Still: Universal/Amblin

“I swear to you, whether I make another dime on this movie or not has no effect on my life,” claims a producer of the beleaguered upcoming movie A Dog’s Purpose in a lengthy essay he wrote for The Hollywood Reporter. Brave, if true!

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In response to the backlash resulting from leaked footage of a German shepherd being forced into moving water on set of the movie, A Dog’s Purpose producer Gavin Polone wrote what feels like hundreds of thousands of words on what the public doesn’t understand/know, PETA’s extremism, and himself. Polone says he is “a vegan who has fewer close friends than most and no relatives with whom I speak regularly” thus the “most consistent and closest relationships I’ve had throughout my life have been with animals.”

“I live alone with a dog and two cats (and earlier in my life shared my home with as many as four dogs and five cats) and am very sensitive to their emotions,” he goes on. “Seeing that distraught dog in the video did not comport with what I had observed in the prior weeks of production.”

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Polone says he was on set for “70 percent” of the movie’s 11-week shoot, but not the day of the “anomalous event” in question. While Polone concedes that the handler in the video forcing the dog into the water and then the dog being submerged for a few seconds later the in the video were, “absolutely INEXCUSABLE and should NEVER have happened,” and while he concedes that the dog-watching-watchdog group the American Humane Association (which, per its website, “holds the exclusive right to award its ‘No Animals Were Harmed’® end-credit certification to productions that meet its rigorous standard of care for animal actors”) has been “ineffective” through the years, the producer also wants to offer a counter-narrative via watching “all the film shot on the day in question” last week at the A Dog’s Purpose studio, Amblin. “There is more to this story that I think should be known,” writes Polone. And here it is:

In footage of the rehearsal for the scene, you can see the dog not only unafraid of the water but desperate to jump in. In fact, he had to be held back by the trainer from going in too soon (the dog was trained to retrieve a toy sewed into the hoodie of the stunt woman and give the illusion that he was pulling her to safety). The dog did the scene in rehearsal without problem, though it was from the left side of the pool, not the right side, which is where the dog is in the TMZ video. Also, in the rehearsal footage, it’s clear that there is a safety diver and a trainer in the pool to protect the dog in case of a problem, as well as two trainers, a stunt coordinator and a safety officer on the deck, and that there are platforms built into the pool where the dog can swim to and stand, if need be. The pool was heated to between 80 and 85 degrees, causing it to steam.

Before the first real take, the handlers were asked to change the start point of the dog from the left side, where he had rehearsed, to the right side. That, evidentially, is what caused him to be spooked. When the dog didn’t want to do the scene from the new position, they cut, though not soon enough, and then went back to the original position. The dog was comfortable and went in on his own and they shot the scene. The TMZ video only shows the unfinished take of when the dog was on the right side. What is clear from viewing all the footage was that the dog was NEVER forced into the water.

From a front angle, when they shot the scene, you can see that there is a calmer path in the artificial water turbulence for the dog to move through. This is not visible in the TMZ video. You can also see, at the end of the scene, the dog going underwater for four seconds, which never should have happened, and then the diver and handlers lifting the dog out of the pool. The dog then shook off and trotted around the pool, unharmed and unfazed. They only did one take of the full scene and then ended for the day. TMZ’s edited version intentionally gives the impression that the dog was thrown in and eventually drowned, since the two parts seem to be connected. You never see him pulled out and OK. This is highly misleading.

Further, I saw video shot last Thursday morning of the dog and I’m happy to say that Hercules is obviously quite well.

Whoo, that’s a lot, and there’s so much more including Polone’s open suspicion as to the timing of the release of the leaked footage that dates back to 2015, as well as him taking to task PETA’s extremist views, and what he says is further distortion of what happened on the set of A Dog’s Purpose.

PETA meanwhile will picket the movie at theaters across the country upon its Friday release, according to TMZ. “We’re told the picketers will be reminiscent of striking union workers, protesting scabs who attempt to cross the picket line,” says TMZ. I am curious as to how they will pull this off—screaming at anyone who enters any multiplex that’s playing A Dog’s Purpose in case they happen to be attending this specific movie seems inefficient and possibly voice-straining. “I love dogs, I’m just here to watch Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling soft shoe and save jazz!” says the innocent target of PETA’s derision.

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However, buying tickets to enter the multiplex and stationing outside the individual theaters within that are playing A Dog’s Purpose risks getting yourself thrown out of the building. I have emailed PETA to inquire about their game plan and will update this post if/when I hear back.