By Laura Moss, Mother Nature Network Aleister the shelter dog movie star.
The canine star of a movie about getting a last chance at love is a dog that got a second chance at life when he was rescued from an animal shelter.
Aleister, a 5-year-old terrier mix that was found in a California shelter in 2008, stars alongside Steve Carell and Keira Knightley in "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World." The movie follows Carell's character, Dodge, as he and Penny, played by Knightley, search for his high school sweetheart in the days before Earth is destroyed by an asteroid.
Aleister plays Sorry, a dog Dodge finds attached to his leg after a failed suicide attempt. A note on the terrier's color simply reads "Sorry," and Dodge takes it literally, addressing the dog as Sorry.
"Sorry enters the story right when Dodge has reached his lowest low and given up hope altogether," said writer and director Lorene Scafaria in a press release. "He wakes up that morning and finds he has been given someone else's burden, which becomes a responsibility that gives Dodge's life meaning again.
"When I saw Aleister and his wonderful scrappy snaggletooth and wiry coat, I loved him and felt, 'Here's our hero dog,'" she said.
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But Aleister wasn't the only rescue dog on set.
"When a dog has a movie role as large as the Sorry one, you have to have a couple of different dogs at the ready," said dog trainer Sarah Clifford.
Clifford scouted local animal shelters in search of doubles for Aleister and brought several dogs to the set, including one she named Mulligan, meaning "second chance," who served as Aleister's stunt double.
"Mulligan was rescued from the shelter on the morning he was scheduled to be euthanized," Clifford said. "He learned the ropes, and was doing takes only two weeks after we took him out of the shelter. Mulligan did the scene where Sorry is crawling down the fire escape and anything else that required a lot of action."
In addition to Aleister and Mulligan, two other shelter dogs were also involved in the film.
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"There was another terrier on-set, a fourth Sorry," said Scafaria. "They just make the set better. Or maybe I'm a crazy-dog-lady-in-the-making."
Aleister won the hearts of his co-stars early on, and he was particularly fond of Knightley, according to Clifford. When they met, "he went up to her and nestled on her dress," she said.
But it was the dog's on-screen interaction with Steve Carell that was most important to the movie.
"We would take a little bit of time every day before we started filming for what we called a bonding session. We'd get Steve and Aleister comfortable together. Steve gave him treats, and kissed and cuddled him. That way, when Aleister worked with Steve on camera, there was already a bond," Clifford said.
Although "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" is Aleister's first major movie role, his previous credits include print and television commercials for Pedigree, Texas Energy and Microsoft. When he isn't on set, the rescue pup spends his days sunning himself and sleeping upside down on the couch at a movie animals' ranch in Castaic, Calif.
"Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" arrives in theaters June 22.
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