Controversy erupted earlier this week when video from the set of upcoming feel-good flick "A Dog's Purpose" surfaced online, purportedly showing a terrified German shepherd that was forced to perform a stunt against its will. Thanks to the immense backlash the video unleashed, Universal has decided to cancel this weekend's Hollywood premiere of the film.
In a statement, Universal and production company Amblin cited investigation into the video as the main reason for the cancellation (which also includes the film's press junket), noting that they did not want the film to be overshadowed by the negative attention. Here's the full statement:
"Because Amblin's review into the edited video released yesterday is still ongoing, distributor Universal Pictures has decided it is in the best interest of A Dog's Purpose to cancel this weekend's premiere and press junket. Amblin and Universal do not want anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between humans and animals.
"Since the emergence of the footage, Amblin has engaged with many associated with the production of the film, including safety personnel, trainers and stunt coordinators as part of their in-depth review. While we are all disheartened by the appearance of an animal in distress, everyone has assured us that Hercules the German Shepherd was not harmed throughout the filmmaking."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- which has already called for a boycott of the film -- is now "pushing for further action, calling on the director of the Amblin production, Lasse Hallstrom, and producer Gavin Polone to pledge never to use animals in films again and to rescue the dogs from Birds & Animals Unlimited, the training and handling facility said to be the provider of the canines." (PETA recently opened its own investigation into BAU, alleging the company ignored or in some cases actively participated in the abuse and neglect of animals used in high-profile films, including the "Harry Potter" series. BAU has denied any wrongdoing.)
In response to PETA's demand, Polone -- described by THR as "A prominent Hollywood vegan and animal rights activist" -- told the trade that he found the request ridiculous, noting, "This is a movie about promoting the idea of animals as sentient and deserving of empathy and rights." Instead of giving up the use of real animals entirely, the producer offered a different solution, per THR:
"What's needed is a replacement for the [American Humane Association]," the non-profit monitoring group financed by producers that's tasked with on-set animal oversight. (It's known for its "No Animals Were Harmed" accreditation [and was also the subject of a scathing 2013 THR investigation that uncovered widespread failures and cover-ups in the organization; the AHA has denied the claims].) He continued, "There's a person there all the time and clearly they are ineffective. That's the issue and that's what needs to be corrected."
For its part, PETA has written to the AHA to ask for a complete copy of a report that the monitoring group claimed on Wednesday it had initiated as soon as it saw the footage, bringing in an independent investigator to spearhead. (It also placed the on-set AHA safety representative on administrative leave.) "We're hearing that the monitor did not report [the incident] to her supervisors but the AHA gave the movie an acceptable rating anyway," says Lange. "We don't know if that is true, but we're asking."
"A Dog's Purpose" is schedule for wide release on January 27.
[via: The Hollywood Reporter]