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BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA

Unleasing The Talent
With a cast that included more than 200 dogs, snakes, pigeons, coyotes, a mountain lion, a virtual pack rat and a virtual iguana—and of course talent of the human variety—the "Beverly Hills Chihuahua” filmmakers had their work cut out for them when it came to filling the roles.

"The way that we put the cast together was very interesting, because it's a pastiche of animals and humans and we actually cast them simultaneously,” explains producer John Jacobs. "We'd think, ‘Who is the perfect Sam?' And then we would think, ‘Who is the perfect animal counterpart, and how do they go together?' Papi is just a hysterically funny, really cool street dog, and is a great counterpart to Sam. We wanted to find characters that mirrored each other. The humans had to be just as exciting as the animals, and the animals had to be as cool as the humans. So we really did it hand in hand.”

A host of talented actors, including some of the biggest Hispanic names in the entertainment world, lend their voices to the canine cast. Says producer Todd Lieberman, "We knew it was important to get recognizable names for the voices of the animals.”

"We have this amazing list of actors who are all movie stars and they're doing these dog voices,” says director Raja Gosnell. "But it's not like we had to go and talk people into it. Everyone responded to the script and they all saw that this is not your regular talking-dog movie.”

Lieberman says one priority was to attract the kind of talent that would uphold the film's largely Mexican setting. First on the list was George Lopez ("Swing Vote,” TV's "George Lopez”), tapped to voice the crazy-for-Chloe mix-breed Chihuahua who relentlessly pursues his corazón south of the border.

"Papi may be the funniest character in the whole movie,” says Hoberman. "He's just an incurable romantic who is in love with Chloe and is never shy about professing his love for her, and does it in some very, very funny ways. He's the guy who would probably never get this girl, but because of his persistence, he does at the end. George is just funny and I think we've gotten the right Chihuahua to work with him.”

Adds Lopez, "Papi is a little bigger than most Chihuahuas. He's a little masculine Chihuahua. When he runs, he hops. I don't think I've seen a Chihuahua hop like a bunny before.

"Papi is nothing like me,” continues Lopez. "He's a romantic dog, yet he's got a little bit of street in him. I got the street, but I don't really have the romance. So, I admire the dog. His face is really expressive, so I wanted to make that face come to life. The dog had already done so much with that character that I had to up my game to give that dog what he deserved. He's working so hard in Mexico that I didn't want to let him down with the voice. I have three Chihuahuas at home and combined they're not as charming as Papi.”

Director Gosnell had previously worked with actress Drew Barrymore ("Charlie's Angels,” "50 First Dates”) on the hit comedy "Never Been Kissed” and thought she was perfect to voice Chloe. "I pitched the script to her and she just said, ‘Let's do it!'”

Screenwriter Bushell actually wrote Chloe with Drew Barrymore's voice in mind. "You don't want Chloe to come off as completely unlikable. Drew has this natural sweetness to her and this real genuine quality in her voice. She is one of the few people who can actually make our character have that edge, but still be lovable and sweet.”

Barrymore, an animal lover, added something special to the character, says Jacobs. "When we saw Drew reading the character, Chloe just came to life, and everybody fell in love with the character on the spot.”

"It was fun to play someone who starts off kind of snooty and righteous,” says Barrymore. "She thinks she knows what life is all about and gets humbl

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