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"Marley's" handler on dog training for the movies

December 29, 2008 |  6:27 pm

Forbesdog_2 "Marley & Me," the film adaptation of John Grogan's memoir about life with his ill-behaved Labrador, hit theaters on Christmas. (We told you last week about the American Humane Assn.'s "Marley"-related work both during and after the filming.)

The film's head Lab-wrangler, Mark Forbes (whose credits include "101 Dalmatians" and "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian"), talked to The Times' Calendar section about his experiences on "Marley." From the interview:

Most of the 22 canine actors that played Marley were encouraged to tap into their inner bad dogs. "It was different from any movie we'd really done before in that this was supposed to be the most out-of-control, rambunctious dog there ever was," said Forbes. "And so we definitely looked for, in each team, a dog that had that personality trait. [On] our 1- to 5-year-old team, we had five dogs. And we had Ziggy. 'Crystal Meth,' they called him when we brought him on the set. He was just a crazy dog. And then we had Clyde, who was sort of 'Trained Crystal Meth,' but just had a wild streak in him.

"I remember the very first day, we had a scene where Jen is bringing Marley home, and we were using Clyde and we rehearsed it. She unclipped him, and he ran in, he jumped up on the kitchen table, did a circle, licked Owen in the face and ran out of the room. From that day forward, [director] David [Frankel] would never let us rehearse, especially Clyde. We'd just let [the dogs] go do what they were going do in their own little Marley way."

More on Clyde, Ziggy, simulated leg-lifting and computer-generated male puppy anatomy in Cristy Lytal's story.

Have you seen "Marley"?  Let us know what you think in the comments section!

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Forbes, left, and a handler work with the young stars of "Marley".  Credit: Barry Wetcher / 20th Century Fox.

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