Interview for THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN with director SIMON CURTIS

Based on the best-selling novel by Garth Stein, THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN is a heartfelt tale narrated by a witty and philosophical dog named Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner). Through his bond with his owner, Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia), an aspiring Formula One race car driver, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition and understands that the techniques needed on the racetrack can also be used to successfully navigate the journey of life. The film follows Denny and the loves of his life – his wife, Eve (Amanda Seyfried), their young daughter Zoe (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), and ultimately, his true best friend, Enzo.

THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN opens in cinemas on Aug 9th

What drew you to make ‘The Art Of Racing In The Rain’?

It was the script that I loved. A script that is about family, about living your best life, about our relationship with our dogs our beloved pets and so much else.

Tell us about assembling your cast for the film?

It’s always a bit of a journey you go on but fortunately, a lot of actors and their agents loved this story as much as I did and I was very fortunate with Milo (Ventimiglia) and Amanda (Seyfried). Fans of theirs from This is Us, Gilmore Girls and in Amanda’s case, Mamma Mia will know they’re both brilliant and they had fantastic chemistry and were very credible as young parents.

How did Kevin Costner get involved with the film?

Kevin had read the book read the script and was the first person we talked to about it and he was Enzo as far as I was concerned.

Did you work with Garth Stein the author on the film?

Yeah, he actually appears in the film briefly behind the scenes in one of the racing pits. He was a great supporter of what we were doing and you know this book is a big hit. 38 languages 6 million copies in the U.S. alone. We needed and wanted to keep him happy and to have his support which I’m very proud that we do.

The film is so emotional. What did you want to capture with this relationship and story?

It is emotional and Kevin voicing Enzo who is looking back on his life is emotional and we wanted to play that journey of a dog navigating his own relationship with a family and sometimes being right at the centre of things, sometimes being excluded. What was great was we’ve all seen a million births, marriages, and deaths in films over the years but our challenge was to tell it from the dog’s point of view. So that was fun and exciting.

What were the challenges you faced portraying the film convincingly from the point of view of Enzo (Kevin Costner)?

That is a strange example in some ways because that involves technology but mostly you put the camera low where the dog would be seeing something and that teaches you a lot about that scene. It was interesting because there have been so many different animals in films recently, the CGI animals and in some ways, this is a hark back to a real dog with real eyes and real emotion and I’m quite proud of that.

What is the process of casting a dog or dogs to embody Enzo in the film?

Well I mean not that many, you hear these stories of 34 pigs being in Babe or whatever but we did have 3 ages of dogs so we had 3 dogs for those ages and principally Parker is the main dog at the heart of the film was with us every day and we all totally fell in love with him.

I have to say Parker is a fantastic actor, I honestly believed at times he was emoting so professionally.

I only say this half-jokingly but Parker is one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with and certainly, he delivered day in day out for every scene.

So what went into casting Enzo?

Well funny enough the biggest choice was what breed do you have? There was more discussion about that then which dog if that makes any sense because in the book Enzo is a mix and you can’t really have a mix if you’re going to have different ages of a dog because it’s very hard to find dogs that look alike at different ages so a pure breed is much easier and we had a brilliant trainer who showed us these dogs and you had to give them enough time to train but I felt very blessed with how it worked out.

When you sat down and watched it yourself fully assembled how did you feel?

Pleased I think. It is after all an emotional journey I mean thank goodness it has this unexpectedly uplifting ending but no man or woman has seen it without shedding at least one tear but there are also some great jokes in there so it’s also great hearing those roars of laughter as well.

What do you hope audiences experience with The Art of Racing in the Rain?

I hope it takes them back to when cinema was that place you went for that big emotional journey. Enzo is trying to live a life like a good human and it’s a life-enhancing film just at the time when the world has gone a bit crazy and I hope people get solace from that as well.

I think the secret source of this film is the voice-over not just because it’s a brilliant voice but just the originality of that voice and sometimes Enzo is very wise about being human and other times he’s hopelessly wrong and I find that interesting the lessons he takes from racing and how racing in the rain is something to learn and how you shouldn’t be afraid of it but owning it and living life in the present. These are lessons from the racing track that we could all use in real life.

Words – Graham Day

THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN opens in cinemas on Aug 9th