By now, you have more than likely heard about the controversy of A Dog's Purpose. A video was leaked to TMZ that showed one of the dogs in the production uncomfortable with jumping into the artificially created rapids and then seemingly being forced into the pool. We've heard a lot from people close to the film giving their account or understanding of the situation, from actor Josh Gad to director Lasse Hallström, and it all roughly translates the same: "The dog was not harmed and the video is misleading." Typical stuff. Now a producer on the film has written a full account of that day on set, hoping to finally clear up the controversy.
Producer Gavin Polone published a full article on The Hollywood Reporter (for which he has occasionally written for) going into deep detail about what actually happened that day. He was quick to point out his own animal rights activism and how these sorts of scenes are typically supposed to be filmed. While Polone notably points out that what happened to Hercules, the German Shepard in the video, should never have happened and wasn't okay, he claims that the leaked video is misleading and perhaps purposefully so.
As with the TMZ video that you saw, two things were evident: 1) the dog handler tries to force the dog, for 35 to 40 seconds, into the water when, clearly, he didn't want to go in; and 2) in a separate take filmed sometime later, the dog did go into the water, on his own, and, at the end, his head is submerged for about 4 seconds. These two things are absolutely INEXCUSABLE and should NEVER have happened. The dog trainer should have stopped trying to get the dog to go in the water as soon as the dog seemed uncomfortable, and the trainers should have had support under the dog as soon as he came to the side of the pool and/or had less turbulence in the water so he never would have gone under.
As Polone describes it, Hercules had no trouble jumping into the pool multiple times during rehearsals, in which a safety diver, one trainer in the pool, two trainers on land, a stunt coordinator and a safety officer on deck. Hercules rehearsed on the left side of the pool, but when it came time to film, they moved to the right side. This change is what Polone believes caused Hercules to become uncomfortable as seen in the video. When it became clear that Hercules wasn't going in, they moved back to the left side and Hercules had no problems jumping in. Hercules also had a much calmer patch of water to swim in -- something that's difficult to see in the angle of the leaked video.
Again, Polone states that what happened that day shouldn't have happened, but he doesn't believe that this footage was leaked by a good samaritan. The footage is edited to make it look like the dog was forced into the water and then drowned (in reality, Hercules' head was underwater for four seconds before he was pulled out by divers). Furthermore, if the leaker was concerned about the animals safety, then why wait months to share the footage? The video was leaked days before the film was set to premiere, and TMZ is known to pay for newsworthy videos.
You can head on over to the next page to hear the thoughts of the original author of A Dog's Purpose, W. Bruce Cameron.
A Dog's Purpose is based on a novel written by writer W. Bruce Cameron. Cameron, who also co-wrote the script for the film, was as shocked as everybody else when he first saw the leaked TMZ video. He found it disturbing but he questioned the true purpose of the video itself. After watching the footage from that day of filming, it was clear to Cameron that the leaked video painted an entirely different story. Here's what he said in a statement (via People):
The dog was not terrified and not thrown in the water --- I've seen footage of Hercules earlier that day joyfully jumping in the pool... The mistake was trying to dip the dog in the water to show him it was okay---the water wasn't his issue, it was the location that was the issue, and the dog happily did the stunt when he was allowed to return to his original spot."
This syncs up with what we've heard from producers like Gavin Polone, but Cameron didn't pretend like there wasn't any blame to spread. He felt that what happened that day shouldn't have happened at all, but the video makes it look much worse than it actually was. No harm came to Hercules, who went on to finish the scene in one full take before quitting for the day. What Cameron really questions are the motives behind the people who leaked the video.
If the people who shot and edited the video thought something was wrong, why did they wait fifteen months to do anything about it, instead of immediately going to the authorities?"
Whatever the case, something clearly went wrong that day on set, but the video might not be as damning as it appears. If you are still so inclined and aren't boycotting the film, A Dog's Purpose is in theaters right now.