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About The Production
Casting is a key component of any motion picture production. With MARMADUKE, the filmmakers faced three times the challenges, having to cast the human stars (led by Lee Pace, Judy Greer and William H. Macy), the voice talent (topped by Owen Wilson as the titular hero and George Lopez as his best pal and stepbrother Carlos), and the highly-trained animals who portray the film's animal leads. The latter, requiring the most amount of training, after all, were the first cast members to be locked in. "[Casting the animals] was about finding dogs we felt could project the personalities we were looking for,” says director Tom Dey, who enjoyed working with his wet-nosed luminaries. "The dogs were great and real. The thing about filming dogs is that they never give you a false moment, which is truly exhilarating. And it's the first time in which my lead actor never once questioned any piece of direction I gave.”

The lead actors to whom Dey is referring are "George,” a two-year-old Great Dane, and George's 150-pound half-brother "Spirit” – both of whom nabbed the title role after a global casting search. The dogs' respective talents complemented one another, and together they brought Marmaduke to life on screen. Dey explains: "George was the dog we needed to hit his marks, and Spirit was the one we needed to break down walls. Our onscreen Marmaduke was a combination of both dogs.”

Owen Wilson is a fan of George and Spirit. "When I was doing my ADR [Automated Dialogue Replacement, or voice work],” says the actor, "I got a good look at the performances of the two ‘Marmadukes' – George and Spirit. They are very impressive, and are the real ‘stars' of the film.”

George and Spirit are joined by a talented ensemble of four-legged thespians, each of whom shines. But that's not to say that they didn't require some special handling above and beyond the perks demanded by today's biggest two-legged superstars. For example, animals aren't too keen about keeping eye line -- looking their human co-stars in the eye. Animal coordinator and head trainer Michael Alexander and his team came up with a unique solution: "Meat glasses,” which are sunglass frames rigged with an attachment holding a piece of the dog's favorite treat. The dog would watch the meat on the spectacles and thus meet the eye line of the person wearing them. Another training technique was having the human actor hold a treat to his or her forehead, and then lower the treat down and feed the dog, all of which encouraged the animal to look the actor in the eye. Not exactly Stanislavsky, but still.

It's no surprise that on each day of shooting, the set of MARMADUKE went to the dogs, literally. On the daily call sheets, which describe all the work to be done on set, the first eleven spots were always taken by the canine stars. "Even the animal trainers outnumbered the human actors,” marvels William H. Macy. All told, 80 dogs and six cats appear in the film, some having undergone 16 weeks of training prior to the start of principal photography. And some of them left a peculiar kind of calling card. Or as Dey puts it: "The big dogs drooled –and the drool ruled.” After capturing a given take, Dey would call out, "Cut! Let's wipe the drool and go again.”

Another favorite on-set catchphrase could have been, "Surf's up!” given one of the film's major set pieces: a canine surfing contest in which Marmaduke and his nemesis, the Purebred Bosco hang ten at an O.C. beach. The sequence was inspired by the filmmakers' research about real-life surfing dogs. One of the secrets in pulling off the scene was, as Michael Alexander puts it, simply: "Find a dog that likes to be in the ocean!” George the dog certainly fit the bill, taking to the waves like a Big Kahuna. Additionally, George trained on a surfboard that rested on a gimbal that simulated movement on water. CG enhancem


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