Animal Actors

Published Date: November 13th, 2006
Category: General

By Anne Clarke

Remember the cute little doggie in the movie “As Good as it Gets”, or the monkey in the television series, “Friends”? These are some of the most sought after actors there are—animal talent is out there—but much more scarce. After all, at what point in his or her life does a monkey or a cat or a bird or a cute little doggie say “I want to be an actor, mommy. Can you take me to some classes, find me a manager or get me an audition?” Honestly, it is likely the filmmakers who worry most about trained animal talent. But sometimes, the animal role in a film, television series or play can be absolutely vital to the success of it.

For example, in the film “Arachnophobia” there are more spiders than you can count—so how did the directors get spiders trained to move the right way, to come down from the shower curtain into the drain. I assume that in some cases there had to be many takes. The filmmakers also had to choose a type of spider that looked dangerous and scary but that would not actually harm the cast if anything got out of hand. I know that in many scenes when the spiders were supposed to run or move in a certain direction, the filmmakers used hotplates under the sets where the spiders were walking. The spiders would walk away from the hotplates in the direction that the script called for them to go. Animal talent of this sort is not as necessary anymore, at least as far as spiders are concerned. If you might recall, the spiders, and most of the other animals used in the Harry Potter movies are all computer generated.

As far as the cute little doggie with the cute little face in “As Good as it Gets” goes—that precious little guy should have gotten an award as best supporting actor! He had been trained to walk over cracks in the sidewalk, to look as if he were about to cry, and became one of the most pivotal and dimensional characters in the whole movie. This puppy was able to convey human emotion to the point where the audience got choked up over it.

I am sure there are schools to train for animal talent in such detail that these types of four-legged stars are possible. And I’m sure that there are some pet owners who envision their own pets on the silver screen one day. However, I would venture to guess that the ratio of animal talent versus the human talent out there is little (in animals) to too much (in humans). For human actors the casting directors question is—who will be best for the part. Far animal talent, the question that casting directors will be asking is—is there an animal out there that can do what we need it to do? The answer is not always yes—and animals like the dog in “As Good as it Gets” can’t be computer generated. They need to be genuine and interactive. Plainly put a good animal actor is quite hard to find.

Anne Clarke writes numerous articles for websites on gardening, parenting, fashion, and home decor. Her background includes teaching and gardening. For more of her articles on fur boots and fashion please visit Acting Talent.Article Source:

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