Race Driving and Dog Casting: Q5 with Director Simon Curtis
Risen Magazine: The book spent three and half years on the New York Times bestseller list. When did you read it and what stands out to you?
Simon Curtis: It just struck me as a very good book when I first read it seven years ago. Now, even more than ever, it feels like the right film for our times. Because it’s a tiny reminder of what’s important in all our lives, and that we should cherish — our family, our friends, our pets. Because you never know what’s around the corner, and that’s what’s really important to our lives.
RM: Kevin Costner is such a great choice to voice Enzo the dog. Was he your first choice?
SC: Yeah. I couldn’t be happier. He loved the book, so he was quite easy to cast. It’s the voice of a dog looking back on his life so I knew I wanted this iconic American voice that could drive the film.
RM: Practically, what did it look like having him voice the dog? Did he do all of his lines in one sitting, or did it go through stages as the film progressed?
SC: It was all done in post [production], we didn’t have his voice on the set. At first I was thinking that’s kind of weird, because Milo needs it, but then we realized Milo doesn’t need to hear the voice over, because he hasn’t any sense of it. It’s between us and the dogs.
RM: When it comes to casting animal actors, what is the process like? Do you actually meet the dogs?
SC: In the book the dog a mixed breed, but we couldn’t have a mixed breed in the movie because the dog had to be different ages and it’s too hard to find dogs that look enough alike. So once we decided, on the advice of our trainers, to go with a Golden Retriever because they are trainable, then the question was to find the dogs at those ages. I actually had a very happy day when they brought Butler and Parker in. They looked very similar, but it was the most terrifying pre-production I’ve ever had, because you just didn’t know what it was going to be like day in and day out. As you see from the film, every scene has to be from the dogs point of view, so the dogs were going to be there every single day. But time and time again they delivered.
RM: Racing is such a central theme of the film so did you get to go any cool driving yourself?
SC: Patrick Dempsey is one of our producers. He took Milo and I to Sebring, Florida, and we did do a — I think they call it — a hot lap. But I had my eyes closed for that! (Laughter)
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