When newspaper writer John Grogan brought home an adorable, yet unruly yellow Labrador retriever named Marley, he and his wife Jenny had no idea their life was about to drastically change. The lovable puppy soon turned out to be the most undisciplined and uncontrollable dog ever, but that didn’t stop the Grogans from seeing how loyal and loving Marley really was, so John began writing about the memorable moments and adventures with their pooch in his column. After the column turned out to be a hit with readers, John decided to write the book “Marley & Me,” detailing what he and his family had learned from their experiences with their four legged friend. It became a New York Times best-seller.
ComingSoon.net talked to Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson about playing Jenny and John Grogan in 20th Century Fox’s feature adaptation of the book:
Q: Can you talk about the challenges of working with a dog and did having dogs help you in the process?
Jennifer Aniston: 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 Marleys were a little bit more challenging for the trainers. We had a ball, we never had a hard time.
Q: Was there any scene that was difficult or took a long time to get?
Aniston: 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 Wilson: Clyde was always good at getting his stuff. Getting the puppy to imitate like…
Aniston: It was harder…
Wilson: …like he was going to the bathroom. That one took a long time [laughter] ’cause he had a stool that he had to sit on. They were going to, I guess, green screen it.
Aniston: Don’t give it away.
Q: How did you physically get ready for movie?
Aniston: Well I trained five hours a day [laughter]. How did I physically get ready? Not much. Physically I had to show the passage of time. There were wigs and a certain extensions of hair, additions to a bang piece for a more youthful look [laughter], but that’s basically it.
Wilson: 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.”
Q: 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? [laughs]
Aniston: No [laughter], I wanted to be in the movie. I have been pregnant in so many movies it’s ridiculous.
Wilson: It’s like Lady Madonna.
Aniston: The reason I wanted to be in this movie was exactly what you just said. 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 and to sort of just tell…
Aniston: I’m sorry, sequel. My bad. Thank you Owen. [laughs] You know where you get to see the ins 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. I just loved it. I responded to the material.
Q: Do you have a favorite dog movie?
Wilson: I like “Sounder.”
Q: Talk about getting into the roles of these characters and how you seemed to grasp the real John and Jenny Grogan?
Aniston: Thank you that was the material. It was on the page. It was something that was extremely important to us because this book has such an audience and such a fan base and there are two people that are actually here on the planet and you want to honor their story.
Wilson: They came and visited early on and 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…
Aniston: So sweet.
Wilson: Especially John. Just talking with him and just easy to get along with. But I think what [Jennifer] was saying it was on the page, stuff kind of made sense.
Q: You seem to jump effortlessly from genre to genre from independent to mainstream. Do you find it challenging to find the kinds of projects that really get you going creatively?
Aniston: 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 kind of 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.
Q: What’s the appeal of this massive best-selling story? What’s the key appeal of Marley?
Wilson: 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.
Aniston: And it’s a true story. It’s 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 or you’ve been in a relationship and it doesn’t even have to be a married relationship, just partnered life, you know…
Wilson: The connection.
Aniston: The simplicity of it.
Wilson: 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. That’s I think just this wanting to connect.
Q: 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?
Aniston: Work in progress.
Wilson: 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.
Q: Can you talk about the emotional ending?
Wilson: I think that there can be something beautiful about being together as a family for the whole cycle of a life, not shying away from that.
Q: Did doing this movie change your feelings about what journalists do?
Wilson: It seemed like it would be more fun to be a journalist than to be an editor. To be out there doing stories.
Q: The reason this movie worked so well was because of the chemistry between you two. You come across as a very married couple. Was there a moment in the filming where you sort of realized that’s there?
Wilson: We didn’t really know each other before the movie began. We just met in passing and I think it was more in rehearsal just early on feeling like were on the same page with the way we felt things should go. The thing about chemistry, it’s sort of you get along with a person and then sort of if the movie does well, then you have great chemistry. [laughs]
Q: Jennifer, how did you get so successful? How do you look at it?
Aniston: 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 do 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 Acting Theatre. [laughter] I was determined to prove him wrong and do good work and I think I 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 have a graveyard of sitcoms that thank God you all don’t know about them. I was happy to get a job every year whether or not it went on or not. I got the opportunity to do films while I was on “Friends” and I think I built that up a little bit and somehow was welcomed into the other side. I crossed over.
Q: Think there’ll be a “Friends” movie?
Aniston: I hope not.
Marley & Me hits theaters on Christmas Day.