Hollywood loves a good dog story, and so do moviegoers, as evidenced by such hits as Old Yeller, Sounder, and Marley & Me. Now comes Max, a coming-of-age tale about a young boy who inherits a military dog after his brother dies on the frontlines in Afghanistan. You can watch the trailer above, exclusively on Yahoo Movies.
According to Mark Forbes, the lead trainer on Max — and a veteran on not only Marley, but also such films as We Bought a Zoo and 102 Dalmatians — this latest film is taking dog acting to new heights. “It wasn’t your typical Rin Tin Tin movie, where the dog is the hero and Lassie’s saving Timmy out of the well,” Forbes explains. “Max had more meat to it, as far as trying to create this character that’s multi-dimensional.”
In the film, Max comes home from the war distrustful and frightened (in one scene, he panics after seeing a fireworks display). That meant Forbes had to stretch his dog’s acting chops. But it wasn’t simply a matter of getting the dog to do a trick on cue: “There was a lot of thought put into how to get the dog to portray this in-depth of a character,” he says.
There certainly was a special set of demands on the dog who played the leading role — or, more accurately, the five dogs who star as Max. That includes two of the animals who were stunt dogs, and some backup on-screen performers. But the lead canine actor was a one-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Shepherd named Carlos — “the face of the movie,” according to Forbes.
Belgian Shepherds, also called Malinois, are the most common breed used by police and military. But only one of the furry four-legged creatures in the movie, a stunt dog named Pax, did that sort of work prior to filming (he was a drug detection dog).
The dogs — save another stunt dog, Dude — had no prior big-screen experience prior to Max, and all were located after a nationwide search. Once the animals were hired, Forbes had just four months to get them camera-ready working closely with director Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans). “He knew what he wanted, which is very important,” says Forbes. “Boaz almost had the whole movie cut in his head.”
As shown in the new trailer, Max shares a whole lot of screen time with Lauren Graham, who plays the mom, Thomas Haden Church, the dad, and Josh Wiggins, who plays the young brother, Justin. If only there were doggie Oscars.
Max enters theaters June 26.
Get a first look at the movie poster: