Universal's upcoming movie A Dog's Purpose is the subject of a lot of controversy right now and has turned what looked like it was going to be a sweet escape for moviegoers into something very distressing. Recently, a video surfaced showing a German Shepherd on the set of the movie being forced to perform in artificial rapids. This has caused a ton of backlash from the public and even from some who worked on the movie. That has led Universal and Amblin to cancel the premiere, which was scheduled for this weekend in Los Angeles.
The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that the screening for A Dog's Purpose has been canceled, which doesn't bode well for the movie ahead of the release. PETA has also called for a boycott of the movie and has gathered a lot of online support from very upset people who have seen the video, which appears to show very blatant animal abuse on set. Here is what Universal and Amblin had to say in a statement about the canceled screening.
"Because Amblin's review into the edited video released yesterday is still ongoing, distributor Universal Pictures has decided it is in the best interest of A Dog's Purpose to cancel this weekend's premiere and press junket. Amblin and Universal do not want anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between humans and animals. Since the emergence of the footage, Amblin has engaged with many associated with the production of the film, including safety personnel, trainers and stunt coordinators as part of their in-depth review. While we are all disheartened by the appearance of an animal in distress, everyone has assured us that Hercules the German Shepherd was not harmed throughout the filmmaking."
One of the biggest issues from Universal and Amblin's perspective is that not only is the public against the movie at this point, but people who worked on the movie are speaking out now that the video has surfaced. Josh Gad, who is providing the voice for the dog in A Dog's Purpose, has taken the news particularly hard and released a statement online after the video surfaced. Here is what he had to say.
"A few months ago, I was approached to lend my voice to the film "A Dog's Purpose." As I sat in a dark screening room, I was beyond touched and moved by what I saw...a movie that captures the beauty and pain of loving a pet. I signed on to a film that truly stands out as one of the most beautiful love letters to animals I have ever seen. Today, however, I saw a disturbing video that appears to show a scared German Shepard being forced to perform a stunt on the set of this film. While I do not know all of the details and cannot speak to the level of care and caution that went into this moment (as I was never on set for the making of this film), I am shaken and sad to see any animal put in a situation against its will. As the proud owner of a rescued dog and a fervent supporter of organizations like PETA, I have reached out to the production team and studio to ask for an explanation for these disturbing images."
The American Humane Association, which is responsible for the safety of animals on film and TV sets, has suspended the animal safety person who worked on A Dog's Purpose and has launched an independent investigation into the incident. The movie's director Lasse Hallstrom also took to Twitter to voice his concerns over the video, but he has been taking some heat following a report from TMZ that claimed he was on set during the events that were depicted in the video, even though he claims that he didn't witness them. Here is what he had to say.
"I am very disturbed by the video released today from the set of my film A dog's purpose. I did not witness these actions. We were all committed to providing a loving and safe environment for all the animals in the film. I have been promised that a thorough investigation into this situation is underway and that any wrongdoing will be reported and punished. I have been a lifelong animal lover and A Dog's Purpose is my third film about dogs. The animals' safety was of utmost priority. For both myself and everyone on the set. I have been a lifelong animal lover and A Dog's Purpose is my third film about dogs. We were all committed to providing a loving, respectful and safe environment for all the animals in the film."
There is no telling what this canceled premiere means for the movie going forward, but it seems like it will certainly have a negative effect on A Dog's Purpose at the box office. For what it's worth, star Pooch Hall took to his Twitter and said that the dogs were treated "like kings" on set, so this very well could have been an isolated incident. A Dog's Purpose is set for release on January 27. You can check out Josh Gad, Lasse Hallstrom and Pooch Hall's tweets for yourself below.