If you follow Hollywood news at all then you’ll no doubt heard about Robert Pattinson’s new movie ‘Cosmo’. The movie is based on the bestselling novel by Lauren Cleere and follows the adventures of a young man named Don Juan who falls in love with a woman named Cosmo. The twist? She’s a dog.
While Cosmo is seen as a dog in the story, she’s portrayed by actor Rosie Day in the movie – which is a first for me in that case. As you’ll see from the image below, Day is an accomplished dog lover and always gives great advice on animal welfare issues. So it was a no-brainer for me to ask her how she achieved such a convincing impersonation of a dog.
Before I could pose the question, Rosie told me that she’d done a lot of research into the anatomy of a dog. She explained that a dog possesses a particularly deep inner voice that she was able to emulate with her voice coach. She added that she had also spent a lot of time with Toby, her cocker spaniel who passed away last year. She described him as a great teacher and someone who opened her heart to canines. Finally, she referred me to the brilliant Victoria Stilwell whose book “Dogs: The Science of Feeling Loved”. Rosie’s advice, which I’ve since acted on, was to “just listen to what [the dog] has to say”.
As I mentioned earlier, I’d never acted in front of a dog before so I was unsure of how to prepare for the role. Luckily, Rosie was more than happy to help. She told me that the most important thing to do was to listen to what my dog has to say and that the best way to get into character was to immerse myself in everything relating to dogs. She recommended that I read Toby’s complete autobiography (which was great if only because it meant I could understand what he was saying even when he wasn’t talking directly to me) and followed this up with Stilwell’s classic “Dogs: The New Psychology of Understanding”. Finally, she told me to spend time with Toby and take my time in portraying him. I’ve since done just that. In the movie, I play tennis with Toby who’s sitting in the middle of the court – though I have to say that I didn’t feel the need to “warm up” before playing with him. It was more like I was playing with a friend rather than an acting challenge!
It’s a funny thing about acting. Sometimes you think you’re getting one thing and then you end up with something completely different. In this case, it was the inner monologue that I didn’t see coming. As soon as I started listening to Toby, I actually started to believe that I was listening to a dog’s thoughts – which was something that hadn’t even occurred to me. However, once I got into the habit of hearing what the dog had to say, I actually began to like it. It gave me a sense of direction and purpose when playing the part. Plus, I could actually relate to some of Toby’s behaviors and feelings, which made it easier to portray him. Ultimately, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you’re playing a character and never actually act like yourself. Unless you’re completely comfortable with that, then don’t bother trying to put on a show. It will just end up looking weird!
Though it’s been several years since I’ve played basketball (and even longer since I’ve been to a gym), I still hear from former teammates and friends about how much they enjoyed watching me play. One of the most memorable compliments was when a former college coach said: “You know, Richard, I just saw you play basketball last night and you’re definitely a different breed. You play bigger than you are. You play with an incredible amount of strength and power, yet you have this air about you that makes me think you don’t even need to use your size to win.” That’s a compliment my wife and I will cherish forever.