Marmaduke


Marmaduke

Marmaduke

Voice Cast: Owen Wilson, Lee Pace, Judy Greer, David Walliams, William H.Macy, Finley Jacobsen, Caroline Sunshine, George Lopez
Director: Tom Dey
Genre: Comedy, Family
Rated: PG
Running Time: 88 minutes

Synopsis: Marmaduke, the world's most lovable Great Dane, leaps from comic strip fame (appearing in 600 newspapers in over 20 countries) to big screen stardom. In this family comedy event, the super-sized, ultra-awkward lap dog is living the good life with the Winslow family, including beleaguered dad Phil, Phil's wife Debbie, their three children, and feline pal Carlos.

But when Phil uproots the clan from Kansas to California, Marmaduke finds his life turned upside-down. He must navigate the volatile Mutts vs. Pedigrees turf wars, woo the purebred of his dreams, and overcome a fall from grace from his new four-legged friends and his much put-upon family.

Release Date: June 24th, 2010

Marmaduke, the world's most lovable Great Dane, leaps from comic strip fame (appearing in 600 newspapers in over 20 countries) to big screen stardom. In this family comedy, the super-sized dog who never fit in, finally finds a place where it's okay to stand out. Now living large in Orange County, California, Marmaduke is helping his family make the big transition from the Midwest to The O.C. But he's also discovering that fitting in with his new four-legged friends isn't always easy for a 200-pound teenage dog.

Lucky for Marmaduke, he doesn't have to go it alone because he always has his "step-bro" and best pal, Carlos, a Russian Blue Cat, watching his back.

Owen Wilson is the voice of Marmaduke and George Lopez voices Carlos in Marmaduke. Owen Wilson, a gifted comic actor, counts among his recent box-office hits the 2008 holiday treat "Marley & Me," in which he played the owner of a mischievous pooch. Now, as the great Great Dane Marmaduke, it's Owen Wilson's turn to wreak havoc on a hapless family (and also come to their aid when the going gets tough). "There's an interesting symmetry with those two roles [in Marmaduke and "Marley & Me"]," Own Wilson admits. "But to be honest, it's coincidental that those parts happened so closely together. I took on the voice of Marmaduke mostly for the chance to work again with [the film's director] Tom Dey, with whom I had done [the hit Western action-comedy] 'Shanghai Noon.' When we discussed Marmaduke and Tom Dey's ideas for the film, it all clicked for me, and in no time at all I was channeling my inner-canine to voice Marmaduke."

According to Tom Dey, Owen Wilson's role in "Marley & Me" might have had more to do with the actor agreeing to portray Marmaduke than Owen Wilson admits. "Owen Wilson was the last voice actor cast because Marmaduke was the most difficult to cast," Tom Dey remembers. "I had read the script and Owen Wilson had told me over dinner that he had a great time working with the dogs on 'Marley & Me.' I told Owen Wilson I had been trying to cast Marmaduke, and Owen Wilson smiled and said, 'Maybe I should do Marmaduke. We laughed! And ten months later, he was Marmaduke."

Renowned actor-comedian-talk show host George Lopez also found himself in a kind of "turnabout-is-fair-play" casting situation when he accepted the voice role of Carlos the cat, having less than two years earlier voiced a character in "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," as Papi, a street-wise dog who falls for a pampered Beverly Hills pooch. "I figured I'd give the cat world equal time, in Marmaduke," says George Lopez with a grin. "Whatever the species, I enjoy giving the characters I play some attitude and fun, and Carlos has no shortage of both."

The unexpected friendship between Marmaduke and Carlos Marmaduke presents a cat and dog not only living together harmoniously under one roof, but who are best pals - provides some of the film's biggest laughs and a lot of heart. "I loved the relationship between Carlos and Marmaduke," says George Lopez. "Most people think dogs and cats can't coexist, but those two are like brothers. Carlos is always there for Marmaduke, even to help him with his crazy schemes."

Marmaduke's crazy schemes are part of his ongoing efforts to help his family (the "fam" as he calls them) succeed in their new O.C. surroundings, while he finds his niche among the neighborhood canines. But it's not going to be easy for Marmaduke. Being a teenager can be rough, especially the parts about trying to fit in and figure out who's cool (and who's not). And being a 200-pound dog?well, that exponentially increases the degree of difficulty of teenage life.

Marmaduke's new "leash on life" in The O.C. begins promisingly enough. Tooling down the Pacific Coast Highway with his owner Phil, the sunglasses-wearing Marmaduke sticks his head out of the car's sunroof, enjoying the SoCal sunshine. But soon enough he gets a whiff of the challenges that lie ahead during his first sojourn to the dog park. This is ground zero for dogs to meet, socialise, catch up on the latest, and conduct pressing matters of "business."
The park is nothing less than high school?for dogs.

Just like secondary schools for those walking on two legs, the dog park is rife with cliques: the "Jocks" - dogs whose main interests are catching Frisbees and dating I.Q.-challenged Cocker Spaniels the "Drama Geeks" who love to act and put on a show the "Juvenile Delinquents" - a rough-looking bunch who like to hang out by the park fence the "Mutts"-mixed breeds from the wrong side of the tracks and the "Pedigrees" - rich and spoiled who don't think their meadow muffins stink.

The dog park as high school theme resonated for the Marmaduke cast and filmmakers. "I really liked the idea of Marmaduke being this overgrown, awkward teenager who's trying to fit in at his new town and 'school,'" says Owen Wilson. "And the notion of the dog park as a kind of high school for canines was a lot of fun. Everyone's been to high school and almost everyone has a dog, or at least loves dogs. So there's a lot for audiences to relate to with Marmaduke."

"Marmaduke is reminiscent of the teen angst films of the 1980s," adds producer John Davis, who certainly knows his way around stories centered on animals with special abilities, having produced "Dr. Dolittle" and "Garfield," among many other box-office hits. And count director Tom Dey as another fan of the classic films about high school life, no small number of which were helmed by the legendary John Hughes. "I grew up with movies like [the Hughes directed or produced] 'Some Kind of Wonderful,' 'Sixteen Candles' and 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off,'" says Tom Dey. "Making Marmaduke was like revisiting my teenage years."

But George Lopez says his cinematic alter-ego doesn't think too much about teen social strata. "Carlos is a self-sufficient cat who really isn't into the whole high school scene. A big day for Carlos is hacking up a fur ball."

Although he has little interest in high school life at the dog park - obviously the last place he'd want to hang out - Carlos will do anything for Marmaduke, even help him make friends with the Pedigree pooch clique Marmaduke yearns to be a part of. The Pedigrees include Bosco (voiced by "24's" Kiefer Sutherland), the group's "alpha male" and reigning surf champion Bosco's girlfriend, the elegant Collie Jezebel (voiced by Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas), who happens to be Phil's boss' dog, and whom Marmaduke is crushing on and Bosco's shifty cohorts, the mini-Doberman Pinschers, Lightning and Thunder (voiced, respectively, by popular comic actors Marlon Wayans and Damon Wayans, Jr.).

To get in good with the Pedigrees, Marmaduke throws a wild party (Pedigrees only, thank you) at the Winslow's home not so coincidentally, the "fam" is away for a few days, and only Carlos is left behind to witness the controlled chaos and carnage - as dogs flirt, stand on tabletops, shred pillows, pee on the couch, and groove to the window-shattering music.

Marmaduke's attempts to join the hard-to-crack Pedigree clique don't make the Mutts very happy, especially Mazie (voiced by "Zombieland's" Emma Stone), a tomboy Queensland Heller Mix, who sees more in Marmaduke than an oversized new kid in town. Mazie and the Mutts - who also include Raisin, a super-brain Dachshund mix (voiced by acclaimed comic actor Steve Coogan) and Giuseppe (voiced by "Kick-Ass'" Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a wired-too-tightly Chinese Crested mix - are the first to befriend Marmaduke upon his debut appearance at the dog park. Outside of any school/social clique - and feared by all - is a feral-looking mastiff named Chupadogra (voiced by "Up in the Air's" Sam Elliott). A figure of myth and legend, Chupadogra supposedly sleeps on a pile of bones, and is a hulking, shadowy presence whom no one dares cross. But then, even Chupadogra has never encountered anything like Marmaduke?

The film's human-canine interactions are just as compelling as the dog park dynamics. When Marmaduke isn't hangin' with his new friends and at home with step-bro' Carlos, he's both helping and testing the patience of his human "fam," the Winslows -- patriarch Phil (Lee Pace), a Midwest dad with lofty ambitions, trying to make a better life for his family in The O.C mom Debbie (Judy Greer), the glue that holds the family together and kids Brian, Barbara and Sarah. Lee Pace, who starred in the cult television show "Pushing Daisies," enjoyed his character Phil's relationship with Marmaduke. "They have a special bond, despite the fact that they're constantly battling to see who's 'top dog,'" says Lee Pace. "When the family moves to Orange County, Phil gets a new beginning and so does Marmaduke. They both reinvent themselves."

Phil's reinvention is career-centric having become the marketing chief for a California-based organic pet food company, Phil works for its eccentric owner Don Twombly, whose love for dogs drives him to insist on business meetings in the dog park. In addition, notes William H. Macy ("Wild Hogs," "Fargo") who portrays the canine-crazed corporate titan: "Don does most of these meetings without shoes because, he reasons, dogs don't wear shoes." For Phil, keeping up with his demanding boss is even more difficult, as he finds himself dodging the omnipresent land mines of field muffins left by the furry visitors.

Back at home, Phil's wife Debbie tries to keep a newly-relocated family and busy household from spinning out of control, including overworked hubby Phil, three young kids adjusting to their new environs - and, of course, Marmaduke. "When the Winslows adopted Marmaduke as a puppy, they didn't know what they were getting themselves into," says Judy Greer, whose many credits include the comedy hit "27 Dresses." "When he grew up and became, well, Marmaduke, he became like a fourth child to the Winslows."

About the Production
Casting is a key component of any motion picture production. With Marmaduke, the filmmakers faced three times the challenges, having to cast the human stars (led by Lee Pace, Judy Greer and William H. Macy), the voice talent (topped by Owen Wilson as the titular hero and George Lopez as his best pal and stepbrother Carlos), and the highly-trained animals who portray the film's animal leads. The latter, requiring the most amount of training, after all, were the first cast members to be locked in. "[Casting the animals] was about finding dogs we felt could project the personalities we were looking for," says director Tom Dey, who enjoyed working with his wet-nosed luminaries. "The dogs were great and real. The thing about filming dogs is that they never give you a false moment, which is truly exhilarating. And it's the first time in which my lead actor never once questioned any piece of direction I gave."

The lead actors to whom Tom Dey is referring are "George," a two-year-old Great Dane, and George's 150-pound half-brother "Spirit" - both of whom nabbed the title role after a global casting search. The dogs' respective talents complemented one another, and together they brought Marmaduke to life on screen. Tom Dey explains: "George was the dog we needed to hit his marks, and Spirit was the one we needed to break down walls. Our onscreen Marmaduke was a combination of both dogs."

Owen Wilson is a fan of George and Spirit. "When I was doing my ADR [Automated Dialogue Replacement, or voice work]," says the actor, "I got a good look at the performances of the two 'Marmadukes' - George and Spirit. They are very impressive, and are the real 'stars' of the film."

George and Spirit are joined by a talented ensemble of four-legged thespians, each of whom shines. But that's not to say that they didn't require some special handling above and beyond the perks demanded by today's biggest two-legged superstars. For example, animals aren't too keen about keeping eye line -- looking their human co-stars in the eye. Animal coordinator and head trainer Michael Alexander and his team came up with a unique solution: "Meat glasses," which are sunglass frames rigged with an attachment holding a piece of the dog's favorite treat. The dog would watch the meat on the spectacles and thus meet the eye line of the person wearing them. Another training technique was having the human actor hold a treat to his or her forehead, and then lower the treat down and feed the dog, all of which encouraged the animal to look the actor in the eye. Not exactly Stanislavsky, but still.

It's no surprise that on each day of shooting, the set of Marmaduke went to the dogs, literally. On the daily call sheets, which describe all the work to be done on set, the first eleven spots were always taken by the canine stars. "Even the animal trainers outnumbered the human actors," marvels William H. Macy. All told, 80 dogs and six cats appear in the film, some having undergone 16 weeks of training prior to the start of principal photography. And some of them left a peculiar kind of calling card. Or as Tom Dey puts it: "The big dogs drooled -and the drool ruled." After capturing a given take, Tom Dey would call out, "Cut! Let's wipe the drool and go again."

Another favorite on-set catchphrase could have been, "Surf's up!" given one of the film's major set pieces: a canine surfing contest in which Marmaduke and his nemesis, the Purebred Bosco hang ten at an O.C. beach. The sequence was inspired by the filmmakers' research about real-life surfing dogs. One of the secrets in pulling off the scene was, as Michael Alexander puts it, simply: "Find a dog that likes to be in the ocean!" George the dog certainly fit the bill, taking to the waves like a Big Kahuna. Additionally, George trained on a surfboard that rested on a gimbal that simulated movement on water. CG enhancements, such as Marmaduke flipping off the board, were added during post-production.

George, Spirit and all the "Marma-dogs" lived large on the Marmaduke sets and locations. Most of principal photography took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with a few sequences filmed at Southern California beaches. For a few weeks, Vancouver experienced a record-breaking heat wave, so the production installed special air-conditioned tents at the outdoor locations, to keep the canines cool. In addition, the art department built a spectacular junkyard set filled with dozens of abandoned '50s-era cars and neon signs, and an entire seaside pier was erected on a soundstage.


MORE