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Red Dog vies with a planet of apes

The film Red Dog based on the Louis de Bernieres novel was launched at the Dendy complete with the author of the book and the canine star, Koko. The cinema was packed and there was a lot of appreciation for a uniquely Australian film. It opens this week against Planet of the Apes and Red Dog producer Nelson Woss says it’s crucial for Australian audiences to support their movies to keep them on their screens. It’s a very funny film with a great soundtrack.
Go see it this weekend, or very soon.
Louis de Bernieres has an idea of a world when he starts a novel but never ends up with a book he intended to write. For one thing, the characters don’t do what they are told, he told a packed Macquarie Marquee at Byron Bay Writers’ Festival in a one-to-one with festival director Candida Baker. Well, it started as a one-to-one.

Koko joins the fun on centre stage – photo supplied

Then Koko, the dog appeared on stage. Koko is the star of Red Dog, the film based on de Berniere’s novel that opens this weekend. Koko was one of five dogs that played Red Dog. Coco was in 95 per cent of the scenes. He was trained by Luke Hura who talks to dogs and who sometimes negotiated between Koko and the director over artistic differences (irony alert). There was a standby dog, and one dog that did nothing, but was just a good guy mascot according to Nelson Woss, the film’s producer, and then there was Stuffy, a stuffed dog that was used to set the scene up.

But Koko didn’t entirely steal the stage. How could he when Louis has such dry humour about his work, and everything really?

Louis studied philosophy at university where he learned that there are an infinite number of possible worlds.
“When writing you start with a possible world and make it into a probable world and I don’t quite how I do it.”
He does an enormous amount of traveling and research for his books, wherever in the world he needs to go. That invisible background gives you the confidence to write, says Louis.

Despite his imagine he is by nature of work he is a realist. When he reads novels with a happy ending he always thinks uh oh. Especially when marriages are described as a happy ending. “Because marriage is a happy beginning,” says de Bernieres.
“Thomas Hardy wrote about ordinary people and he never had happy endings and I quite enjoy his miserable ones.”

Louis is a passionate advocate for the rights of fathers after the laws in the UK meant that he would only see his children every fortnight for 36 hours. He is the patron of Families Need Fathers. “No one should pay to get your children for an equal amount of time.”
Music keeps him sane, says Louis. “Playing musing is one of the things that keeps me from going mad.” Like writing it’s a form of psychotherapy where you enter a state of egoless-ness.
Louis came to be in Karatha and find the story of Red Dog when he was invited to the region’s first literary festival. It was the second of his films that have been made of two of de Berniere’s films. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was a massive logistical operation. Red Dog was a much more personal affair.

Marian Edmunds


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