In January 1999, I was contacted by a representative from Paramount Studios. The representative asked if had a good looking, well-trained Newfie that I would be willing to use in a bit part of a movie that they were going to film in my home town of Pittsburgh. It sounded like fun and certainly a once in a lifetime experience. So I said yes. They wanted photos, so I sent pictures of my Zoe (Ch. Amity's Zoe of Pouch Cove, CD, WD, DO, CGC, TDI) off to Hollywood, and they immediately called back stating she was the dog they wanted to use. They wanted her shaggy, but I cheated a bit and trimmed her ears and feet. They even wanted her dirty, but I cheated there too.
They said filming would be mid-January or early February.
"That's OK," I thought. My reservations for the National would still be safe. Well, filming was pushed back to mid-February, then late February, then early March, then March 17. At this point, I had to cancel the National trip. We finally did the filming on March 24, 25, and 26.
Originally, they briefly described three stunts Zoe was to do and we practiced them as well as we could. They sent two trainers from California to see Zoe. They said, "Beautiful dog. Wonderful, outgoing personality. Exactly what they want for the bit part as the family dog." Then they promptly left! They didn't even go over any stunts!
When we finally started filming at the set in late March, it was cold! Talk about hurry up and wait! We had to be there at 7 a.m. and could not leave without the director's OK, and that was always after 6 p.m.
Ginny jumps in the trunk to practice Zoe's scene. Zoe was supposed to scratch at the trunk of the car.
One of the stunts involved Zoe going through a doggie door, but they put in the wrong size door and Zoe could not get through it, so they scrapped that one and had her do something else. Another stunt had Zoe aggressively scratching and barking at the trunk of a car. (No problem practicing for that one-I just got in the trunk and called her). However, when it came time for filming, they wanted her to sniff all along the side of the car and then questionably sniff the trunk. We literally had minutes to change to this new format. My girl got it down pat in just three takes! Another stunt had Zoe jumping out of the back seat of a car and running to the house. No problem practicing that, either. But when it came time, the director wanted her to jump out of the back seat, walk to the back of the car with the family, stand there while the family got their groceries, then walk to the house. This took five takes to change, but Zoe did it like a champ. The two trainers from California had been working with a dog (that has a much bigger part in this movie) for over a year, knowing exactly what to train for. I was very proud that my girl could adapt so quickly.
Walkie-talkies were used so Zoe could hear Ginny call her from the trunk of the car.
The week we did the filming was time consuming, exciting, eye opening, and very interesting. We met some very nice people, ate a lot of wonderful food, were amazed at the amount of equipment needed, and were impressed at the stress the crew put on details.
The spectators were very plentiful and well mannered, and security was everywhere. One lady, wearing light tan very crisp slacks came up to me and asked if this was the Newfie that was in the movie. When I said yes, she jokingly asked if she could have Zoe's autograph. As if on cue, Zoe immediately put her dirty paw on this lady's knee. I said, "I think you just did."
Another lady (pushing a wheelchair containing a pre-teenager who appeared to be severely affected with Cerebral Palsy) came up to me and asked if her son could pet my dog. Zoe sat in front of the wheelchair and gave a very gentle lick on one of his frail, contracted hands. His eyes, which had been staring at the sky, slowly lowered and focused on my dog, and his expressionless open mouth slowly closed and a faint smile appeared. His mom started to cry, I had tears in my eyes, and lots of hugs were exchanged. I've used Zoe in therapy before, but I have never been as proud of her as I was at that moment.
Many humorous, touching, educational, and exciting things happened-too numerous to mention-and they are all wonderful memories that I am grateful to have.
The name of the movie is "Wonder Boys" (with a name like that, it's bound to be the next "Titanic"). It stars Michael Douglas and is due to be released near Thanksgiving. I have no way of knowing how much of Zoe's part will be used, but the experience was a wonderful one. I feel privileged to own such a great girl who displayed some of the inspired things that Newfies do best.
reprinted from NewfTide 1999
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For a full listing of Newfoundlands appearing on the silver screen, visit Jack Voller's "Cultured Newf" site