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Channing Tatum reveals how his last road trip with his dying dog inspired his directorial debut 'Dog'

·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·3 min read
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Channing Tatum is a big believer in channeling grief into art. In 2018, the Magic Mike star hit the road for one last ride with his longtime canine companion, Lulu — a pit bull Catahoula mix he shared with his ex-wife, Jenna Dewan. Diagnosed with cancer, Lulu didn't have long for the world and Tatum wanted to make every last moment with her count.

"When I went on my last road trip with my puppy, [I experienced] that feeling of, 'There's nothing I can do. There's nothing left to do,'" he tells Yahoo Entertainment now. "You just have to accept it and be thankful for the time that you did get and know that they're not supposed to be here forever. I'm supposed to go on and she has to go someplace else." (Watch our video interview above.)

But that last road trip with Lulu also marked a new beginning for Tatum. The experience served as the touchstone for the new drama, Dog, his first starring role since 2017's Logan Lucky, and the first film that he's directed alongside his regular collaborator, Reid Carolin. In the film, Tatum plays Briggs, an army veteran who is tasked with driving a skittish military dog — a Dutch Shepard appropriately named Lulu — hundreds of miles to her handler's funeral, giving them plenty of time to tussle, and bond, along the way.

Channing Tatum hits the road with a canine companion in the new drama, Dog. (Photo: United Artists/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Channing Tatum hits the road with a canine traveling companion in the new drama, Dog. (Photo: United Artists/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Don't worry dog lovers: as Tatum has already revealed, this Lulu doesn't die. "We're doing a very different story," he says.

"It was the end of a relationship that inspired us, but we wanted to make sure that we told a story about the beginning of a relationship and the parts of our friendships with our dogs that really left these lasting impressions of fun and adventure in our lives," Carolin explains.

Carolin adds that they also were inspired by a variety of other entries in the dog movie canon, ranging from the 1989 Tom Hanks comedy, Turner & Hooch, to the 2014 Hungarian drama, White God. "I have so much respect for anybody that makes a dog movie because it's a challenge ... [With] Turner & Hooch, they really nailed the personality of that dog and some the fun between those two guys, which is not easy to do. And White God ... you can't even believe some of the footage they got of those dogs."

Tatum and Reid Carolin on the set of Dog (Photo: United Artists/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Tatum and Reid Carolin on the set of Dog (Photo: United Artists/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Three canine performers play the role of Lulu in Dog, and Carolin doesn't mind admitting that at least one of them was a real on-set diva. "There were always people following her around and giving her stuff to keep her quiet on set — it was exhausting, truly," he says, laughing. "There was a funny moment ... Channing's doing his most dramatic scene. Everyone's super-quiet ... and Lulu's supposed to come and be with him. She goes and stands over him and smiles and barks, so as Chan's acting, you hear this trainer off-camera screaming, "Head down, head down!'"

While he'll never forget Lulu, Tatum has since welcomed two new dogs — both Dutch Shepards — into his life. In 2020, he adopted Rooklin, who he "co-parents" with his friend and trainer, Arin Babaian. And last summer, Cutie joined the Tatum household just in time for Father's Day. "She's kind of stole my heart," the actor admits. Here's hoping the canine siblings get along during long car rides.

Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by John Santo

Dog premieres Feb. 18 in theaters