A DOG'S PURPOSE
About The Production
A Joyous Concept:
What Is a Dog's Purpose?
After its publication in 2010, "A Dog's Purpose" became an enormous hit, finding
an audience with animal lovers across the globe who were charmed by its tender,
poignant and humorous take on what our animal companions think of us and why
they are truly here. The No. 1-New York Times Best-Selling book spent more than
one year on that list and has been translated into 20 languages, and published
in 29 different countries worldwide. It even spawned a sequel, "A Dog's
Journey," which was published in 2012 and achieved similar acclaim.
The series author, W. Bruce Cameron, is well known as the writer of the
best-selling humor tome "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter." The
book was adapted into a hugely popular ABC sitcom, which starred the late John
Ritter, and Katey Sagal and introduced the world to The Big Bang Theory's Kaley
Cameron was moved to write the novel when the woman he was dating lost her dog,
and she was having a difficult time processing her grief. He explains the
inspiration: "We were driving up the California coast on the 101 freeway, and I
was hurting for her. Out of nowhere, as if I downloaded it off the Internet,
this story came into my head about a dog who doesn't actually die, but is reborn
again and again and again, and develops the sense that there might be some
purpose why this is happening."
The passenger Cameron was consoling was his future wife-as well as one of his
fellow A Dog's Purpose screenwriters-Cathryn Michon. Michon remembers the day
quite fondly: "On our way to the Bay Area, we stopped to get a latte, and when I
came back to the car Bruce told me he had a story to tell me...and that it was
going to be his next book. He told this story for 90 minutes straight, and by
the end of it I was completely in a puddle I was crying so much."
For Cameron, watching dogs interact with each other and analyzing their behavior
was the most helpful research he did before crafting his novel. The writer
explains: "The most important thing I did in researching the book was not
reading about dogs, but going to the dog park and seeing how they behave. Dogs
have a crazy social structure. Two dogs will be best friends, but when a third
dog comes in the dynamic changes instantly." He laughs. "It is 10 times worse
than middle school."
According to the story's creator, the most difficult part of writing the novel
was keeping it simple: "I'm dealing with a dog, and a dog isn't going to be
thinking in complicated metaphors. A dog is going to be mostly about nouns, much
less about adverbs. Its vocabulary is generally limited to around 40 or 50
words, and I wanted to write from the perspective of a real dog and not a dog
that could understand English."
Producer Gavin Polone read "A Dog's Purpose" while it was still in galley form,
and at the request of Cameron and Michon, he would shepherd it through the
development process. During this time, it drew the attention of Amblin
Entertainment. "We wanted to find a producer to take the book to the next step,
and Gavin has such a great reputation for protecting writers, so we sent the
book to him," reveals Cameron. In their mission to find a champion to take the
book to the next step, they needed a director that would have the same goal in
Given Hallstrom's track record of inventive filmmaking, and having already
directed an Amblin Entertainment (then DreamWorks) film, The 100-Foot Journey,
it was a unanimous decision that the filmic version of this story could not be
in better hands. The director claims it is no accident he was attracted to the
material: "I made two movies about dogs previously-My Life as a Dog and Haichi-so
this is my third dog story. If you have an interest in outsiders and emotions
that seems irrational to humans, you can certainly relate to a dog's feelings
and a dog's life."
While Cameron and his fellow script writers had to create rules for our story-in
terms of what the dog was thinking and could process-Hallstrom also had to keep
things logical...in what some might say is an illogical notion.
"Ultimately, the one rule we had was that the dog could not speak on camera,"
offers Hallstrom. "With the narration, the dog's thoughts have human elements to
it, and I have become more and more caught up in the idea of reincarnation
because of this film. But whether the possibility is real or not...who knows. The
point is to be open to the magic that there is something going on in the
universe that we cannot yet explain."
Hallstrom felt his most important task as director was to ground the actor's and
dog's performances in reality. His goal was not to stylize anything nor reach
for the comedic aspects. "I wanted a tone that feels authentic and has a light
touch to it, while being rooted in real emotions-of both the dogs and the
humans. It was a fun challenge."
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