Raja Gosnell

The director of this hit Disney film talks about the upcoming DVD.

Raja Gosnell is no stranger to directing dogs on film (Scooby Doo), but for his latest film, he worked with a real live pooch for Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which hits the shelves on DVD and Blu-ray on March 3. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment sent along an interview with the director Gosnell and here's what he had to say about his latest film.

How much was doing this film, in your mind, like doing an animated project?

Raja Gosnell: Not much. I mean, what attracted me to the story was these characters' journeys. I just fell in love with the characters and sort of the journey they went on. It was really a huge opportunity for me to do this sort of big canvas movie in Mexico. And I wanted to show the Mexico that we up here (in the USA) don't get to see that much of, the beautiful beaches, the rainforests, the Sonora desert and this beautiful colonial city of Mexico City.

I found it to be a real beautiful postcard for Mexico. It made me want to go to Mexico.

Raja Gosnell: I hope so. It wasn't, wasn't an accident. We really wanted to show a different side of Mexico than we in the U.S. are used to seeing.

You had to spend how much time just in sound studios, voice over studios with, with all these incredible actors.

Raja Gosnell: The original recording of the script probably didn't take that long and I was really fortunate in that I got the actors together at the same time. So, all of Drew (Barrymore) and Andy (Garcia)'s scenes are actually together so they could play off each other. And, and, you know, I got Drew and George (Lopez) together, etc, et cetera. So, there really is a sense that they're acting. They're, they're going back and forth and they're not just reading lines. Then we whittled the film down and found new places for lines and subsequent sessions as well. So, all in, I'd say there was probably ten days worth of recording for everybody.

What about the casting process? Was there kind of a "Hey, we want you to do this thing and it's Beverly Hills Chihuahua"

Raja Gosnell: (chuckles) My first call was to Drew and I said, "Drew, there's this adorable white Chihuahua." And she said, "I'm in."


Raja Gosnell: Because she's a dog lover. Drew and I worked together in the past. So then the floodgates just opened. I mean the Latin actors really kind of lined up because the script is great. It's very respectful to Latin culture and it's sort of about learning about Latin culture and they just saw the opportunity to be part of something great.

What was that like from sitting in your chair to just kind of look at this list of names?

Raja Gosnell: It was fantastic. It is fantastic. And, and they just brought so much. I mean, George brings George to that character, you know. It's not just a guy reading funny lines. It's like, that is George Lopez and his entire persona goes into that performance. Andy brought so much gravitas and that sort of wounded character who finds redemption. And obviously, Luis is funny and Piolin, who's a radio, a huge radio star, has lent his voice to the movie. So, um, we were just blessed upon blessed.

And on the live action side, this is Manolo (Cardono)'s, am I correct, first real American film that he's involved in?

Raja Gosnell: I believe so. Yeah.

Yeah, and so a fresh face for an American audience.

Raja Gosnell: For an American audience, yeah.

You found a gem there, I think.

Raja Gosnell: I think so. He's obviously an incredibly great-looking guy and he sort of plays the soul of the movie in a way. He's the honest guy. He's the straight shooter and he kind of guides, you know, Piper's character through Mexico and helps her grow up in a way.

Piper (Perabo). Tell me about her.

Raja Gosnell: She was our first call, too. We wanted someone who was kind of mature. We didn't necessarily want to go down the Disney kid route with the character. We wanted someone a little more grown up, but whose character hadn't grown up yet. She just seemed perfect for this role.

And Jamie Lee Curtis is always just like a breath of fresh air.

Raja Gosnell: She's amazing. She absolutely is. I mean, that character could have, on the page, could have gone way over-the-top and crazy loopy, but, uh, Jamie Lee grounded her, made her real, made her charming, and, and I believe it. I mean, there are ladies out there and people out there that dote on their dogs with that much love.

What's the name of the shop right around the corner from here?

Raja Gosnell: Is it, like, a doggie boutique? Yeah. And they're growing out to the suburbs, by the way. There's one opening up, uh, near me. I don't think it's just going to stay isolated in the little pocket of Beverly Hills and New York. I think that dog couture is going to grow out.

And you got some great shots just right around the hotel, right around Beverly Hills.

Raja Gosnell: Exactly. Yeah, one of my favorite shots is the Lamborghini goes by and we see Jamie Lee and we track her all the way through the spa until the dog, the purse opens up and then revealing the dogs. So, we did get some fun stuff in there.

Just tell me a little bit more about her character, 'cause I think you're right. You really, think the audience really will embrace her character and like her, but she could very easily have been somebody that could have just been such a snob that people would back away from her.

Raja Gosnell: That's Jamie Lee. That's the real Jamie Lee. She just brings so much warmth and sunshine and integrity to what she does. I mean, you just, you believe her because it is her. She's just immensely likeable.

Talk about that whole, you know, PG Disney aspect, um, you know, when you have so much heritage behind it, how, how does that feel to be a director on a project like this?

Raja Gosnell: It was amazing and it was a tremendous responsibility, I felt, because I grew up watching Old Yeller and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. I want this movie to be around in thirty, forty years. It was with the help of Oren Aviv and Louanne Brickhouse, my two immediate executives, we worked really hard to make it a classy movie to not stoop too low in our humor and to have adult themes and themes that will last, enduring type of themes. My hope and wish is that my grandkids are watching it years from now.

Talk to me about things like the cinematography and your approach to that.

Raja Gosnell: The opportunity to make a big canvas movie in Mexico was one of the reasons I took this movie. I just couldn't wait to show a different side of Mexico. The beautiful side of Mexico that American audiences don't see and Phil Meheux was a fantastic cinematographer. You know, he did the last Bond movie and he and I worked together just what the looks would be. We just found amazing locations that had never been shot before and it all goes into the mix.

And you also had a lot of resources to work when it came with the music. I mean, that was top flight and whether it was just soundtrack or score, it was all top-notch.

Raja Gosnell: Heitor Pereira, who's a Brazilian composer heard about the script, came in, met with us, brought his guitar with him, played us some stuff and we all just fell in love with him. He did an amazing job on the movie. You know it's a traditional film score in a lot of ways, but you there's interesting sounds and interesting cultural things. He went down to certain regions of Mexico to get a specific instrument for a specific sound. He just really got into it and really brought so much. The personality, like the Papi theme, for instance, brings to that character or his Chloe theme or his Delgado theme, sort of the weight and gravitas. It just the music in this movie tells the story as much as anything else. And he did a fantastic job.

Look for Raja Gosnell's Beverly Hills Chihuahua on the DVD and Blu-ray shelves on March 3.