Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

'The Art of Racing in the Rain': A family tale to appeal to everyone and their dog

'This is Us' star Milo Ventimiglia tells us why he thinks his latest film will be a hit

Milo Ventimiglia says he worked hard to bond with his canine co-stars, played by two dogs. 20th Century Fox
Milo Ventimiglia says he worked hard to bond with his canine co-stars, played by two dogs. 20th Century Fox

There’s a well-known showbiz maxim that you should never work with children or animals. In The Art of Racing in the Rain, Milo Ventimiglia, star of Gilmore Girls and This is Us, breaks this cardinal rule as racing driver, father and dog owner Denny Swift.

The drama, based on Garth Stein’s 2008 novel of the same name, is told through the eyes of Denny’s canine companion Enzo, voiced by Kevin Costner. Enzo sees Denny fall in love, get married, have a daughter and, of course, race cars.

L-R: Amanda Seyfried, "Enzo" and Milo Ventimiglia in Twentieth Century Fox’s, THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN. Doane Gregory / 20th Century Fox
Amanda Seyfried, 'Enzo' and Milo Ventimiglia in Twentieth Century Fox’s, 'The Art of Racing in the Rain'. 20th Century Fox

Ventimiglia doesn’t seem to have suffered too much from breaking the animal rule, and insists that the strength of the tale made it a chance worth taking. “I was excited that this great story was being turned into a feature film,” he says. “It’s an emotional and uplifting film that shows life through the wise and humorous perspective of Enzo.

“Having Enzo as the storyteller is really interesting because we, as the human characters, don’t know what’s going on in his head, so we’re not hearing anything he ‘says’. We’re just living our lives and experiencing what we are going through. For the audience to have this journeyman taking them through the story is exciting.”

Ventimiglia admits he is not a dog owner himself, although he does love animals, and it sounds as though he took the time to really get to know his co-star, played by two different canines, Parker and Butler. “It was important for me to bond with the dogs,” he says. “When we’re acting, Parker and Butler are my scene partners. I look at them and I think, ‘I need to experience this bond and camaraderie with these dogs as I would as a dog owner’. I’m not hearing the narration at all, but I know our script supervisor is timing everything. Enzo is [Denny’s] best friend, who is always there with him. He even has a line where he says, ‘You and me, Enzo. It’s always you and me’. And that tracks through the entire story.”

Parker, Butler. Eric Charbonneau / 20th Century Fox
The two dogs that play Enzo the film, Parker and Butler. 20th Century Fox

But Enzo is not the only companion in Denny’s life. There’s also the small matter of his wife, Eve, played by Mamma Mia’s Amanda Seyfried, and his daughter, Zoe, played as a child by Ryan Kiera Armstrong and as a teenager by Lily Dodsworth-­Evans.

Ventimiglia says the film’s family theme was a big draw, though the chance to drive fast cars excited him, too. “I liked that the story is for families and Denny is a family man. Like This Is Us, it will appeal to an audience that wants to experience emotion. It’s also relatable,” he says. “At the same time, it has this fun element of racing, so for me it checked all the boxes in terms of the kind of films I like.”

Kevin Costner, Butler, Amanda Seyfried, Milo Ventimiglia, Parker, Patrick Dempsey, Producer. Eric Charbonneau / 20th Century Fox
The cast, from left, Kevin Costner, Butler, Amanda Seyfried, Milo Ventimiglia, Parker, producer Patrick Dempsey. 20th Century Fox

The actor clearly had fun with his cars, though he sounds perhaps a little disappointed that he had to let stunt drivers step in for some of the riskier shots. “It’s been incredible to embrace that world of racing because I knew little about it and now I have such great appreciation for what the racers go through,” he explains. “I’ve been able to sit in some cars, get in some gear, do a little bit of work, and there are also moments while we’re filming when I can’t do too much. I’ve taken 23 years to train as an actor, but I can’t just become a professional race car driver.”

Denny seems to have it all – fancy cars, a dedicated canine buddy and a beautiful, loving wife – and Ventimiglia was clearly impressed by Seyfried, too. “She’s one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with. She’s fun, she’s funny, she’s beautiful and she’s unique in her outlook,” he says. “Everything is real for her. The moments on screen are real for her. That is very much how I work, too, and I feel that Denny and Eve come alive through us. So when we’re on set and we’re playing this deep love story, there is a lot of love between the two of us.”

The movie sounds like it has the family-­drama-loving dog owner market tied up already, but I want to ask Ventimiglia how he would sell the film to potential ticket buyers outside this demographic. “There’s heart, there’s laughter and there are tears,” he says. “It’s about the warmth you get from human interaction. This is a great story about a man, his family and his relationship with his dog – and it’s different because it is all told through the dog’s eyes.”

The Art of Racing in the Rain is now in cinemas across the UAE

Updated: August 7, 2019 07:32 PM

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