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Gone to the Dogs

  • Ruth Moon Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2009 13 Jan
Gone to the Dogs

Jake T. Austin, a 14-year-old star of the Disney TV show Wizards of Waverly Place, is making his foray to the big screen with Hotel for Dogs (DreamWorks), opening in theaters this week.

In the film, Austin plays Bruce, a foster child passed from home to home with his sister, Andi (Emma Roberts), under the watchful eye of their child welfare officer, Bernie (Don Cheadle). Unhappy and stuck in a foster home which may be their last chance to live together, Bruce and Andi are inspired by their dog, Friday, and an abandoned hotel to start a home for stray dogs who would otherwise be euthanized at the pound.

Austin lives with his family and two miniature poodles, Bogey and Bijou, in New York and Los Angeles, where Wizards is filmed. CT Movies recently spoke with him about his new movie … and all those canine co-stars.

What was it like to act with all those dogs?

Jake T. Austin: There were a lot of them. It was overwhelming at times but for the most part it was a lot of fun because I'm a big dog lover.

What drew you to this character?

Austin: I thought the movie was an interesting story and I thought it would be a lot of fun. Bruce is really unlike me in a lot of ways, and I thought it would be very challenging and interesting to play a character like him.

What are some differences between you and Bruce?

Austin: Bruce was a foster child, and he's really timid and shy, and really soft-spoken. I'm really confident and outgoing and if I have something to say I pretty much say it. Bruce is also in his own little world, and he's very interested in technology and machinery. I'm not too good with technology, but I think we're both very inventive, just in different ways. I like to write short stories, and Bruce is kind of a mechanical genius.

How do you act a character who's so unlike you?

Austin: Unlike most actors my age who are homeschooled, I go to public school, so I see a bunch of different personalities. I get to see characters like Bruce and Andi and like basically everybody in the movie every day, because I go to school. So I think it was really easy for me just to pinpoint these characteristics.

Did you learn anything from playing a foster child?

Austin: I learned that it's really sad and something that's neglected a lot by the public eye, and it's definitely something that no kid deserves to go through. Even making a movie, just seeing and living through the eyes of Bruce, it was hard. It's not a good situation.

In the movie, you're on the run from the police and animal collection agencies. What do you think about that "on the run from authority" aspect of the movie?

Austin: In most cases it wouldn't be a good thing, but in Hotel for Dogs I think it's for the better. The film portrays the dogcatchers as villains, and Bruce and Andi and the rest of the gang are heroes. I think we're running from the authorities for the better of the dogs and ourselves, and if we get caught, our family will get split up. That's the reason we're running away, and I think it's for a good cause.

How are the dogs like Bruce and Andi in the movie?

Austin: The dogs symbolize in a way Bruce and Andi's situation, where the dogs are abandoned by their families and they're left on their own. Bruce and Andi have the same situation, but everybody seems to come together and click when the hotel starts running. And I think the dogs play an important part because they symbolize true family.

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