Finding Man’s Best Friend at THE END
SEEKING A FRIEND’s canine star provide comfort for actors and characters alike
Even before Dodge and Penny band together as traveling companions, Dodge encounters someone else who positively impacts his life. “Sorry,” reads the note attached to a canine’s collar, which has been affixed to Dodge’s leg during his overnight blackout following a failed suicide attempt. Upon awakening, Dodge reads the note and takes it literally, addressing the Terrier as Sorry; Sorry is portrayed by Aleister.
“Sorry enters the story right when Dodge has reached his lowest low and given up hope altogether,” explains writer/director Lorene Scafaria, herself a longtime dog owner. “He wakes up that morning and finds he has been given someone else’s burden, which becomes a responsibility that gives Dodge’s life meaning again.
“When I saw Aleister and his wonderful scrappy snaggletooth and wiry coat, I loved him and felt, ‘Here’s our hero dog.’”
In keeping with a story that is about last chances, Aleister was a shelter dog. Dog trainer Sarah Clifford of Animal Savvy reveals, “He was adopted from the shelter a couple of years ago, and ever since then he’s been acting in TV commercials.”
Dogs’ lives were saved anew for SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, by virtue of the fact that “when a dog has a movie role as large as the Sorry one, you have to have a couple of different dogs at the ready,” comments Clifford. Accordingly, she scouted local animal shelters and found doubles for Aleister. She named one Mulligan, meaning “second chance,” or “do-over,” and he served as Aleister’s stunt double.
“Mulligan was rescued from the shelter on the morning he was scheduled to be euthanized,” reports Clifford. “He learned the ropes, and was doing takes only two weeks after we took him out of the shelter. Mulligan did the scene where Sorry is crawling down the fire escape, and anything else that required a lot of action.
“Rita, another double, was loaned to us from I Care Dog Rescue, which pulled her out of an animal shelter. All of these dogs were lucky.”
“There was another Terrier on-set, a fourth Sorry,” adds Scafaria. “They just make the set better. Or maybe I’m a crazy-dog-lady-in-the-making...”
As first among equals, Aleister won hearts early and often; he was particularly enamored of Keira Knightley, meeting her just before production began. “He went up to her and nestled on her dress,” recalls Clifford. “It was so cute, and right away she thought he was charming.”
But it was his on-screen interaction with Steve Carell that was crucial to the story. Clifford says, “Steve is good with dogs, so he was a natural with Aleister.
“We would take a little bit of time every day before we started filming for what we called a bonding session; we’d get Steve and Aleister comfortable together. Steve gave him treats, and kissed and cuddled him. That way, when Aleister worked with Steve on camera, there was already a bond.”
The writer/director was relieved to see that bond. Regarding Dodge and Sorry, she notes, “When you know that you have a responsibility to someone who is more in need than you are, that forces you to stand up and take care of them. That starts changing Dodge’s outlook and giving his life purpose, leading him towards more human contact – beginning with Penny and then going further for him on his journey.
“I like to think that Sorry also represents our capacity for forgiveness.”