Boone Narr’s experience mirrors that of Zac Efron’s character, U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault in The Lucky One (opens April 20, 2012). The movie begins with Logan returning home from war. Boone himself did three tours to Vietnam. When he came back he didn’t know what he wanted to do but needed to get on with his life. When a friend told Boone about a job working with animals, he went. “I worked my way up from taking care of animals from one end to the other,” joked Boone. Boone lives with his family and two pets plus the 40 dogs and 30 cats that live on his ranch—and each one is trained for the movie biz.
The Lucky One included many canine cast members. Writer Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook) based Zeus (played by Boone’s dog, Rowdy) on his own German Shepherd, Rex, one of five dogs Sparks calls his “co-workers.”
Did Zac Efron and Rowdy hit it off on set?
Boone Narr: Yes, Zac came out many weekends to spend time with Rowdy and hung out with the dog as often as he could—even during hair and makeup.
In the movie Logan says, “I just like dogs. More than people sometimes.” Is that how you feel?
Narr: Oh yes. Dogs are what they are. They’re not deceitful and they’re always so happy to see me.
Can you tell me about the movie’s Black Lab, who played Dexter, the bomb-sniffing dog?
Narr: I adopted him from East LA shelters three weeks before the movie. We had to find a Black Lab quick. When I saw Dexter I knew I’d found the dog. He clearly had drive yet showed no aggression towards people. He’s worked out great. Black dogs are hardly ever used on screen because they’re hard to light but Dexter has the right look. You can see him in a new Purina Beneful dog food commercial.
Have you found other animals in shelters?
Narr: Yes, lots of them. Dog often end up in shelters because they misbehave. They’re too much of a dog. Those are the ones I want. Dogs with energy need a job. I can take a hyper dog and make him calm but I can’t do the opposite. Can’t take a calm dog and make him excited.
Is your training similar to Caesar Milan’s?
Narr: Caesar takes dogs that are really tough and would otherwise be euthanized, so he does great things by being the alpha male. I can’t have those kinds of dogs in the movie business. Our dogs have to perform when they are very far away from me. They have to look like they belong to the actors in the movie. It’s like playing a trick.
Have you ever been wrong about a dog?
Narr: Sure, it’s like falling in love with a person. Something inside you chooses, but you can be wrong.
Have you ever been bitten?
Narr: Oh yeah, all animals bite. Even a nice little doggie can bite you. Some dogs are less prone to it but all are capable.
Have you worked with exotic animals?
Narr: Yes, they’re very powerful. A little spat between tigers is one thing but if they have a spat with you, you better be careful. You learn how to avoid those situations. You have to know when to back off. A trainer must set boundaries during training. You want to respect each other. I want to be happy when I go to work and I want my animals to be happy. I don’t work much with exotic animals anymore—lions, tigers, leopards, bears. That end of the business is dying off. People don’t want to see animals in movies as much anymore.
Have you worked with elephants?
Narr: Many times. They are as intelligent as chimps and the bond you find with them is unlike most animals.
What do you think of the American Humane Society?
Narr: They’re great. I help coordinate and write some of their rules and regulations. People are so critical. Every humane association gets criticized. It’s like with people’s kids. Everybody thinks they know what’s best but the AHS is very humane.
Any fun stories?
Narr: During The Lucky One we were shooting and shooting one day, way past our lunch hour. I’d turned my back and Rowdy took off. We found him at the service table eating a sandwich [Laughs]. You know, there’s a saying attributed to W. C. Fields, “Don’t work with kids and animals.” People think that’s because they’re too hard to work with but it’s not that—they’re scene-stealers. Kids and animals hog the limelight away from the main actors because people love them.