Here is the transcription of the interview below:
Can you share a little bit about finding, casting and training the two dogs who played Hagen?
To cast the right dog to play Hagen, I literally researched hundreds of dogs that were available to be adopted. I started locally in California and branched further West, as Kornél had not yet seen “Hagen” in my pictures. It was important to not only find that unique dog that would stand out in a pack of 200 dogs but also a dog that had a photo double. The amount of work that the dog had to do in this film would have been nearly impossible without the help of a double. After 2 months of searching I finally found “Luke” and “Body,” 2 brothers that were in need of a new home. They were very young – 9 months old- and had a lot of energy and playfulness which was essential to accomplish this project. We began training in December of 2012 and in February 2013 traveled to Budapest to begin working with the pack dogs, trained by Arpad Halasz. The “Hagen” dogs were 13 months old when we started filming.
How long have you been an animal trainer? Can you talk about the safety precautions and shooting techniques used to simulate all scenes of violence to, or by, the dogs?
I have been training animals for the film industry since 1983. I worked very closely and learned most of my trade by working with my father, Karl Lewis Miller, for more than 20 years. He is responsible for many successful animal films such as BABE, BEETHOVEN, K-9 and the infamous dog CUJO and the white shepherd from Samuel Fuller’s film WHITE DOG, to name a few. He was a master at training acting dogs, not just dogs that performed.
While preparing the dogs for the film WHITE GOD, many training techniques were used to safely portray the level of violence that is depicted in the film. At no time was any animal treated badly or hurt in any manner. For example: The “Hagen” dogs were always wagging their tail and they looked too sweet, so I taught them to put their tail down. I also taught them to hang their head down to look sad or mean. We used an artificial dog for the scenes of medical and dental work. I also taught him to snarl and growl at me — not because he was angry, but because I asked him to respond to me that way.
As a trainer, what’s it like to work on an epic scene like when the mobs of dogs roam the streets in a huge pack?
It was definitely impressive to see that many dogs were running together in a pack. Never before has such a scene been filmed without special effects or CGI. Arpad Halasz and his trainers with the production crew — everyone from the actors, director, producers, camera dept, sound dept. and especially the stunt team, who safely coordinated the interaction between the dogs and the people/ vehicles. The time that the production allowed for the animal training proved to bring great results!