tennis balls decorated a green carpet. Dennis Quaid took full advantage of the area, walking the carpet with his miniature bulldog, Peaches.

“Peaches was in it, but she got cut out. She came anyway,” Quaid said, joking, “She's working with [Martin] Scorsese now, so she doesn't care.” The two joined Mancuso, the writers and producers, and the cast — including Marg Helgenberger, Kathryn Prescott, Abby Ryder Fortson, Emma Volk and Ian Chen — on a carpet decorated to pay homage to the many dogs that portrayed the film’s star, Bailey, voiced by Josh Gad.

Bailey is the best friend of Ethan, Quaid’s character, in the first installment of the film franchise. What makes A Dog’s Journey different is this story is about a girl and her dog, Prescott, the actress who plays CJ, told The Hollywood Reporter. “I love that it was told from that perspective.”

Prescott felt that working with dogs forced her to be in the moment, allowing her to act more naturally. That is why she, a dog lover, enjoyed acting with the dogs even when she had to film scenes multiple times because the scenes were hard for the dog.

“When we did that scene when the car is upside down, [Molly’s] supposed to be dead,” Prescott told THR. “So when I had to pretend he was dying and be like, ‘Molly, Molly,’ instead of being dead, he’d just sit up and look at me.” While Prescott thought that scene had been difficult to film, she stated that the rest of the filming went smoothly.

Prescott, who owns an English bulldog rescued from The Dog Cafe, worked with many rescue dogs while filming this project. Mancuso told THR, she worked with animal trainers in order to direct dogs that either had lots of acting experience or very little. She kept in really good communication with the dog trainers, reviewing the scripts with them, talking about tricks and taking suggestions. Mancuso said, the dogs had “eye contact with the trainers at all times.” The trainers were right next to the camera during filming.

This collaboration with the trainers enhanced Mancuso’s ability to direct rescue dogs like the dog that played Max at the adoption fair.

“I like that they made him aggressive toward people when he’s at the [adoption] fair,” Prescott said. “They showed also that he is still a lovely dog deserving of love despite the fact that he might have some aggression.”

Max wasn’t the only character played by a rescue dog. The dog who played Big Dog is also a rescue dog. “His real name is Phil,” Mancuso told THR. “The trainer only had him for nine days. Phil only had eight days of training. That was amazing.”

Casting rescue dogs in the movie aligned with both Cathryn Michon and W. Bruce Cameron’s initial vision of the story. Michon is a co-screenwriter along with her husband, Cameron, who also authored the books that inspired the franchise.

“We are a rescue family. We really want people to understand that dogs are thinking. They're sentient, spiritual, loving creatures,” Cameron said. “And I want people to walk out [of the movie] thinking, ‘Dogs are really important, and I need to take care of my dog and other dogs.’”

A Dog’s Journey, which is a film from both Amblin Entertainment and Reliance Entertainment, is distributed domestically by Universal Pictures. It opens in theaters May 17.