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Marley & Me - Owen Wilson interview

Marley & Me

Interview by Rob Carnevale

OWEN Wilson talks about appearing in canine family drama Marley & Me, crying on cue and why he finds it difficult and some of his own past family pets, including a dog that could hold its breath under water!

Q. What are your own experiences with family pets?
Owen Wilson: Our first dog was … I have a dog now called Garcia who is in the movie, in the dog training part. But 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, and he could swim to the bottoms of pools to retrieve golf balls – that was his special trick. He could hold his breath. He was a chocolate brown Lab.

Q: Can you give us an idea of how it is for an actor, to do their best work take after take and know that the dog’s first take is the one that gets printed?
Owen Wilson: Actually, I don’t remember it happening. Clyde was the main dog who played Marley and he was quite consistent about misbehaving and doing stuff. You’re sort of a little bit like, the crew, the director, everyone’s like… I’d say my line and now: “Is [the dog] going to pick up that? Yes! He’s got it! Okay, I’ll say my other line now.” [Smiles]

Q: Towards the end of the film you have quite an emotionally tricky farewell scene. How do you approach those scenes?
Owen Wilson: Definitely, and because I’m not a trained actor, when you see it in the script you’re like: “OK, this scene’s coming up this week…” And you know you have to be able to channel your emotion, and cry if necessary. I remember in another movie I had to get emotional, but I wasn’t able to and they had to bring out this kind of spearmint thing that they blow into your eyes. But the situation that I was supposed to be upset about was so implausible. It was in I Spy [with Eddie Murphy]! I was like: “I don’t think this is going to save the movie if I squeeze
out a few tears here!”

But on this one, I was a little nervous but 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, so I felt like: “Yeah, I can do this!’ It’s a believable situation, which helped.

Q: You both play journalists in the film, so did you go to any local papers or anything as research?
Owen Wilson: We filmed at the Florida Sentinel and in Philadelphia we went to the actual newsroom there but I wouldn’t say there was a lot of research.

Q: What did you pick up from working there?
Owen Wilson: The thing that I picked up was kind of, you know, and from talking to John Grogan, the thing I picked up was the sense of humour that some of these guys have.

Q: Do you have more respect for journalists now you’ve played one?
Owen Wilson: I didn’t have a lack of respect for them going into the film anyway, so, er, yeah.

Q: Would you trade jobs?
Owen Wilson: As a kid, I actually worked on 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.

Q: You’ve had an extraordinary career but what films have inspired you?
Owen Wilson: Recently, I loved that movie The Lives of Others because I didn’t know anything about it. I watched it before it won the Academy Award and I remember just putting in the player and being so gripped by the story and it was great.

Q: Any films from your childhood that stand out?
Owen Wilson: I remember my dad taking me and my brothers to see The Producers at the cinema when we were young and we went crazy for that. And he also took us to Animal House [laughs], that was a huge thing. I liked The Pope of Greenwich Village. That’s a movie I like a lot.

Q: Given the success of the film, have you now been bombarded with scripts of this sort. And is it important to you to do something different next time out?
Owen Wilson: 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 on with the director. So, it’s about trying to find the right ingredients.

Read our review of Marley & Me