There’s an old saying actors have, “Never work with babies or animals.” Thankfully, in our case we had incredible animal trainers behind the scenes, ensuring that the dogs were taken care of – and the human actors too.
Boone’s Animals For Hollywood has been training animals all over the world for over thirty years. Their reputation with producers and animal groups is sterling, as is their uncanny ability to connect with each dog.
An incredible sight to see, Boone always placed his concern for the dog’s well being over everything. To ensure their safety, the trainer works with the American Humane Association on his projects.
We felt that as the original Hachiko was a Japanese Akita, this breed needed to be portrayed in order to honor him and his story. But there was a bit of worry at first. Akitas are known to be very independent, strong thinkers. Even our seasoned animal trainers had never worked with the breed before.
It all turned out perfectly, however, and both human and canine actors bonded beautifully.
The Hachi character goes through a wide range of emotions through an entire lifetime. To play Hachi as a puppy, we used the smaller Japanese breed, the Shiba Inu.
The need for multiple adult dogs stemmed from the long working hours and the need to have different personalities in various scenes. Chico and Layla are brother and sister, and were just two years old during the production. The siblings played the young adult Hachi. Forrest, the older four-year-old Akita, played the aged Hachi.
Each time he’d find a new cast member, I’d drive up to the training ranch to meet them.
It was truly amazing to watch how professional these Akitas are. They performed like seasoned pros, and delivered exactly what Lasse, our director, asked of them. On screen, it all appears seamless due to the animals trainers and their hard work. Lasse had in mind a specific vision, mood – and the Akitas performed – on their mark and they knew all their lines!
Having all the captivating dogs and puppies on the set fostered an unusually easy and fun loving atmosphere. Thanks to the impeccable animal trainers on set, we were able to pull off such stunning performances all around.