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Beverly Hills Chihuahua – Piper Perabo interview

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Interview by Rob Carnevale

PIPER Perabo talks about loving dogs and Mexico for Beverly Hills Chihauhua, the joy of working with Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale, and why she’s gearing up to make her Broadway debut for Neil LaBute…

Q. What was the appeal of Beverly Hills Chihuahua?
Piper Perabo: Well, I always loved Disney films growing up, and all the magical worlds they created in their films so when one came along, I really wanted to do it.

Q. Do you love dogs?
Piper Perabo: I do love dogs. Sometimes we’d have a lot of dogs on set, so there were some days – admittedly – where I would think: “I do not ever want to own a dog!” But most of the time it was really good fun and I was sad to leave many of them when shooting was finished.

Q. Was Papi was one of those you missed?
Piper Perabo: Papi was; Chloe was not! [Laughs] For some reason, we didn’t get along very well. But Papi and I got on really well, as did the Doberman pincher who plays the villain in the film. We also got along well.

Q. Do you have any idea why Chloe didn’t take to you? Was she being a little too method given the spiky on-screen nature of your relationship?
Piper Perabo: [Laughs] I honestly don’t know why Chloe didn’t take. Maybe it was because every time she saw me she knew she had to work – perhaps she just associated me with going to work. She’d pretend to fall asleep whenever we were about to do a scene. We all knew she wasn’t, but she’d pretend to be napping.

Q. Whereas Papi was a joy to be around, according to the director? And he was rescued in real-life…
Piper Perabo: Papi was rescued one day before he was going to be euthanised. It’s an incredible story. They had to train him so fast because when they found him, it was only a few days away from the beginning of the shoot. But he’s so smart, so sweet, and always full of energy. We were really lucky to find him and everyone fell in love with him.

Q. There’s a lot of licking going on at times. Are you comfortable with that?
Piper Perabo: I love the licking! If I didn’t travel so much for work, I would have a big dog… maybe even two. I was always so happy in between takes, or during the shoot, or at lunch, to hang out with them and play. So, I’d get big dogs and play with them all the time if I could.

Q. I imagine there’s a certain lack of vanity from the actors given that the focus is on the dogs and the director has to make them a priority in every scene?
Piper Perabo: Well, Manolo [Cardona, my co-star] and I often said that we were basically just supporting the dogs. They’ll steal every scene. But at the same time, we had to ensure our acting was dead right every time because we didn’t want to ruin the shot on the one take that the dogs got it right and be responsible for having to redo it. So, we did a lot of rehearsing beforehand. It takes a lot of patience to work with dogs.

Q. I imagine that shooting in Mexico must have been fun?
Piper Perabo: Mexico was really fun. I’d never been there before. We shot all over the country because we wanted it to be a travel postcard and show how beautiful it really is.

Q. You’ve appeared in a lot of diverse films during your career. Are you happy with the way it’s going?
Piper Perabo: I am. There are choices I’ve made that would maybe I’d now say: “Hmm, maybe that’s not the right choice.” And there are maybe ones that I didn’t realise how lucky I was to be on it at the time, in terms of what they meant. It’s been up and down. But I’m really enjoying it and I feel really lucky that I get to do this for a living.

Q. One of the most enjoyable experiences must have been working with Christopher Nolan on The Prestige, who is so hot right now after The Dark Knight‘s success?
Piper Perabo: Doing The Prestige was such an incredible experience. Chris is one of my favourite directors and that cast [including Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, David Bowie and Sir Michael Caine] was so incredible. He’d already done the first Batman with Christian, of course, and he was using the same cinematograher, who I was also a big fan of. I just think Chris is a genius. But I really just tried to be quiet and learn as much as possible whenever I was on the set.

Q. What roles do you most get recognised for?
Piper Perabo: A lot of people still recognise me from Coyote Ugly. I’m not sure why. But I’ve just cut my hair really short, which means that people don’t recognise me as much.

Q. Is that one of the downsides of celebrity – being recognised when sometimes you don’t want to be?
Piper Perabo: In LA yes, but not so much in New York or London. In those cities, people are cooler about celebrity. New Yorkers, in particular, really like to act as though they don’t find anything impressive or cool. But in LA, they’re not so cool because it’s a one-industry town and people really care about it.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about Ashes, your next film?
Piper Perabo: Well, I’m not sure of its release date but Ashes was a small, independent film I made with a friend of mind [Ajay Naidu]. He and I have been friends for a long time. The movie is semi-auto-biographical [about a young Indo-American man who struggles in the inner city of New York to support himself and his mentally ill older brother]. It’s a really small movie. But a lot of New York actors did it together, which was really cool. It’s a passion project and they’re so much fun to work on because everyone is supportive of each other and everybody pulls together.

Q. Do you prefer shooting in New York and doing indie films when you can?
Piper Perabo: I like it a lot. I love New York. I live here, as do my brothers, so I try and work here whenever I can. It’s hard to do tiny, independent films all the time, though. We were sitting on park benches getting ready to do the scenes on this one! There weren’t any trailers. So it is nice to go and do the big ones as well.

Q. You’re about to open on Broadway in the new Neil LaBute play, Reasons To Be Pretty. That must be pretty daunting, being a New Yorker?
Piper Perabo: It’s extra daunting, yeah! Even as a kid, I would go to all the Broadway plays, so I know what a big deal it is living in New York. So, it’s a case of: “Oh my god!”

Q. Would you consider coming to the West End with it?
Piper Perabo: I don’t know. A lot of Broadway shows do go to London. It would be so exciting to do a play there. I used to live in London, when I did the film Imagine Me And You, and I was so happy. It would be so great to live in the city and walk to the theatre each night.

Read our review of Beverly Hills Chihuahua