Red Dog hit’s the big screen this week as director Kriv Stenders brings Louis de Bernières’ popular novel to life.
I caught up with the author to discuss the inspiration behind the movie, his time on set and what lies ahead.
- Red Dog is released into cinemas this week so can you tell me a little bit about the story behind the movie?
Well the story behind the movie is several years ago I agreed to do the Perth Literary festival in western Australia but one of conditions was I should go up north to do two events in places I had never been before.
So I went up to Karratha and Dampier to do my event and the morning after I went for a drive in the hotel manager’s car and I saw this statue on the side of the road, I stopped to look at it and it was a statue of a dog. And it said ‘Red Dog 1979 erected by his friend’ and I was very curious because you don’t expect to come across the statue of a dog in the desert.
So I started asking questions about it and there were so many amusing anecdotes about this dog that I decided that here was a children’s book. So I wrote the original book for twelve year olds really, but my publishers forgot to tell anyone and it just got put on the shelves next to my other adult novels (film).
- So how did the movie project come about and what tempted you to have your novel adapted for the big screen?
The producer Nelson Woss had been working in Hollywood for a very long time and had got rather sick of it.
He is from Western Australia and already knew some of these stories and he came across the book, I think when he was on an aeroplane, and thought ‘I want to do this. I want to make an Australian movie in Australia,’ rather then return to Hollywood.
So it was quite a punt for and it took him a long time to raise the money for the film - but he did it.
- And did you have a hand in penning the screenplay?
No, I was hoping that he would ask. But actually the screenplay is actually better than I would do (laughs). He was wise not ask me.
- Josh Lucas and Rachel Taylor are just two of the actors on the cast list so what do you think of their central performances as they bring your story to life?
Well Josh has an amazing charisma and charm and you will notice when you watch the movie he does have a very good relationship with the dog. He loved the dog so much that he wanted to take him home after the film but by then it was Nelson’s dog and he didn’t want to let it go.
I didn’t get to know Rachel very fell but she was thrown into it as she had to do all the romantic scenes with Josh just a day or two after meeting him; she barely knew him. But they obviously gelled as well. I think when the actors, whether it be a dog or a human, get on well it makes a huge difference.
- So how does the movie compare and contrast to the novel?
All of the stories in the film except one are from the novel so that has not changed very much.
But in the novel the focus is almost entirely on the character of the dog but in the film a good half of the focus is on the characters of the people, that is the major difference. The book was really about a dog where as the film is about a dog and the humans.
- You obviously got to know some of the cast quite well so were you on set?
I was on set for about a week, they even gave me a little cameo towards the end of the film; so I am a fat miner covered in dirt (laughs).
- Did you enjoy your time on set?
Oh I loved it yes. Filming can be very boring because they do the same things over and over again and you can’t really tell what is different between the takes.
So I divided my time between local tourism and being on set, I had a very lovely time.
- And what do you think of the finished movie now that you have seen it?
I think it is brilliant and I think that it deserves to be a really big success: everything depends on the distributors really.
It is such a loveable film and it has so much charm, it drags you from tears to laughter and back again. I think it’s a lovely film and I am very proud of it even though I didn’t make it/
- And how have you personally found the response to the film?
People have told me that they love the movie and that it made them both cry and laugh - which is just about right. I was afraid that some people would find it too sentiment but, so far, no one has said that.
- Now that you have had a taste of the big screen is penning an original screenplay something that would interest you?
Well I have done it twice already. I have got a film script that I wrote some time ago but it has never been used because I don’t know who to send it to.
And I have written the script for my next big novel, I did that after Captain Corelli, I have done to versions of that script for some producers in Turkey.
- So how does penning a screenplay compare to penning a novel?
A novel tends to rely on words a lot but when you are writing a script you have to conscientiously remember that it is largely about images, you want to show things rather than say things in a film. And that is something that you have to bear in mind all the time.
- Notwithstanding: Stories from an English Village was the last novel that you published so is there something in the pipeline?
I am working on two novels at the moment; one is quite small while the other will probably be my last epic. I am working on an opera and I book of poetry ready to go as well.
- So how did you get into writing - it is the career that you have always wanted?
It is a bit like someone who from birth knows that they want to be a doctor or a soldier, I just knew that I was going to be a writer; I didn’t have a choice.
- They say that there is a novel in everyone so for any budding writers out there what advice would you give?
The traditional saying is ‘write what you know’ and I think that is totally wrong because you just end up writing bad autobiographies. My tip is to find a really interesting story from absolutely anywhere and then just put in the work.
Any number of people want to be writers but they just don’t want to do any writing, you have to actually enjoy the work and do it.
- You have touched on this already but what’s coming up you in the rest of 2012?
That is a very good question. Well I want to get the book of poetry out and I want to become even better on the classical guitar than I already am.
I think this year what I really want to do is bring out that book of poetry because I have been writing poetry since I was twelve and I have never had much of it published - and it is really about time that I did.
Red Dog is released 24th February
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw