Marley & Me author John Grogan talks about the hit film based on his bookand the newest addition to his family, Woodson the dog.

By Thailan Pham
Updated January 12, 2009 12:45 PM
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Author John Grogan, the “me” of Marley & Me, talks about what it’s like to have Owen Wilson play him in the hit movie and the small memento he brought home from the movie set (Hint: It’s snow white and looks a lot like a dog named Marley!)

Q: What did you think of the casting of Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, as you and your wife Jenny?

A: I had him typecast in my mind as doing funny guy movies. But as soon as I saw him acting as me, I was like, ‘That’s brilliant. He’s exactly right. This movie shows a more sensitive vulnerable side of him…. He’s funny but there’s a quieter side. You can imagine Jenny [my wife] wasn’t too disappointed to be portrayed by [Jennifer Aniston] one of the planet’s most
beautiful women. She captured the spirit of my wife’s personality.

Q: What was it like visiting the set?

A: There were many funny unscripted moments regarding the dogs, even though they were professionally trained. They were selected to be like Marley was, which was very high energy and difficult to control. They were spirited and crazy. Even with pro trainers there were some that ruined scenes.

Q: Tell us about your dog Gracie and your newest addition, Woodson.

A: I call Gracie (above, right) the anti-Marley because she’s totally opposite from his personality, quite well-behaved. Calm, sedate, she’s just a little boring. I joke that I’m never going to write a book about her because she doesn’t do anything. Bad dogs make for more interesting stories. She’s quiet and sensitive, almost standoffish. Woodson (above, left) was one of the puppies in the movie. I was going gaga over them, and the producer gave him to us. He has snow-white fur. He also has severe hip dysplasia.

Q: How did you discover that?

A: We noticed he had trouble going up the stairs, if he’d been sent back to the breeder he would have been put to sleep. I think he found the right family. He gives a lot back. Woodson has Marley’s sense of mischief. Chews the eyeglasses and remote, but he’s a lot calmer than Marley was.

Q: How were the Marley dogs when it came to portraying your old friend?

A: I think there were 20-something dogs. Clyde was the main dog who played the scenes as a young adult. Clyde is definitely a crazy wild dog, my response is that he looks just like Marley but he’s three notches shy of the real Marley’s craziness. He comes close.

Q: Do you think the movie as a whole got it right?

A: I do. It’s not exactly [the] scene from my book or my life for that matter, but it captures the essence of our story and I think it’s well done and beautifully made. It’s funny and touching.

Q: Did you know when you started that Marley & Me would be such a huge hit?

A: When I was writing Marley & Me, I was thinking of it as this small book, this story about my life that would find an audience. And then immediately went on the bestseller list and stayed there. It’s back on as a paperback. It’s a total surprise that it took off like that. Why this book? I think the reason is because it’s not just a dog book. It’s got a dog on the cover, but when people read it, they realize it’s not just a story of a dog, it’s a story of a family and a journey the family is taking with a dog at their side. To grow into the family they will become.

Check out our exclusive gallery of photos from the Marley & Me set!