Producer Bob Simonds, who developed "See Spot Run," had been looking for a project that might suit David Arquette. "I've wanted to work with David for quite some time," says Simonds. "I thought he was phenomenal in Never Been Kissed (1999). He stole the show. "
"David is somebody who could essentially be the Buster Keaton of our generation, given the right movie," Simonds continues, "and I believe this is the movie. It's much more of a physical comedy than anything else that's in the marketplace. "
"David has a great sense of physical adventure" agrees director John Whitesell. "He is a truly gifted physical comedian; he'll throw himself at anything bodily one hundred percent. "
For Simonds, Whitesell was as obvious a choice to direct the film as Arquette was to star. "He is one of the top comedy people in the business," says Simonds. "He's the guy you go after if you want to get your pilot on the air. I was really impressed with his take on comedy and also the way he talked about the script. "
It was the script that first attracted Whitesell to the project. After the FBI repeatedly thwarts the plans of mob boss Sonny Talia, thanks largely to the efforts of hot-shot canine Agent Eleven, Talia is determined to have his revenge and puts out a contract on the dog, that is subsequently placed into a witness-protection program for his own safety. When Talia's hit men try to kidnap the dog en route to its safe house, Agent Eleven is forced to take matters into his own paws and he ends up ducking for cover in the nearest available refuge - Gordon's truck.
"I thought it was a fantastic concept to have a dog going into witness protection," says Whitesell. "A mailman inadvertently adopts an FBI superdog in suburbia - what a great idea!"
"I also jumped at the chance to do a big physical comedy that involved dogs and kids and a funny plot," Whitesell continues. "So many films are either just for teenagers or just for kids and their parents. We wanted to bridge that gap and make a film for all moviegoers. "
As to Arquette's casting in the role of the exuberant and somewhat childlike Gordon, Whitesell fully supported Simonds' instinct. "David's got this sense that he's still a kid growing up, and I think that's why he's right for Gordon because that's who Gordon is -- a guy who hasn't really grown up yet and has this whole bravado about life. "
Producer Tracey Trench, who is also a principal in Bob Simonds' production company, says, "Our company looks for great comedic actors to build a concept around, as Bob has done with the Adam Sandler films. This comedy already existed in the form of a script and we developed it to what it is now, with David Arquette in mind.
"But it's also a new kind of character for him," Trench continues, "because, although it's funny, he's playing a real guy and the movie has a lot of heart. He has an opportunity to show honest emotion. We think he's a huge star and that this movie will prove that. "
Arquette was particularly intrigued by the chance to present some of the comedic style reminiscent of a bygone era. "The fun thing about this movie," he relates "is that we wanted somewhat of a silent movie feel to it. There are some set pieces where we just do wild things, slip around, do a lot of prat falls and so on. I just love doing that!"
Arquette's preparation for the film included a week's study with a member of the famed acrobatic troupe Cirque Du Soleil. "I actually worked with an actor named Lorenzo, who is also a clown," he recalls. "We can make a simple thing like walking down the street full of comic possibilities. "
Producer Simonds points out that "See Spot Run" is Arquette's movie in more ways than one. "David's been very much involved in this movie from the beginning," he explains, "in a lot of the production choices, the script, the casting and so on. We really wanted this movie to have a lot of his sensibility, his flavor, and it does. "
Casting Michael Clarke Duncan as the imposing FBI agent Murdoch was a unanimous choice for the filmmakers, as producer Trench recalls. Murdoch has a strong emotional bond with his canine partner, which he calls by his official FBI name, Agent Eleven, though he treats the dog as he would any other professional colleague. The fact that Agent Eleven is more than a colleague to Murdoch is revealed in his desperation to locate the dog after he disappears from protective custody. Duncan was the perfect choice to balance Murdoch's stoic exterior with the hidden warmth.
"We wanted him for Murdoch because of his physical presence, his great acting chops and ability to convey that empathetic feeling a giant FBI guy could have for a dog," Trench says. "Plus it was just instantly funny, to have a guy of such intimidating strength and demeanor be all emotional about his dog. It made us laugh. "
"When Michael came to read, he lit up the room with this terrific presence. " recalls director Whitesell. "He has an energy that is so wonderful it simply exudes goodness. He's such a naturally positive person that it comes across on the screen. So we see the character of Murdoch is outwardly this really tough, hardened FBI guy who is all business and shows no emotion but gives himself away by how he is totally caught up with his dog. "
"And I think sometimes he has the same expression as the dog" adds Whitesell with a laugh, referring to Bull Mastiff Bob. "They look like they belong together - you believe they should be together. "
Duncan explains his own reasons for being drawn to the role. "After doing Green Mile, the (1999) which was so intense," says Duncan " I really wanted to do a comedy.
"I don't really have to be funny here," Duncan explains," because I think that in certain situations my size alone makes me kind of funny. The way things are with Murdoch, he's so straight-laced, he doesn't even know he's funny, because he doesn't see life as having humor. He's very serious about everything.
"It's a big thrill for me to be in a movie with David Arquette, who is funny in his own right and a talented actor," adds Duncan. "Also, being able to work with Paul Sorvino was another bonus. I look at him and still see the character Pauly from GoodFellas (1990), which he did brilliantly. Finally, I really love working with animals. "
The part of Stephanie, Gordon's mostly unrequited love interest, also needed to be multi-faceted. As a hard-working single mom, Stephanie tries to ensure that everything in her son's life is perfect, which means a lot of rules for him but maybe not enough fun. One of those rules is "no pets allowed. "
So concerned is Stephanie with her son's welfare that she refuses to admit her natural attraction to the somewhat unorthodox Gordon, in favor of his rival, a man she believes is a more suitable father figure - nevermind that neither she nor her son really like him that much.
Leslie Bibb admits that the lure of comedy plus the opportunity to co-star with Arquette were major factors in drawing her to the role of Stephanie. "I think my attraction to this project was the chance to do a comedy, which I have never had the opportunity to do," she explained. "Also, I really wanted to work with David Arquette, who I think has a great comic presence. "
"It is fun to take somebody as beautiful as Leslie," says director Whitesell, "and just put her through the wringer. " He goes on to describe the transformation her character goes through in trying to survive various and continual disasters on the road that keeps her away from home. "She starts off looking gorgeous and then we do anything and everything we possibly can to destroy her," Whitesell says with a laugh, "so by the end of the movie, when she comes back home, she is a physical wreck and looks like hell. "
The basis for the comedy involving the mobsters who are chasing the dog is the believability of the actors chosen for those roles, who play them in an utterly serious tone, as director Whitesell explains. "We wanted a sense of authenticity and realism. Steven Schirripa was terrific because, when he read for the part, he did it completely straight, which is exactly what I wanted. "
"Joe Viterelli," Whitesell continues "exudes all that experience, timing and maturity that makes him the obvious leader who is seen training and passing on his knowledge to Steven's character. These are actors immediately recognizable from other mobster roles they have made famous -- Steven in 'The Sopranos' and Joe in countless Mafia movies, both serious and comic, like Analyze This (1998). ' Plus you have Paul Sorvino, who can so perfectly convey the ultimate don persona. So we created with this group what we thought was a legitimate Mafia feel, and the very seriousness with which they all play it, makes it that much more hilarious. You have to remember, after all, that they have a contract out on a dog. "
"What's wonderful about these guys," adds producer Simonds "is that in addition to being great actors who can project very authentic and threatening characters, they also share a really wicked sense of humor and great comic timing.
"It just seemed very funny to take these guys who basically demand respect because of their very presence, and put them in the most humiliating circumstances, to take them completely out of their normal context," says Simonds.
The opportunity to play a humorous role has an obvious appeal for Paul Sorvino. "It's a fun romp," he says. "I get to do a comedic character and go through all these silly things. And I get to be evil without penalty. It's always fun to play a character who does bad things and doesn't have to pay for it, because in my real life I'm very easy-going and very loving. Playing a villain on the screen is good for wiping out whatever little crevasses of hostility might lie inside. "
As for the challenge of playing the role of a mob boss who finds himself up against a dog, Sorvino says, "The trick is not to be a buffoon as you play a buffoonish character. The key to a role like this is to maintain truth in a heightened and funny way, and to seek the humor. Sonny Talia wants to be the boss of everything, and he wants money. He wants this dog dead because this dog has interfered with too many of his deals and become his nemesis, this infamous Agent Eleven, which is a funny idea. "
Steve R. Schirripa feels that the role of a comically hapless hit man presents a pleasant change on more levels than one. "This is a movie that the whole family can enjoy, " says Schirripa "I'm thrilled to finally be making a movie that my kids can watch, unlike 'The Sopranos,' where we often have to mute the television. "
Schirripa's on-screen partner, Joe Viterelli, chimes in with typical tongue-in-cheek humor. "I'm getting outsmarted by dogs and kids in this movie," he deadpans. "I don't know where I'm gonna go after this. "
Another very funny addition to the cast is Anthony Anderson, in the role of Benny, Gordon's postal colleague and confidant. Although the two have not worked together before, Anderson and Arquette immediately hit it off. "It's like we've known each other for a long time," says Anderson. "David and I have great chemistry. It's great when you're paired with somebody like him because of the way we can bounce creative energy off each other. "
As to the character he plays, Anderson describes Benny as the "voice of reason" to balance Arquette's character, Gordon, whose view of the world is less realistic. "Benny thinks things through a lot more than Gordon, who is always pushing the envelope, living on the edge a little bit. I keep him grounded. Everybody needs a friend like that. "
As the filming began on the sunny beaches of Vancouver, British Columbia, it quickly became apparent that there was a genuine rapport between Arquette, his young co-star Angus T. Jones and Bob, the Bull Mastiff who plays Spot, aka Agent Eleven.
The six-year-old Jones, in his first major film role, took to the part with ease.
"Angus is a real natural," says director Whitesell " and he always knew his lines, thanks in part to the dedicated coaching of his mom, Carey. He came to every scene with spectacular enthusiasm. He's highly disciplined and well-mannered, especially for a six-year-old. I was also very impressed with how well he took direction. "
Young Jones was particularly gleeful about playing with Bob and being "on the run" with Arquette, whom he clearly idolizes and with whom he quickly developed a big brother/little brother relationship. "My best friend on this movie is David Arquette," Jones proclaims. As for his canine companion, Jones says, "I also really like Bob, except that he slobbers on me sometimes"
Arquette was equally impressed with his diminutive co-star. "Little Angus T. Jones is such a professional," he says. "He's a witty, smart little actor and he's got a great sense of humor. And Bob is a prodigy -- he's got to be the smartest dog I've ever seen. I'm amazed by both of them. The producers obviously did their research in hiring these two and it really paid off. "
Producer Simonds is quick to credit John Whitesell's directorial skills with the young star. "John has great comic instinct and an amazing ability to get quality performances out of people and that included our young star Angus," says Simonds. "Also, David and the kid had great chemistry together, which really added to the film. "
Their characters' on-screen relationship, in that they treat each other like friends, also reflects the off-screen relationship between Arquette and Jones. "The two of them were just big kids together," explains Whitesell " and that really worked for the story. I don't think Gordon had any idea what being a father is all about, so part of what he has learned in the story was how to do that, and that is why I never wanted David to take on that parental role in the beginning. I wanted it to evolve as they were trying to find their way along together as buddies first. "
Arquette describes a touching and amusing incident that demonstrates what a pro the young actor was during production. "One time I was running while carrying Angus and I accidentally dropped him," recalls Arquette. "He scraped his leg and got a little sad and teary-eyed, and then he said to the director, with a little catch in his voice, 'This would be a good day to shoot one of those crying scenes'. "
Anthony Anderson was also impressed with young Jones and his natural acting abilities. "Angus is good," he says, and then adds, with a laugh, "He was giving me a couple of notes on my lines, like how to punch up the joke. I said 'what, are you writing my jokes now? -- you're only six years old!' Actually he's a very smart kid for his age. I'm a childlike animal myself so I can appreciate that. "
Delving further into his character, Arquette explains the dilemma that occurs when the mailman gets to know the boy and, eventually, the dog. "Gordon grew up as an orphan," says Arquette, "who went from one foster parent to another and became somewhat bitter because of it, although his basic personality is not one of bitterness overall - in fact, quite the opposite. He genuinely likes people but just doesn't necessarily trust any of them and doesn't really open his heart too much. So for him to be given the responsibility of taking care of this kid, which he did not expect, and then the dog as well, it forces him to care even when he doesn't want to care. So although he's conflicted about it initially and sees the whole situation as pretty much of a nuisance, eventually he learns that this might be something he actually needs and wants. "
The reason that Gordon finds himself babysitting James in the first place is entirely selfish. He's trying to win some points with the kid's mother and figures this is the best way to go about it, since, obviously, James is the focal point of her world. "Gordon and Leslie dated once but it didn't really work even though they like each other," Arquette explains. "There's definitely an attraction there, but she thinks he's a hound and, more importantly, when it comes to her son, she thinks he's irresponsible. And, the truth is, that's pretty accurate. "
Leslie Bibb describes Stephanie's personality and lifestyle, which conflict greatly with that of the freewheeling Gordon. "She's so serious," says Bibb of the character she portrays. "She's very protective about her child, about her life in general, and especially about whom she wants to invite into her life. She's trying to make the smart choice, but maybe that's not necessarily the right choice, because I think Gordon is really right for her. He brings out her softer side - if she would only allow it. "
It's precisely because her character is so controlled that her nightmarish road trip (which Arquette laughingly refers to as "Planes, Trains and Automobiles") is so funny. Stephanie had only planned to be out of town for one night. The next thing she knows, she is caught in a freak snow storm at the Denver Airport. After numerous unsuccessful efforts to re-route her flight, she gets on a bus, which then has a freak accident, drenching her with rain and mud and prompting her to hitch a ride with a travelling petting zoo.
"By the end of the petting zoo scene I am a complete mess," Bibb confides, "to the total delight of Angus T. Jones, I might add. It's hilarious because Stephanie is always so perfect and poised, and then everything that happens to her is just the opposite, messy and out of control. "
Bibb cheerfully submitted to the various indignities her character is made to suffer, which earned her the admiration of the entire crew, especially when they were filming on a chilly mountain highway and she was repeatedly doused with water and mud. "I was literally covered head-to-toe with mud, practically eating the stuff, " laughs Bibb. "When I got home at night my showers took anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. It was truly insane, but I was having a great time and it was really exciting for me.. dirty, but exciting. "
"Leslie has been a great sport," says director Whitesell, "and will do absolutely anything she is asked to do. She definitely added life, energy, spunk and spirit to the production. "
While Stephanie attempts to get home, Gordon is dealing with his own ongoing challenges as he tries to cope with his two young charges while delivering mail on the infamous suburban "dog alley," otherwise known as Bleeker Street. It's every mailman's worst nightmare but Gordon is up to the job and tackles each front yard and canine adversary as if he's leading a swat team into a war zone.
"I just want to point out," quips Arquette, " that the U. S. postal service is in no way sanctioning this movie!"
As if this isn't enough for Gordon, there is also the small problem of the bad guys who are trying to execute a hit on man's best friend, the creature they know as Agent Eleven and that James has re- christened "Spot," and don't care who or what gets in the way. Gordon finds himself trying to save a dog he never wanted in the first place.
"Gordon doesn't want the dog but the kid clearly does. A dog is all that James has wanted for a long time - that, and maybe a father. Gordon can't disappoint the kid so he's forced into dealing with responsibility and a relationship with both James and the dog, and eventually that changes his relationship with Stephanie," says producer Simonds in describing the evolution of Arquette's character in the film.
But Gordon is not the only character who undergoes a metamorphosis in "See Spot Run. " The dog also changes. As director Whitesell describes it, "The dog is initially emotionally cut off in the beginning. He lives to hunt down the bad guys, smell out the dope, and do his thing as a trained FBI canine agent. He doesn't have a family. He doesn't even know what it would be like to have a family - that's never been an option for him. Spending time with Gordon and James he learns how to be more of a real dog, how to play and be loved. In the end he has a choice. He can go back to the FBI or stay with the family - he can continue to be Agent Eleven or he can start a new life as Spot. "
"The whole movie centers around the dog," explains Arquette. "He's the real star and in a sense we all sort of support the dog. It's his story. He comes into our world and really shakes things up. "
Producer Simonds expands on the pivotal role of Bob, aka Agent Eleven, aka Spot, in the story. "The dog is the glue that holds this movie together," he says. "The Mafia has a vendetta against the dog, he is the FBI's prize agent and has a relationship with Michael Clarke Duncan. Then the dog enters Gordon's and James' life and all those worlds collide. In the end everybody wants the dog. "
About The Animals
With so much of the film's action hanging on the performance of the lead dog, as well as the various dogs that make Gordon's mail route such a hazardous gauntlet, the animal trainers on the production played a crucial role. They are, as director Whitesell attests, "terrific, really good. I think they are the best in the business. " It is an opinion shared by cast and crew alike, as they watched the many complex actions and stunts performed by Bob, as Agent Eleven/Spot, and his four-legged colleagues.
Producer Simonds also underlines the importance of the film's live animal component in helping create the feel of physical comedy from the old school. "When you look back at those old films, like 'The Three Stooges' and 'The Keystone Cops,'" says Simonds, "the stuff that is all just pure and physical and not done with fancy editing or CGI or augmentation in any fashion, is so funny - and it still holds up. That's why I didn't want anything animatronic with the dog -- I wanted it to be real. "
As for the show's animal trainers, Simonds also feels that they are "the best in the business. They are professional, committed. You get on the set and you know the animals are going to hit their marks, sometimes even better than the actors. "
Tracey Trench also chimes in with an enthusiastic thumbs-up for the animals and their trainers. "Our dogs were incredible," she says. "We had our lead, 'hero' dog and four stunt dogs, and each one was trained to do three or four different actions. We had dogs doing FBI maneuvers, doing cuddles, doing leaps, chases and growls -- we had them doing everything. These are the best trainers we have ever worked with. They are incredible. "
Mathilde DeCagney is an animal coordinator with Birds And Animals, based in Los Angeles. In addition to working on the hit show "Frasier" for the last eight years, her recent credits also include the feature My Dog Skip (2000).
DeCagney, who brought the 100-pound Bull Mastiff, Bob, in from England for the role, explains why he is the perfect lead dog. "He's a very special specimen in the breed," says DeCagney " because Mastiffs are usually really big and they're not as attractive as Bob is. What the producers were looking for was a super dog and Bob fit the part in many ways. "
The 2-year-old Mastiff, who recently made his feature debut with a small role in the upcoming 102 Dalmatians (2000) was an immediate hit with the filmmakers. "Everybody pretty much really loved him right away," recalls the animal coordinator with a laugh, "because what you see is what you get. He's a handsome man. He's got the attitude of a super dog, good-looking, with an excellent personality and a sense of humor. He's been doing wonders for us. "
De Cagney explains that, historically, Mastiffs were warrior dogs that were also bred to work with bulls. "They're extremely muscular and powerful dogs who need a lot of exercise to stay in shape, but they are also wonderful family dogs. They love to be with kids and are very friendly. "
Working with three to six trainers throughout the filming and during several months of prep work, DeCagney points out that all the dogs and trainers were kept extremely busy. "The movie is filled with stunts so it's a pretty major action movie for the dogs," she says. "They have to jump over obstacles, leap onto someone's back and hang on while that person tries to shake them off, pretend to bite someone else in the butt and much more. In one sequence, at the FBI training school, Bob runs over to jump on a dummy but the dummy explodes before he actually gets there. In another scene, when the mobsters are being confronted in a warehouse, the dog has to stand on top of some 16-foot-high containers. Then, of course, there are car chases, gun fire and dogs being thrown out of windows."
As daunting as all this might sound, DeCagney hastens to add that the safety of the animals was of paramount importance at all times. "We prepped this movie very, very carefully," she says " and we were assisted by the Humane Society, who regularly come to observe the progress of the training. And we would, obviously, never do anything to in any way endanger our animals. "
The film's wonderful world of animals numbered more than 40 dogs, including the dog-park "extras. " These included four Bull Mastiffs, a Sheepdog, a Jack Russell Terrier (who is actually the son of the famous "Frasier" dog), a French Bulldog, an Irish Wolfhound, Huskies, Chihuahuas, Golden Retrievers and Irish Setters. Says DeCagney, with a laugh, "We're pretty much close to being the Westminster Dog Show here."
In addition to man's best friend, the film's animal menagerie also includes birds, a zebra, goats, monkeys, fish, parrots, tarantulas, snakes and hamsters. Many of these creatures appear in the pet store scene where the mobsters create havoc and unleash a veritable Noah's Arc of critters.
"Of course, all of this animal magnetism can present a challenge for the actors, who often have to take the place of the trainers when the cameras role. Luckily, this proved to be no particular hardship for a number of the film's leading actors", according to DeCagney. "David Arquette was absolutely marvelous to work with," the trainer says. "He's a true animal lover, which was obvious from way he truly enjoyed and cared for the animals, especially Bob. He was always right there helping us out and it just made our job and the movie look so much better."
"Michael Clarke Duncan was also incredibly nice and fun to work with, " adds DeCagney. "He and Bob had a great rapport. They had their little thing going on, which worked perfectly for the story because Michael's character, Murdoch, is a big tough man with a warm heart who is also a huge animal lover. He and Bob clicked with each other right away. "
David Arquette, in a rare serious moment, is quick to give credit where it's due.
"The trainers are great," he says "they're just so professional and they teach the animals through love and positive reinforcement. " He reflects for a moment and then adds with a grin, "They feed them snacks all the time, which made me that they should do that with actors - just hold little snacks out when you we something good. It works so well for the dogs. "
As for his canine co-star, Arquette describes him with typical tongue-in-cheek flair. "Bob's a great dog and I liked him from the beginning," he says. "But now I'm not so sure. He's getting a little bit of an attitude, he won't come out of his trailer, he's got this entourage of other dogs hanging around, he sleeps all the time, won't stop eating, and he's always at craft services stuffing his face. "
Michael Clarke Duncan talks about his relationship with Bob both on and off screen. "This dog is Agent Murdoch's whole life. " Says Duncan "It's his friend, his confidante, it's everything to him. Murdoch doesn't even talk to women. Agent Cassavettes, who's a beautiful person, played by Kim Hawthorne, is interested in him but he pays her no attention because he is so intent on finding his dog.
"Bob is really incredible, so intelligent. I love being around him," Duncan continues, with a laugh, "but when I get too close to him he always licks me right in the face. I told him one day, 'Bob we're gonna hit the big time after this movie, we're gonna have big mansions,' and he just looked at me and give me a big slurpy lick on the cheek. "
"My first screen kiss," Duncan adds with a fake sigh "and it has to be with a dog. "
Although Bob does most of the work in the film, there are actually four dogs that play the part of Spot, and they all have their particular tricks, from running and jumping to snarling and biting.
Stacey Basil was the head trainer working with Bob and she is happy to expand on his abilities and personality. " Bob is pretty incredible," she says. "He's almost the perfect dog. He has a little bit of everything, including comedy. Bob's had to learn all kinds of things for this film. The story is really about a dog initially very, very serious, but at the end gets rather silly, so Bob has had to keep his demeanor rather intense for most of it, and then other times he's just had to get downright crazy. That's kind of difficult for a dog. It's confusing."
"We've also done a whole lot of hits. " Basil continues. "He hits in the arm, bites the butt and knocks a man down, so we've had to be very clear with Bob on what part we want him to attack and when. But he has always risen to the occasion because Bob's a one in-a-million dog. He's a lover and a clown and he's really smart. You don't see a whole lot of Bob dogs out there. "
Basil goes on to comment about Angus T. Jones and his rapport with the large Mastiff. "We were very lucky," she recalls, in describing the first encounter between boy and dog. "Angus ran up to Bob the very first day and jumped on his back, and that's how it was for the whole shoot. And of course Bob is just a big flirt, he loves everybody. So Angus and Bob had a great relationship. They just goofed off all day together. "
Probably the biggest challenge for the dog in this role was to restrain his natural ebullience, as Basil explains. "He's such a goofy, fun-loving dog by nature, but he's required in some scenes to act lethal. Part of the goofiness is the tail-wagging, and then when the tail stops wagging it tells you a whole lot. The dog is now very serious. So the tail was actually a big issue in the movie. That's why it was important that he learn to act without wagging his tail. He's a very happy dog, so it was an issue for him to control that. "
"There are quite a number of things he's very good at," Basil continues with a grin " and the first is drooling. It's a big issue for Bob. We have to keep a napkin on set at all times for the drool factor. "
In addition to working with the dogs on a daily basis, the trainers also had to teach the actors some training techniques. When a dog is given a reward for his actions, it's called "paying" and Basil says that David Arquette was particularly adept at this. "David Arquette is so wonderful paying the dog," Basil remembers. "Where the food comes from is where the dog responds, and David is more than happy to pay the dog, even with the drool factor, which is very, very helpful in making things clear for Bob. "
Basil concludes with a comment about the particular talents of the movie's canine star. "Bob is the kind of dog that likes to add his own movie magic to the things that he does," she recounts, " and even when he is repeating the same general action, he manages to add his own special flavor to each take. Sometimes he'll come in and look directly at the actor, sometimes he'll come in backwards, and sometimes he'll whack him with his tail and occasionally he'll just make his own movie. "
Feats Of Daring
The animals were not the only ones performing stunts in this very physical comedy. Stunt coordinator Lou Bollo is very impressed with the challenging amount of stunt work done by many of the human performers. "The main highlights of this film have been in working so closely with the actors, " he says. "They really did a lot of work on this show, especially David Arquette. "
"David insisted on doing a lot of his own stunts," Bollo recounts, "which he truly did, even to the point of being pulled high into a tree and thrown against a limb, climbing up a drainpipe several stories high with bare feet and in his underwear, plus jumping, running, break-dancing - you name it. It's always more of a risk to have an actor rather than a trained stuntman perform a stunt because you're never quite sure whom you are dealing with and what their physical comfort level might be. To David's credit, he's a tremendous athlete. He has a great attitude and really gives a lot of thought to what he is doing. He is one of the best actors I've ever worked with."
"He just constantly amazed me," the stunt coordinator continues, referring to one of the Bleeker Street scenes where Arquette is being chased across the street by one of the dogs and jumps into a tree. "We had to harness him with a cable hooked to a 50-foot crane high above a tree and as soon as he leapt towards the branch, which was about 14 feet away from him, we pulled on the cable which propelled him up into the tree. Not only did he have to keep from smacking his head into the tree, but he also had to watch his legs, fingers, knees and everything else. Every single time we did a take David just went up there like he was born to do it. "
Arquette himself attests to the fact that he has managed to come through all the heavy action pretty much intact. "I've been fine, aside from a few little cuts and scrapes, although I did throw my neck out a little," he admits and then adds, after a brief pause, "No animals were hurt in the making of this film, but the actors, on the other hand"
Steve R. Schirripa also contributed to the stunt work. A gifted athlete in his school days, Schirripa used to play a lot of basketball. "Although that was a long time ago," says Bollo, "he still moves very well, especially for a big guy. In one scene he had to spin around endlessly with a dog clamped onto his back. He was always cheerful, always up and would try anything. "
Appearances Are Deceiving
One of the film's biggest scenes takes place at the Petcetera store where the mobsters catch up with their prey and find out that Bob is a whole lot more than they bargained for. The set for this scene is based on a Canadian chain of pet stores by the same name. Constructed in an empty store in a small suburban strip mall, the film set was so realistic that passersby kept attempting to enter the store to buy pet food.
Production Designer Mark Freeborn talks about the design of this set and how it reflected the overall look of the film. Freeborn, who has previously worked with Bob Simonds, talks about the producer's influence on the film's design elements.
"Bob's approach to the universe is positive and energetic," says Freeborn. "He has definite opinions about what he likes to see. He likes "buzz colors" which, in this case, happen to be orange and blue. He likes to tie his shows together with a visual thread. For this film he asked me to look at the 'Adam Sandler' and Happy Gilmore (1996) so what I designed is a kind of -based Disneyland look. "
"The Canadian Petcetera chain, affiliated with Petco in the U. S. , was exactly right for us because it uses primary colors, is high-energy and very customer-friendly," Freeborn continues. "Although we made some design changes to suit our filming needs, we basically followed the store's mandate for color coding which happens to be blue, orange and pink. "
Another major set for the film was Bleeker St. , otherwise known as the postman's suburban hell or "dog alley. " In this exterior location, as Freeborn describes, the existing houses were cleverly enhanced by the addition of individually designed fences. "In keeping with the romantic concept of the project," says Freeborn, "we decided to go with fences that had some charm, choosing different styles of picket fences, and pulled the color palette from the existing houses. In the end it looked so real that all the residents were really pleased and wanted to keep the fences. "
Director of Photographer John Bartley, who is making his comedy debut with this film, admits that the look of the project is a far cry from his previous work on the notoriously moody "X Files. "
"The overall look in terms of lighting puts the emphasis on bright, crisp, saturated colors," Bartley explains. "It's very upbeat and cheery. There will be no straining the eyes to see what's going on in this film, unlike my murky past in 'The X Files,'" laughs Bartley. "There are no shadows here because shadows are the enemy of comedy. In that respect, the summer weather in Vancouver was perfect, with blue skies, lots of sunshine and clear long twilight. "
Bartley goes on to discuss one of the challenges involved in filming the Bull Mastiff star. "Because Bob is a dark dog with those circles under his eyes, he needs a lot of light, which makes it kind of tough on the actors standing next to him," Bartley explains. "Young Angus Jones is very pale by comparison so you had to find a happy medium in getting them both to look good. "
The complexity and frequency of the animal stunts required a certain flexibility and fluidity on the part of the cinematography. "The lighting set-ups had to be kind of loose and give the animals lots of room to move around," Bartley explained. "We hardly do any takes that do not involve two or three cameras because each take is different, the dog does different things every time, the kid does different things and the actors ad lib quite a bit. So you've got to get them every time. All the coverage is done at the same time so that it all matches. "
The production company used the new lightweight Panavision millennium camera. One of the first models in use in Canada, the millennium is a very small camera, which was very useful for much of the hand-held work done on the show.
Funnier and Funnier
One of the biggest challenges for cast and crew during the course of the filming was to keep from laughing out loud at many of the truly hilarious sight and sound gags constantly being created.
David Arquette recounts how Anthony Anderson " just kept stealing the show, he was so funny. We'd just jump around and have a great time. Anthony is really hilarious, always breaking everybody up with his constant ad-libbing. I suggested that he and I break dance in one scene and we pretty much had everybody on the floor. "
"My character Gordon thinks he's real cool," Arquette continues, "but he's not. He's kind of goofy and I enjoy that. I enjoy having people laugh at me, being the joke, almost as much as having the joke on other people. "
Of course, for director John Whitesell there was also the daunting task of incorporating new materials, which were constantly being added to the story. "With all the additional stuff written on almost a daily basis," says Whitesell, "there were suddenly many more gags, stunts and physical comedy elements added on and the subsequent challenge of keeping it all on schedule".
"Because I have done a lot of television," Whitesell continues, "I didn't feel it would be that much more of a challenge to shoot it all, but I hadn't ever done this much work with animals and kids together. As we kept adding action for the dog, we ended up with probably 50% more material stunt stuff than there we had initially planned. There was a kind of snowball effect which made things pretty hectic. "
In the final analysis everybody agreed that Whitesell was up to the challenge.
Paul Sorvino gives the director credit for encouraging the prolific outpouring of comedy, which permeates the film. "The script is amusing on paper," says Sorvino, "but because of John Whitesell's creation of an atmosphere in which creativity is king, the film has actually surpassed what was on the page. "
"He's a very good director, " agrees Michael Clarke Duncan. "He is very decisive and doesn't do a lot of takes. He is someone who knows exactly what he wants. "
To A Theatre Near You
Producer Bob Simonds predicted that "See Spot Run" will be a movie for the whole family, and indeed, it is. "The movie is rated PG," he says. "We wanted it to be a movie that people will be eager to bring their kids to but also cool enough that it doesn't turn off a very discriminating teen audience. "
David Arquette concurs. "It's clearly fun for the whole family," he says. "It has a lot of different elements, from silly to touching. "
Whitesell concludes by describing what he considers to be the essence of the film. "I think it's ultimately a movie about finding your soul," he says. " Gordon accepts responsibility and finds out what he really cares about. He finds that he's not afraid to have a child and a woman in his life that he can commit to. And the dog finds out that there is a family out there for him. I think it's about finding what you want and it's about commitment. That's what makes a family. We are scared of things in our lives but we don't need to be. If we would just learn about them and trust other people and take a chance, we could be really happy. It may seem a little simplistic but I think that's the essence, the soul of what it's about. "