Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston Interview – MARLEY AND ME

     December 23, 2008

Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

As I said when I posted the movieclips from “Marley and Me”…. In the past few weeks I’ve seen a ton of movies. I’ve seen action films, dramas, special effects driven spectacles, and a few movies that I know are going to make a ton of money.

“Marley & Me” is one of them.

Yes…20th Century Fox has finally made a really good movie and audiences are going to fall in love with Marley. In fact, this might the studios biggest film of the year. If you aren’t familiar with the book the movie is based on, here’s the synopsis:

John and Jenny Grogan (Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston) who decide to leave behind the harsh winters of Michigan and head south to begin their new lives in West Palm Beach, Florida. They obtain jobs as journalists at competing local newspapers, buy their first home, and begin to make their way through the challenges of a new marriage, new careers and, possibly, the life-changing decision to start a family.

Unsure of his preparedness for raising children, John confesses his fears to his friend and fellow journalist Sebastian, who comes up with the perfect solution: John should get Jenny a puppy. “There’s nothing to it,” says Sebastian. “You walk ‘em. You feed ‘em, you let ‘em out now and then.”

Then came Marley.

The Grogans adopt the cute, twelve pound yellow Labrador, who in no time at all, grows into a 100-pound steamroller of unbridled energy that turns the Grogan home into a disaster area. He flunks obedience school, chews off dry-wall, takes a bite out of the sofa, overturns garbage cans, steals a Thanksgiving turkey, consumes pillows and flowers, drinks toilet water, and chases the UPS guy. Even a newly-purchased, expensive necklace isn’t safe from Marley’s voracious antics.

Amidst the mayhem he generates through the years, Marley sees the Grogans through the ups and downs of family life, through job and home changes, and most of all, through the myriad challenges of a growing family. As John and Jenny come to realize, Marley – “the world’s worst dog” – somehow brings out the best in them.

One of the great things about the movie is the way the film portrays a realistic, successful marriage. Unlike some movies which pile on silly situations, “Marley and Me” shows a happy and loving couple as they deal with real life issues. Of course things happen… but more or less the movie shows a happy family and I think audiences are going to really enjoy this movie.

So to help promote the film, I recently participated in a press conference with Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. As always, you can either read the transcript or listen to the audio by clicking here.

Finally, spoilers are discussed during this interview. You are warned.

How did you train Clyde and the other Marley’s to be untrainable?

Trainer: We did what I call anti-training. We just encouraged bad behavior and told them it was good. The most important thing was to not rehearse him so he’d be natural (we can hear him panting).

Owen: I think you worked with my dog.

Can you talk about the challenges of working with a dog and the different ages of dogs?

Jennifer: Well, I think it helped only because I wasn’t afraid of dogs but honestly he was so easy to work with. I would say the younger Marley’s were, to hit their mark, a little bit more challenging for the trainers. We had a ball; we never had a hard time.

Was there any scene that was tricky or difficult or took a long time to get?

Jennifer: The scene where we were taking him to get neutered. That was definitely a challenging scene in the car ’cause you also have Matilda in the back seat, the trainer who’s fantastic. It was just a lot of action for the dog.

Owen: Clyde was always good at getting his stuff. Getting the puppy to sort if imitate like he was going to the bathroom like that one (indicates Clyde) took a long time because he had a little stool that he had to sit on. They were going to I guess green screen.

Jennifer: Don’t give it away.

One of the things I really like about this movie is that its sort of like a romantic comedy after marriage and you so rarely see that and actually I’d like for all of you to comment on how wonderful that is for married people. So many times marriage in the suburbs is portrayed as miserable and this was not the case.

Jennifer: No.

Owen: Yeah it is true it seems like every time you see a marriage it’s always this like struggle but in our scene, you’re (Jennifer) kind of saying that. I’m trying to say “No, everything is ok” and your like “really” it’s like you don’t really believe it.

How did you physically get ready for movie?

Jennifer: Well I trained five hours a day [laughter]. No. How did I physically get ready? Not much. Physically I had to show the passage of time, there were wigs and certain extensions of hair, additions; a bang piece for a more youthful look [laughter] but that’s basically it.

Owen: But you did do a lot of training. That one scene where we had to do the running you were kind of bandaged up, kind of getting helped back to the start mark and every time they said ‘action’, it was off like you see in Bolt.

Jennifer: (She laughs) That’s very true.

Jennifer, did you adopt one of the dogs who played Marley?

Jennifer: I didn’t but both of my dogs are adopted, but that was years ago. I almost adopted the dog that’s in the poster. What was the name of that dog?

Owen: Tank? Or Chud?! Judd! There were so many dogs playing Marley that it was like doing a Vietnam movie where you didn’t want to get too close because you knew that that dog might not be there the next day.

Jennifer: Yeah and they would grow up, literally. It’s so true.

Owen: And then some of the people that did adopt some of those puppies then called the trainers saying they were having sort of behavior problems (laughter).

Can you talk about why you wanted to do this and a lot of times when we talk to actors they will say ‘you know I never could have played this role unless I had been a mother’ do you think you should have waited?

Jennifer: No. (she laughs) I wanted to be in the movie.

Owen: How many times have you played…

Jennifer: I have been pregnant in so many movies it’s ridiculous.

Owen: She’s like Lady Madonna.

Jennifer: The reason I wanted to be in this movie is that it wasn’t the sort of girl trying to get the guy or the guy trying to get the girl or the chase and then you end the movie where they ride off into the sunset. This is sort of the prequel to that.

Owen: Sequel

Jennifer: I’m sorry, sequel. My bad. Thank you Owen. [laughs] You know where you get to see the in’s and outs of a relationship and see them over fifteen years and have this sort of human thread that takes you through and have it be funny just because life is funny and dramatic. I just loved it. I responded to the material.

Okay almost everyone knows now that the elderly Marley (not the puppy) finally dies in the movie. Can you talk about those scenes? I mean people will cry. I did.

Jennifer: Those were really hard. That was the last two weeks for me of shooting so it was kind of fortunate that that came at the end because you don’t always get to shoot in order at all so those were the days where I couldn’t read the sides in the morning in the trailer because I was just bubbling over with emotion and I was just sort of hoping that I would be able to look at the lines while I was on set and remember them.

Owen: Yeah. I knew those scenes were coming up and I was kinda nervous like ‘gosh I hope I feel something’ so they don’t have to get out those fake tears; the glycerin and that was on stand by. But, I didn’t really need it because as soon as Copper, the dog who played the old man Marley, as soon as you see this dog it was hard not to start getting kind of emotional. That was what was nice about the movie that the situations didn’t feel ever contrived. Everything seemed kind of relatable so it wasn’t difficult to understand, this makes sense what he’s feeling.

Do you two have a favorite dog movie?

Jennifer: Benji

Owen: I like Sounder.

What’s more high maintenance, a dog or a woman?

Owen: Which is more high maintenance? Probably humans I think tend to be more demanding than dogs.

Very diplomatically said! Was it easy or hard getting into the roles of a real life couple?

Jennifer: That was in the material. It was on the page and it was something that was extremely important to us because this book has such an audience and such a fan base and these are two people that are actually here on the planet and you want to honor their story.

Owen: They came and visited early on and were in the obedience school scene. It was kind of strange but it was like a little bit nerve-wrecking. Like ‘I wonder what he’s thinking about me playing him’ but they came a few times and they were just kind of…

Jennifer: So sweet.

Owen: Especially John. Just talking with him and just easy to get along with. But I think what [Jennifer] was saying is true. It was on the page and made sense.

Jennifer, you seem to jump effortlessly from genre to genre and from independent to mainstream. Do you find it challenging to find the kinds of projects that really get you going creatively?

Jennifer: Yeah, sure it’s hard if you’re specific and picky but I’ve been lucky to have things come to me that creatively fulfill me and those are usually the independent films just because you have a little bit more freedom. But, this particular movie is just rare where you hit all the notes. It was unbelievably creatively fulfilling. It’s a mainstream film and I loved everybody I worked with. This one was sort of a home run. They don’t always all happen that way.

What’s the appeal of this massive best selling story? What’s the key appeal of Marley?

Owen: It’s strange because it does seem that’s its not just America. We were talking to John Grogan and in Argentina they love the book. I guess there’s something in the story that has a sort of universal appeal that people are able to connect with.

Jennifer: And it’s a true story; a simple story and I think people go to movies and they escape with these big crazy plotlines and here is a movie where people are actually going like ‘that’s me’ or ‘I did that’, ‘I walked through that.’ Or ‘my dog’ or even if you don’t have a dog, you’ve been in a relationship and it doesn’t even have to be a married relationship, just partnered life, you know.

Owen: There’s the connection

Jennifer: The simplicity of it.

Owen: You remember the story about the parrot, Alex? There was a book that’s come out on ‘Alex and Me’. First it was in the New York Times, then they ended up doing three articles about it and now there’s a book coming out of it. I think it’s just this wanting to connect.

One of the greatest things about dogs is their unconditional love but also they live in the present. Have you guys learned to do that?

Jennifer: It’s a work in progress.

Owen: I think that’s the great thing about having a dog is it kinda forces you to be in the present because that’s definitely where they’re spending their time.

Was here any discussion of not having the ending you did?

Owen: We were talking about being true to the book and people love that book so much that it really wasn’t a choice. You have to tell the story and honor that story. There can be something beautiful about being together as a family for the whole cycle of a life and not shying away from that.

What should you tell kids up front about it so they can better deal with it?

Owen: I would think its okay to say there are real life issues in the film.

Jennifer: Yes.

Owen: We’ve been doing press for the movie and sometimes I’ll think ‘am I supposed to give away what happens?’ but again were kind of telling the story that the book told and you hope that people appreciate that and that story. I guess that’s just something for parents to decide. I think that, as an adult, you underestimate or forget kids’ ability to deal with stuff or how much they do soak up.

Did playing a journalist in this movie change your feelings about what journalists do? I guess your character is more a columnist than a reporter.

Owen: It seemed like it would be more fun to be a journalist than to be an editor. To be out there doing stories. It seemed like the stories Eric Dane (who plays a reporter friend in the movie) covered were more interesting; he’s out doing more Woodward/Bernstein type stuff. It’s like being in an action movie.

The reason this movie worked so well was because of the chemistry between you two. Was there a moment in the filming where you sort of realized that’s there? You come across as a very married couple.

Owen: We didn’t really know each other before the movie began. We just met in passing and I think it was more like in rehearsal just early on feeling like we’re on the same page with the way we thought things should go. The thing about chemistry, it’s sort of you get along with a person and then, if the movie does well, then you have ‘great chemistry’. [laughs]

Jennifer, you do well, in various kinds of roles. To what do you attribute your career success; luck, a plan, what?

Jennifer: I don’t know. I’ve never sat there and plotted out how I was going to become successful or famous. I just really wanted to work and I wanted to do good work ever since I was at a High School of Performing Arts and my Russian acting coach told me I was a disgrace to the Moscow Theatre [laughter] I was determined to prove him wrong and do good work and I think I’ve never had my eye on a prize. I just really wanted to enjoy the passage of time. Before ‘Friends’ and the success of that, I had a graveyard of sitcoms that thank god you don’t know about them. I was happy to get a job every year whether or not it went on or not.

Was it just luck going from TV to film?

Jennifer: I got the opportunity to do films while I was on ‘Friends’ and I think I kind of just created or built that up a little bit and somehow was welcomed into the other side. I crossed over.

What are you doing next?

Jennifer: Well, there’s a movie in the Spring that I’m in the middle of deciding if I want to do and I’m going to be (doing interviews for) three other movies after this one.

Plans for the Holidays?

Jennifer: I’ll be with my family.

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