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MARLEY & ME

Marley & Me Goes To The Dogs
W.C. Fields is reputed to have first uttered the immortal line, "Never work with animals or children." Fields probably would have been fairly miserable on the set of MARLEY & ME, which had a large assortment of animals and kids. But the film's cast and crew couldn't have been happier about it. "We had babies, puppies, children, adult dogs, old dogs, kids - and we all had a ball," Aniston says. 

The production utilized 22 dogs to portray Marley, who ages thirteen years in the story. Eleven of the 22 Marleys were puppies, a large number necessitated by the film's schedule; since MARLEY & ME was shot out of sequence, a puppy used in a given scene would have grown too much to be used again in a scene shot weeks later. Other on-set "Marleys" ranged in age from six months to fourteen years. 

Given the age range of the various Marleys, Frankel and head animal trainer Mark Forbes had to carefully map out which dog - at which age - was right for a specific scene. (Approximately 65 percent of the story is set when Marley is 1-6 years old.)

But working with the Marleys was more than charts, graphs and intricate scheduling. It was a production that allowed dogs to be, well, dogs. Mark Forbes elaborates: "We didn't train our dogs to do anything that a dog wouldn't naturally do. This film is about a real family who had a real dog. There are no wild tricks or talking animals here."

Taking the notion a step further, the trainers let Marley be Marley - meaning that since the on-screen character was so rambunctious, it made sense to let the "actors" run wild. "Preparing the dogs [for the film] was almost a kind of anti-training," notes Forbes. "Usually, we try and create definite behaviors and the dogs are very well trained. With MARLEY & ME, the dogs got to not only be dogs, but the most unruly, untrainable and out-of-control dog in the world. We encouraged bad behavior!" 

David Frankel, adamant about letting the dogs be dogs, filmed them even during rehearsals - understanding that their unpredictable behavior could yield the best "take" at any given moment. The main Marley, a dog named Clyde, was predictably unpredictable, just like his cinematic alter-ego, so Frankel elected not to rehearse him at all. "He's a dog trained to be untrained," says the director, "and it was exciting to watch him work. Every time we filmed him, he added something really funny and energetic to the scene."

During the first few weeks of the dogs' "un-training," they learned basic commands like how to sit, stand, lie down, and hit their marks. During the next period, the puppies were acclimated to the shooting locations, and the final portion of their prep had them polishing their "skills." The Marley puppies began their training at the ripe old age of eight weeks, and then filmed until they reached about twelve weeks of age. Then, another batch of Marley pups were brought in for training.

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