shadows features The right ingredients
Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston talk about dogs, kids, Marley & Me
at the london premiere
At the film's London premiere

aniston with young marley
marley and me
MARLEY & ME (2008)

wilson with eddie murphy in i spy
18.Nov.68, Dallas
Drillbit Taylor (2008) The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Night at the Museum (2006) You, Me and Dupree (2006)
Cars (2006) Wedding Crashers (2005)

aniston with david schwimmer in friends
11.Feb.69, Sherman Oaks, California
He's Just Not That Into You (2009) The Break-Up (2006)
Friends with Money (2006) Rumor Has It... (2005)
Derailed (2005) Along Came Polly (2004)
B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
marley and me Normally in London, interviews are conducted with filmmakers and actors through the fog of trans-Atlantic jetlag. So it felt like a bonus when Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston stroll into the room looking rested and relaxed. They've been travelling around Europe for a week or so and are now looking forward to going home. Jennifer is sleek and tanned; Owen is relaxed and a bit scruffy. And they must be relieved that, although they're known for their work in romantic-comedies, this film is neither: it's the story of the first 10 or so years of a growing family during the life of a rather spirited family pet. In other words, they violated both of the cardinal rules of moviemaking...

Was working with animals and children as difficult as they say?
It wasn't as bad as people think, actually. It was quite enjoyable, in fact. And you know, because Marley was supposed to be such an out-of-control dog, he really could do no wrong. So the worse he was, the better he was. The only hard thing, I have to say, was with the babies. They have to cry in some of the scenes, and it's just hard to see a child encouraged to wail! So we would just hand the babies off to Owen if they weren't crying, because he had a knack for bringing the emotion out of these children.

Owen: They said I held them like a football.

What are your own experiences with family pets?
I have a dog now called Garcia, who is in the movie. He made his debut in the dog training scene with Kathleen Turner. And yeah, we grew up with dogs. Our first dog was a Dalmatian called Nutmeg, and then our main dog growing up was a dog named Blue. He was a Labrador who could swim to the bottoms of pools to retrieve golf balls. That was his special trick.

Jennifer: Are you serious? That's amazing.

Owen: Yeah, he could hold his breath. He was a chocolate brown Lab.

Jennifer: Oh I saw the pictures. A gorgeous dog! That's quite a talent. My dog, well, he didn't like me very much. I was so little, and my first dog Dimitri was a poodle. I used to think he was something I could play with and ride. But I couldn't.

Owen: You were trying to ride Dimitri?

Jennifer: I tried to ride Dimitri. And then no wonder when he bit me. I thought I'd never be a dog person and now I have two wonderful dogs, Norman and Dolly. It all turns out good in the end.

Owen: How did you get Dolly?

Jennifer: Dolly's a rescue from Mexico. We've got to talk!

No matter what you do, is it true that the dog's best take is the one they'll use?
Yeah, exactly. You're bringing up a lot of stuff.

Jennifer: Painful memories.

His misbehaving actually gave us more to play with

Owen: But actually, I don't remember that happening. Clyde was the main dog who played Marley and he was pretty consistent about misbehaving and doing stuff.

Jennifer: His misbehaving actually gave us more to play with. It was like working with a really great actor: the take was never the same twice!

Owen: It was sort of like the crew, the director, everyone's waiting. I'd say my line and now is he going to pick up that - yes, he's got it! So I'll say my other line now.

Why do you think there's such a unique bond between man and dog?
They're so helpless. They really do have just you and you are their sole carer, you feed them.

Owen: At least that's what they make you think!

Jennifer: They couldn't be happier.

Owen: But out of all the animals from way back in history, humans and dogs were kind of, "OK, check these guys out over here." And we kind of ended up kind of domesticating dogs. I don’t know. Dolphins seem like they'd be great, but what are you going to do with one?

Jennifer: Or monkeys.

Owen: Yeah, but I've been around monkeys in movies a couple of times.

Jennifer: Don't they throw stuff?

Owen: Yeah, they're not that impressed with us. Dongs seem a little more worshipful. And it's kind of nice to be worshipped.

Now that you've both played journalists, do you have more respect for us?
Depends on the kind of journalist.

Owen: I didn't have like a lack of respect going into the film anyway.

Would you trade jobs with one?
I actually worked as a kid at the Dallas Times-Herald, because my dad had worked with Bill Moyers, and then his son was working there and I was able to get a job as a runner one summer. As a kid that was exciting to be around in the summertime. But I'm happy doing my job now.

Jennifer: Yes, I'm very happy doing my job.

It was hard not to get emotional because he’s just a really old dog

Owen, you have a very emotional scene at the end, which isn't something you usually do in films.
When you see it on the script, you're like, "OK, this scene's coming up this week." You're going to have to get a little bit emotional, and I'm not like a trained actor, being able to change your voice and get emotional. That's what actors do. In another movie, I remember was supposed to get emotional, and I wasn't able to. And they had to bring out this stuff they blow in your eyes, it's like spearmint. But the situation was so implausible that I was supposed to be upset about. It was in I Spy, and I was like, "I don't think this is going to save the movie, having me squeeze out a few tears here." So for this one I was a little nervous, but then they had the dog Copper, who plays the old Marley, and he came on set and it was hard not to get emotional because he's just a really old dog. Your heart goes out to him. So it wasn't hard. I felt like, "Yeah, I can do this!"

Jennifer: See, you are an actor!

Did you have a favourite among the dogs that played Marley?
Oh, that's so hard to say. There were a lot of them. But Clyde was the main one and he was there a lot, so we became very close to him. He was at the premiere in Amsterdam.

Owen: They said it was Clyde but I'm not so sure.

Jennifer: That was Clyde!

Owen: I had seen one earlier on the street earlier that day - a white lab that was drafted into service.

Why do you think this kind of film resonates with audiences?
The fact is that it did as well as it did [in America] at a time when there were these big movies out that were high-concept, beautiful movies. I think this was a sign of what people are really hungry for: just a very simple story of this family and the journey that you go on with them over 15 years of their life - when they started and how exciting it was, their dreams, everything is in front of them, and as your family grows, children enter the picture, a dog, career changes, career decisions, and also the not-so-rosy side of life. To see a real portrayal of marriage I think is very refreshing. And also to feel something so deeply. Because this is such an accessible story, I think people were ready for that. To laugh really hard, to feel, to cry really hard. And the recession is also affecting the studios. They're not making as many movies. And at film festivals, studios that would maybe buy six to eight films are buying two. So it's a lot harder for independent films especially.

Do you prefer the independent films to the big-budget studio movies?
Well, they both have such great aspects to them. I mean the independent is great because creatively you have a little bit more freedom. Unless you have like a home run like a Marley & Me where you are creatively fulfilled and it does its job in terms of box office and all that nd it's the big budget. But independents are fun because you don't have time to stop. It's just sort of on the go and there is that little bit more creative freedom. But you don't have the money to slow down!

Are you looking for something different with your next project?
For me it's not like trying to do something different, but it was such a good experience in terms of enjoying everyone I was working with, and Jen and getting along with the director. So it's about trying to find a similar experience.

Jennifer: The right ingredients! But we won't be doing dog movies right up next.



© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall