After starring in the sunny, cheese-tastic Into The Blue, Paul Walker takes a turn for the colder this month as he stars in doggy drama Eight Below, as the trainer of eight huskies left alone in Antarctica to weather the long, cold winter there. When he (and his huskies) came to London recently to introduce the film, we took the opportunity to corner him and ask him a few questions. Read on to find out why he “thinks like a dog”, why he wanted to make a film his daughter could see, and what he’s up to next…
This is a real change from your last film, the very gritty Running Scared. Was it fun to make something that your daughter could go and see?
Yeah, that was probably the biggest part. That was really the only reason why I read it. I heard about it and I’d already seen Snow Dogs – that movie Cuba Gooding Jr made - and that’s what I thought of, first off, when they told me what the premise was. It was a legitimate offer from a big studio, so I’ll always read those, even though I don’t really form my opinion on it.
My mother had just seen the trailer for Running Scared, and she said, “You know, it’d be cool if an opportunity comes for you to make a movie that your daughter and your nieces and nephews and everyone could see.” She was really elbowing me. Then two weeks to the day I read this Disney project. I wasn’t expecting to like it. I got through it quick, and I laughed and I cried, and at the end of it I felt pretty good about things and I was like, “Maybe this isn’t necessarily a movie I’d run out to go see, but there’s definitely a place for it, and if we could make it like it is on paper, it would probably be all right.”
What did you think about being essentially shown up by a pack of dogs?
It makes it easier in some ways. Everyone asks me that. Here I am wandering around and doing press, and the only reason I’m here is because they can’t interview the dog! It’s cool; I haven’t done this in a while, it’s good to get out there and become familiar with a lot of these people and the different territories. I think it’s really all about the dogs.
Did you ever go and see bits of it being filmed, when it didn’t involve you?
Yeah, I was there almost every day. There wasn’t a lot to do up there so I’d snowboard a little here and go snowmobiling a little there, but the production companies were all freaking out, because they were afraid I was going to injure myself and wouldn’t be able to finish the movie, so I kept that to a minimum.
Did your dog ever have encounters with the huskies?
It’s funny; being that I came up around animals, I think I think like a dog. After being around them for so long, you understand dog politics and how they work, so I knew the personalities. You can read in dogs who is aggressive and who isn’t. None of these dogs have been fixed, because they work harder when they’ve got more testosterone in them, they just have more drive, and it makes for a better working dog.There are certain ones that are a little more passive, maybe submissive. Some are problematic.
How did your dog fit in?
He’s pretty friendly; he’s socialised a lot from the time he was a pup so he gets along with everyone. A little dog can just rip into him and he’ll just dismiss it, it’s comical to him, but the second a big dog calls him on, it’s guaranteed. Some of these dogs are pretty big, especially the malamutes. So I just kept them apart, took them away from one another.
What’s it like filming somewhere that cold? It was up in the wastelands of Canada, wasn’t it?
I wouldn’t say wastelands; it’s like back country. It’s beautiful, it’s far from waste. But it’s awesome. The only noise you hear is the occasional logging truck, or maybe in the distance you’ll hear the mill. There are bobcat and lynx and moose. That’s what I saw every day on the way to work. It’s like Animal Planet on the way in. There are pretty cool sites to take in. They have the occasional roving moose in town, and an encounter with a tourist or someone in the film crew who got a little too close, because they can be aggressive.
It was bitchin’ up there. Really pretty. Canadians are cool, too, they’re just fun people up there. A lot of trackers and hunters – outdoors men.
Have you started filming Papa yet?
No, I don’t know if that’s gonna happen or not. We had it up and ready, but it’s complicated getting a movie going so I have my fingers crossed.
What have you got lined up next?
I’m taking some time off. I have that project I did with Clint Eastwood [Flags of our Fathers], that’ll come out in the fall.