"A Dog's Purpose" director Lasse Hallstrom, lead voice actor Josh Gad, and producer Gavin Polone have responded with outrage to an on-set video showing a German shepherd looking terrified as he's pushed into a the water for a stunt. (You can see the video at TMZ.) The scene in question was during a second unit shoot -- which is handled by the second unit director and second unit crew, as opposed to the main or "first" unit director and actors -- and the filmmaking team assured viewers that they are looking into what happened.
After the video was released on TMZ, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called for a boycott of the film. The dog and handler in the video were supplied by Birds and Animals Unlimited (BAU), which PETA has been targeting for alleged animal abuses via its own exposé video.
Producer Gavin Polone told Deadline he was "horrified" by what he saw:
"The first thing I asked was, 'Is the dog OK?' He's fine. But if I had seen that, I would have stopped it in a minute. People have to be held responsible for this. It was someone's job to watch out for this kind of thing. Why didn't they? This is something I've written about before, whether it be circus animals or animals on set. American Humane are supposed to be there supervising. That's their job that someone is paid a lot of money to do. Why wasn't this stopped? There needs to be a better system than this. That's what I've called for in the past. I agree with PETA that they not only need to make sure animals are treated properly on set, but they also need to find out where the animals are kept outside of the set. To make sure they are treated properly at all times."
Polone said he was conscious and careful about animal care while he was on set, but admitted he wasn't there for the second unit shooting. He also added an interesting note about the timing:
"And by the way, this happened in October of 2015 and not only did none of us hear of it, this should have been investigated immediately. Who waited a year and three months to call attention to this? That's wrong in itself."
Director Lasse Hallstrom tweeted his reactions:
I am very disturbed by the video released today from the set of my film A dog's purpose.— lasse hallstrom (@HallstromLasse) January 19, 2017
I did not witness these actions.— lasse hallstrom (@HallstromLasse) January 19, 2017
We were all committed to providing a loving and safe environment for all the animals in the film.
I have been promised that a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished.— lasse hallstrom (@HallstromLasse) January 19, 2017
I have been a lifelong animal lover and A DOG'S PURPOSE is my third film about dogs. The animals' safety was of utmost priority.— lasse hallstrom (@HallstromLasse) January 19, 2017
for both myself and everyone on the set. I have been a lifelong animal lover and A DOG'S PURPOSE is my third film about dogs.— lasse hallstrom (@HallstromLasse) January 19, 2017
We were all committed to providing a loving, respectful and safe environment for all the animals in the film.— lasse hallstrom (@HallstromLasse) January 19, 2017
Josh Gad, who voices the main dog in the movie, issued a statement:
Amblin, which hired BAU for the shoot, also issued a statement (via Deadline):
"Amblin production team followed rigorous protocols to foster an ethical and safe environment for the animals. While we continue to review the circumstances shown in the edited footage, Amblin is confident that great care and concern was shown for the German Shepherd Hercules, as well as for all of the other dogs featured throughout the production of the film. There were several days of rehearsal of the water scenes to ensure Hercules was comfortable with all of the stunts. On the day of the shoot, Hercules did not want to perform the stunt portrayed on the tape so the Amblin production team did not proceed with filming that shot. Hercules is happy and healthy."
"A Dog's Purpose" is scheduled to open Friday, Jan. 27. That film is in the spotlight right now, thanks to the on-set video going public, but PETA's point with its new exposé is to show that this is more common than fans know, and it has happened on the sets of many beloved films you've already seen.
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