THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN
About The Production
Based on Garth Stein's beloved novel, which spent three and a half years on
the bestseller list and has been translated into 38 languages, THE ART OF RACING
IN THE RAIN stars Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried and the voice of Kevin
Costner as Enzo, the philosophical dog, who narrates the tale.
Through his bond with his owner, aspiring Formula One race car driver Denny
Swift, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition and
understands that the techniques needed on the racetrack can also be used to
successfully navigate the journey of life. The film follows Denny and the loves
of his life: his wife, Eve, their young daughter Zoe, and ultimately, his true
best friend, Enzo.
Enzo has seen a documentary about Mongolia, where it's believed that when a
dog finishes living his lifetime as a dog, his next incarnation will be as a
man. Enzo longs to be reincarnated as a human, with opposable thumbs and a
Like the novel, the film is narrated by the wise and philosophical dog, Enzo.
Director Simon Curtis (Goodbye Christopher Robin, My Week with Marilyn) says, "Enzo's
brilliant voiceover is very insightful. Sometimes it's very accurate, sometimes
it's flawed, but that's part of the enjoyment. Sometimes he gets it right,
sometimes he gets it wrong, but he's a very well-meaning dog who wants to learn
in the hope that he can come back as a human in his next life. One of the things
I've most enjoyed about this shoot is that there are scenes in this film that
one has seen hundreds of times - the birth of a child, the leading character
being put into handcuffs, the wedding, and so on - but seeing them from a dog's
point of view makes those scenes very fresh and original."
Perhaps best known for his starring roles on TV's Gray's Anatomy as well as
such films as Enchanted, Made of Honor and Sweet Home Alabama, Patrick Dempsey
is also a producer and an accomplished race car driver. He came across the novel
just before it was published in 2008.
Dempsey had previously worked with Neal H. Moritz, Tania Landau and Original
Film on Made of Honor and Sweet Home Alabama, and they re-teamed to produce. The
project made its way to various studios, and ultimately found its rightful home
at Fox 2000.
Moritz recalls I loved the book from the first time I read it. It combines
three things I love: a great human story, an incredible dog and car racing."
Landau adds, "We all have feelings that our dogs are human and have human
thoughts, but this put it into perspective. The metaphor that the dog has for
being present, and how he relates that to Denny's racing, as well as Denny's
journey, made the whole thing very special."
Landau says Enzo is a very spiritual soul. "He's seen this documentary on
reincarnation and he wants to learn everything he can from Denny and imprint it
on his soul. He wants to remember so when they meet when he's human, and they
shake hands, they're going to share that wisdom. That was the most important
thing that we kept throughout the story. Enzo is always the voice of
spirituality. Humans aren't always aware of it, but it seems like animals might
"Enzo is every dog," says author Garth Stein. "We had different dogs for
different book covers, for the hardcover and paperback. And in its 38 languages,
every language has a different dog on the cover. Every culture has its own
representation of Enzo. In the books, it's a conversation I'm having with the
reader and the reader gets to project his or her own dog onto it." Stein says
that human relationships with dogs are: "All about unconditional love. They
don't ask much from us, we don't ask much from them, except for love. And that's
a really true and wonderful relationship. I think it would be great if we, as
people, could treat each other a lot more like dogs. I mean in a good way. All
love, no judgment. No expectations, except love."
Stein visited the set during production and he and his three sons appear as
extras in one of the racing scenes. He says he had given up expectation of the
film getting made when he got a call, saying it was finally moving full speed
ahead with Fox 2000. "I was like, wow, this is kind of cool! In a sense, there
were two stages of my joy. There was the stage of the build of the book getting
bigger and bigger and bigger - and having an enduring kind of legacy. And now,
there's a new level of excitement - it's going to be a movie, and Kevin Costner
is going to do the voice! I get the tingles just thinking about it. This is
Screenwriter Mark Bomback (The War for the Planet of the Apes, Wolverine)
recalls Neal H. Moritz (The Fast and the Furious franchise) sending him the book
in 2010 and saying, "I know this isn't the kind of thing you usually adapt, but
there's something about this that makes me think you might respond." At the
time, Bomback's family was thinking about getting a dog and he rationalized, "If
I do this film, it will make sense to get the dog. Having a puppy while I was
working on the first draft was a unique experience. It was almost like writing a
film about being a parent for the first time and having a newborn, so I had a
particular relationship with the book for that reason."
Bomback, who had not been much of a dog person before, says, "There is
something about these creatures who live in our homes, who are privy to the most
sacred moments in our lives and have this real unconditional love for the humans
in their lives. There's this presence in the room that loves you more than you
Bomback describes Enzo as a gift. "Oftentimes when you're writing a
screenplay, you have two tools only: dialogue and action, that's it. You wish
you could get into the interior lives of characters in other ways, like
novelists do, but you only have these two things. In this film, we have the
opportunity to enter Enzo's head through voiceover and his narration. It's
probably one of the most critical tools I had in trying to adapt the story. To
me, his voice - and this is directly from the novel - is such a rich one because
he is incredibly emotionally connected to everything, and is constantly trying
to soak up experience as much as he can. But he also has quite a wry sense of
humor, and then he's almost like an alien in some ways, trying to interpret
human behavior and he does this sort of reverse of what we do when we see
animals and anthropomorphize them and give them human attributes. He winds up
thinking of humans in terms of canine attributes. He's a very unique narrator
and I'm not sure I've ever seen one exactly like him."
Bomback explains, "We are not privy to anything that Enzo wouldn't be privy
to. It is at once a challenge, but really a blessing when you're writing a story
like this because it forces you to approach scenes in a very unique way. You
have to maximize moments and really get a lot of information out in terms of
narrative and character development. But it also makes you step back and think
about the stuff you're not seeing."
A FAMILY STORY
The father of two daughters, director Simon Curtis was attracted to the story
of a father and daughter.
"From the second we met Simon, we knew that he was the right director," says
Tania Landau. "He has the right combination of heart and soul for this project.
Based on his body of work, we knew that there was no other person for this
Bomback recalls one of his first conversations with the director. "I knew we
were speaking the same language when Simon said, 'I just want to tell a story
about a father and his daughter and these struggles he's having. All of these
other things that are in it, to me, are gifts around it. But that's the core
story that I'm fascinated with.'"
Says Curtis. "For me, the definition of directing is choosing the best people
on both sides of the camera and then supporting them to do their best possible
work." One of his most satisfying choices for THE ART OF RACING IN THE RACING
was Milo Ventimiglia (This is Us) to portray the lead character of Denny. "It's
really a happy piece of casting," says Curtis. "He's been so passionate about it
and so understands the film. He's been an exemplary and talented leading man."
The actor and director had met previously for another possible project.
Ventimiglia recalls, "We sat down for a few hours and just liked each other very
much. I said to my guys, 'keep an eye on what's he's up to, I really want to
work with him.'
"Simon is such a lovely man," says Ventimiglia. "And he's also, more
importantly, a good father. He confided and said the reason why I'm doing this
is because it's a beautiful story of a father and a daughter."
Ventimiglia says that when people heard he was doing a film with racing in
the title, the first thing they'd ask him if he was going to learn how to race.
"I said, 'I need to learn first to be a father and a dog owner and a great
husband.' Those are the three things that Simon and I connected very much with
on this." There are moments where he and I had such different styles of working,
but what we had built in the conversation we had about this man Denny and his
family and his drive to be a great car racer was trust. In the moments when we
didn't agree on a point in a scene, I would say, Simon, I trust you, let's try
that. Then he'd say to me, I trust your instincts, let's go with that. It wasn't
out of being polite, it was knowing we both had value to what we were saying.
It's hard getting to that level with a director, just saying I trust you and
you're the eyes and you're the one watching this whole thing and editing it in
your mind. I don't think I would have reached where I had to reach had it not
been for Simon."
Ventimiglia recalls how he got the role of Denny. "I had just gotten home
from work on This is Us and my reps called and said, 'you've got to read this
script tonight - it has to happen tonight.' I read it, and at 10 o'clock that
night I sent an email saying, 'I love it! Go after it!' The next day, I had the
job. It kind of went backwards - I read the script first and then went back to
read Garth's novel to know where the script came from."
He explains, "What I loved about Mark's script was this journey this man had.
You understand the focus of a race car driver and the bumps along the road, the
rain that happens and the unexpected events that can take us off course - I saw
that in Denny's life. I really love the journey of where Denny started and where
he ended, and everything we get to experience along the way, with regards to
being a father, a husband, a best friend to Enzo and also being a racecar
Ventimiglia feels that until he meets Eve, "Denny was one-half of an equation
and he didn't even know it. When Eve comes into his life, he's whole. All of a
sudden, he finds his real purpose. He even finds his passion for what he was
already quite passionate about, his racing."
While he went to the track and watched a lot of races, he says, "I exposed
myself to the world of auto racing so I understood it, but mastering it - what
those men and women do in cars is remarkable - it would take me years to do
that. Our production partnered with professional drivers, so they weren't
relying on me to get into a car and at the snap of a finger being a professional
race car driver. Sure, I went to a race, watched everything I could. I did as
much as I could with it and then let the wheels fall off, let the experience
happen. As long as I had the vernacular, selling it with what I needed to was
just pulling out an acting focus and adding a race car focus. I think having a
passion that is also a profession - the two were so similar. I know acting - all
I needed to do was remove the words and add motor racing and I was in it. I
tried to assimilate what I do in the focus of being an actor with the focus and
time it takes to be a great race car driver. I acted off of instinct playing
Denny, as opposed to just pretending to be a race car driver."
While Ventimiglia substituted his passion for acting for Denny's passion for
racing, he also had a very valuable resource in producer Patrick Dempsey: "He's
a great actor. He's a winning race car driver. He's dedicated. To merge these
stories, he was a resource I went to because he thinks like an actor and he also
thinks like a motorcar racer. Here was specificity because I wanted to honor
what a real driver would go through and experience. If I were pretending to be a
race car driver, then I'd be doing a disservice to Denny. Understanding that
world and what I could gain from Patrick, the experience of being a motorcar
racer, and also just being a decent person, there was a lot to learn from both
sides of it. And Patrick knowing the shoes to fill as an actor really helped."
"Milo looks just like a race car driver," says Dempsey. "He's got that
energy. He brings a strong presence."
"A great quality that Milo has is that you believe he could fix a car," adds
Landau. "He was great for that aspect, but he also has a lot of heart, and such
integrity. And that's what this character needed because he's such a thoughtful
Curtis was equally pleased having Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!) portray Denny's
beloved wife Eve. Curtis says, "She's been a joy to work with, she's got such a
natural, vivacious quality and I'm thrilled with her performance."
Seyfried loved working with Curtis. "There's a real innocence to him, an
almost childlike wonder, which is so important in a director. He's not jaded by
anything. Things surprised him every day. He's really pleasant to be around, and
he's funny, too.
Seyfried had read the novel when it was first published. "It was a
heartbreaker," she says. "Anything including a dog can get really emotional
because they're so pure and they're animals and we love them. It's a great story
Seyfried says, "Eve and I are pretty similar: playful, open-minded and pretty
bold in some ways. I think she is a lot more fearless than I am. I love that
about her. Eve is smart and funny and charismatic, but I don't think she's super
adventurous. I think Denny is very shiny and leads an unpredictable life. And I
think that that's really attractive to anybody who just stays in their own
bubble. I think Eve is a nester at heart, and Denny brings this shiny
unpredictability, this adventure to her life that she wasn't necessarily looking
for, but I think it's super appealing."
Seyfried is a bona fide dog lover. "It's their wide-eyed innocence, their
playfulness and curiosity. They just want to love you and be and they live in
the present. We could all learn from that - that's a big giant challenge for us
humans to live in the present. I can't get enough of being around them. Another
reason this movie was so perfect for me is - I was promised a dog in every
scene!" she laughs.
"Milo and Amanda had fantastic chemistry, you really believed them as a
couple," says Landau. "Amanda has this ethereal quality."
"There is something so amazing about Eve's spirit, about what Amanda brings
to Eve in making this perfect match for Denny," says Ventimiglia. "Eve's
character greatly increases the value of Denny's life, what he's living for. And
I can't say enough good things about Amanda. I'd have been lost in Denny without
her. She brings reality. There isn't one moment that I don't believe every
emotion, every intention, everything that she's saying. She has such a heart and
spirit to her own life, the way she approaches being a human being, the beauty
that she brings into the spirit of Eve is remarkable."
"Milo is very earnest and hard-working, determined and passionate," says
Seyfried. "And that's what Denny is. They go together really well. Milo also
infuses a sense of humor to Denny. He's perfect. For someone who doesn't
actually have children in real life, Milo is an amazing dad. I credit This is Us
for surrounding him with kids and giving him a character where he can thrive as
She says working with him was fun. "He's such a great co-star. We tried to
balance out the depth and trauma that our characters go through with a good
sense of humor. We were just happy to be here. It was a dream job, a beautiful,
wonderful journey, and I didn't want it to be over."
Kathy Baker and Martin Donovan play Trish and Maxwell, Eve's well-to-do
parents, whom Enzo calls the "Twins."
Ventimiglia says, "They're great actors, and they make you feel for the
grandparents. They're just trying to do what they believe is right."
Seyfried says, "Maxwell and Trish are very busy, concerned, overbearing
parents. Eve has really good relationships with them, but when another person
comes into her life, their instinct is to protect, which is very harmful to the
dynamic they create with Denny. But because Eve and Denny are so upfront and
honest with each other, they're able to maintain some kind of stability between
the two of them and a united front against Maxwell and Trish. Kathy and Martin
bring such humanity to these roles."
Martin Donovan, who plays Maxwell, says he cried when he first read the
script. "It felt very accessible, a straight-ahead story that was sweet and
obviously would appeal to a family audience, but it didn't pull any punches in
terms of the reality of life and death. Character-driven pieces are rare these
days in studio films, so when you get a character-driven script, it's pretty
exciting to be offered something like this."
He notes, "The way I approach every role is to find the reasons why my
character does what he does. In this case, he's clearly driven by the welfare of
his daughter and granddaughter. He loves Eve - she's everything. One of his
fears is his daughter is going to marry someone who's not going to be
financially secure. And she brings home somebody who's not only not likely to be
financially secure, but he's in a dangerous job on top of it. So, all he's
thinking about is the heartache that lies ahead for her."
Of co-star Baker who plays Maxwell's wife, Trish, Donavan says, "She was a
joy to work with." And Baker concurred: "He just loves to talk! He was so fun to
be with. But he's an amazing actor, there's so much there. It's very deep, very
personal, very focused. He's the kind of actor who shines his light on other
actors. He's an actor's actor."
Baker, who had previously worked with Curtis some 30 years previously in a
play at the Public Theater in New York, describes her character: "Trish was born
into wealth and feels beholden to the fact," says Baker. "She has a daughter and
a granddaughter and feels very blessed by that. I think she and Eve are very
good friends and they can talk. They probably annoy each other, like mothers and
daughters do, but I think they're very close. I don't think she minds Denny, I
think she sees how happy Eve is and sees the way he looks at her. All she cares
about is that Eve is happy."
Of Ryan Kiera Armstrong, who plays seven and nine-year-old Zoe, Curtis says,
"She really was so emotional in that character. She's a remarkable young
"I was blown away by Ryan," says Ventimiglia. "To be eight years old and have
the depth with which she played Zoe, it's bananas. She still has the spirit of
being a kid, but she's very professional. Ryan was as present in Zoe as Amanda
was present in Eve. And Ryan was fun. Her being able to be a kid allowed me to
be a big kid, too. Every time I'd think about Ryan or Amanda, I would just
"Ryan is a very old soul," says Seyfried. "I'm going to miss playing her mom
very much. She is everything I hope my daughter ends up embodying. It's really
special when you can make a family movie like this and you really get along with
these people you're sharing such close quarters with."
To play Don Kitch, Denny's racing instructor based upon author Garth Stein's
real-life instructor with the same name, the filmmakers cast Gary Cole, best
known for his small-screen roles on Veep, Chicago Fire and The Good Fight. Of
Kitch, Cole says, "He's kind of a safety net for Denny, he's got his back. He
calls him a diamond in the rough. He's a teacher of driving with an ability to
identify what it takes to be competitive. I've done some digging into the sport
and it's an unspoken quality and tough to define what makes a great driver. A
lot of it is instinct."
THE CANINE CAST
While Kevin Costner gives voice to Enzo, on-screen Enzo is played by
two-year-old golden retriever Parker, and eight-year-old Butler, who plays him
as an older dog.
The dogs surpassed all expectation. Curtis says he was surprised by how
exceptional they were: "Every time I've worked with animals before, in smaller
parts, it's always been a disaster. I went into this with great trepidation,
because by definition the dog is in every scene in one form or another. We chose
the right dogs and they've been really well-trained. One of the reasons the
schedule has gone so well is the dogs have done so well so all credit to their
We got so lucky with Parker," says Landau. She recalls an early discussion
with animal trainer and coordinator, Teresa Ann Miller. "She said, 'the hardest
thing to train a dog to do is sit still,' and he was brilliant at just sitting
still so we could get the shots for the voiceover where he's just thinking. He
had such depth. He seemed to have this all-knowing presence. I think everybody
on the set fell in love with Parker."
Ventimiglia developed special relationships with the dogs playing Enzo,
especially Parker. "Just because Parker is a dog, doesn't mean that he doesn't
have the deepest, most beautiful soul," he says. "You see it in his eyes." In
his discussions with trainers, he recalls, "The one thing I said was that I
really selfishly need a seeing partner. As an actor, I need to have someone or
an animal that's going to look in my eyes and I have to believe them to feel
something. Parker is so expressive and such a loving animal. There's a lot I got
as Denny from Parker. It was easy. I would lean down before a take and whisper
in his ear and tell him exactly what we were going to do. And then he'd do it
exactly. He's such a deep, bountiful soul and he looks at you with those almost
human eyes of expression."
"It's one of those things that is beautiful to see, the level of emotion that
comes from these animals that are just there to love us. And that's what they're
looking for in return. It's something beautiful that they can convey in a look.
It reminds me sometimes that you don't need the words, there's just the
experience you share, a common moment where you just look in someone's eyes and
you both know exactly what you're feeling. It's an innate spiritual thing."
Teresa Ann Miller, animal coordinator and lead trainer, says, "Parker's an
old soul. Your typical golden retriever is super high energy, they want to play
and swim and do neat retriever things. But that's the eight-year-old. Butler has
no idea he's eight. He's the most energetic, playful, most silly dog ever. And
that fits the golden retriever stereotype. Parker is an old soul who acts like
he's eight. He's much slower, has a calmer demeanor, very regal in how he
handles himself, and he's low energy. But he is so perfect for Enzo. He embodies
the character like nothing I've seen. It's fate that he ended up playing this
role because he's about as close to Enzo's character in the book that we'll ever
find. It was just meant to be."
Ironically, the impeccably-trained canine movie stars Parker and Butler were
both rescue dogs. Their previous owners had found them too challenging to handle
before Miller discovered them.
Miller found Butler in an animal shelter. She says, "He was an unwanted and
probably problematic dog because he is so energetic and active." Parker was
rescued. "He had a horrible skin condition, and I guess the owner couldn't deal
with it anymore. He was missing hair and everything else, and he was adopted and
brought back to health. He got into a little training program, and now has a
successful career." Miller says that she loves having been given "the
opportunity to give both dogs a purpose and a reason to enjoy life in another
atmosphere. They were unwanted, problem pets, but now we've got these two great
dogs who make great companions and are fantastic for the work we do."
A key part of training is getting the dogs used to working with people other
than the trainers. Miller says, "It's very important that they're not only doing
these behaviors and tricks for me. They have to go out there and act like they
belong to other people on set and develop relationships with them." She recalls
Parker's first meeting with Ventimiglia: "Milo is a really welcoming soul, and
animals pick up on that. They can feel when there's not that openness or if
there's something not genuine. Milo was on the floor with him, just having a
ball. He had a great feeling for him, and the dog responded. "
Miller specializes in animals portraying characters and appearing to be
untrained, working in a natural manner. "The biggest accomplishment we had on
this," she says, "is making him look like Denny's dog, and that he loves his
family. We spend time with the animal and find out how best to work with him and
to not distract or take away from the actors' performances with him. It's a
subtle balancing act. The whole movie is told through his eyes, and his voice,
and we had to match it. There's no subtlety in trying to match Kevin Costner!
There's a little bit of a challenge right there. But he brings it, and we had to
have that voice fit the dog's reactions and actions while he's delivering the
Miller worked alongside a team of three other trainers on set: April Morley,
Deborah Dellosso and ChristieMiele.
In addition to Parker and Butler, there were two other golden retrievers on
set, Orbit and Solar. Solar came to be affectionately known as the therapy dog
because he loved to give hugs, wrapping his arms around people and melting into
The trainers also worked with nine-week old-puppies. "They learned how to sit,
how to speak and bark on command," says Miller. "They're like sponges, like
children. They really picked it up in a rather swift time frame." Adorable
nine-week-old Sawyer played Enzo as a puppy.
On set, the safety of the animals was a priority. Miller says, "Besides their
actual safety, it's also the perception of the care and safety of the animal."
During the shoot, a video camera was devoted to following and documenting every
scene the dogs shot, showing exactly how the dogs were handled and how the
trainers got emotions and reactions from them. "It's our number one concern to
make sure he's comfortable," she says. "If it's cold, we have a heated tent for
him. If it's really hot, we have an air-conditioned tent. It's very important,
and very important that everyone knows we are concerned."
A representative from the Animal Protection Agency was on set every day to
ensure the dogs' utmost safety. Miller notes that on this film, "After every
scene, Simon asked me, "how's the dog? Is he okay to do another one?" After
every take. His welfare was the number one concern on set with all departments.
It starts at the top, and everyone made sure things happened in the proper
manner, and the Animal Protection Agency was there to document that everything
was done in a safe manner."
Armstrong admits there were times when she was a little bit worried going
into big scenes with Parker. "But usually, it was really good and Parker is a
really good listening dog. It was really nice to see how a dog acts in a movie!"
She was very impressed by how he hit his marks: "I thought it was really
interesting to see what a dog can do for a movie. He listens very carefully. And
after just a few takes, he remembers where to go. He'd actually go to the same
spot every single time."
Visual effects supervisor Neil Eskuri, who has worked on several dog films,
was amazed by Parker. "It's tough to get animals to do what you want. Generally,
we'll look and say, we're going to have to create a CG mouth, or eye, or head,
which we've done in the past, because the dogs just didn't give the director
what he was looking for. But on this film, Parker has done a smash up job. We
shot some of the shots at 48 (frames per second), so when he closes his eyes, we
can use the 48 to make it slower, but the rest of the film is 24, and worked
really, really well. I'm really impressed by how well he did."
Simon Curtis had previously worked with cinematographer Ross Emery on Woman
in Gold. He says, "Ross was the first person I wanted to join me on this
"Because everything is from the dog's point of view, it wasn't conventional
coverage because the dog wouldn't be seeing it that way," says Landau. "It was a
challenging and fantastic asset. Sometimes it's funny and sometimes it's
heartwarming and sometimes it's very sad because a dog wouldn't really
understand the complications of human beings -- why do they complicate
everything? Why wouldn't it just be simple?"
Emery notes, "The first conversations with Simon are usually pretty
simplified, it's always going to be about story, about character. We worked on
language, and the way we can experience what Enzo is feeling through the visual
medium. A couple of rules we made were: if Enzo doesn't see it, it doesn't
exist, he has to be present to tell the story. We called him the imperfect
narrator, because sometimes he doesn't quite understand the human experience.
He's a highly-evolved dog, but he's still a dog."
Emery notes that a lot of sets were designed and built with sightlines so
that "when you see them from the perspective of a dog, which is about 36 inches
off the ground, it still looks good." Windows were lowered, so the dogs could
see out of them. Emery adds, "It really allowed us to move quickly and not have
any of the problems we would have had it we hadn't paid attention to those
To capture Enzo's point of view, many scenes in the film were shot with what
was affectionately and appropriately called "Enzo-cam." "Enzo-cam makes a
conventional scene interesting and specific and unconventional," says Curtis.
"And that's been a nice thing to do to."
Emery says, "Enzo-cam is a particularly highly-evolved way of shooting an
essentially handheld shot. We went through a few variations in preproduction of
how we would like to see the dog's view. We discussed whether we would affect it
color-wise, or in some sort of optical manner to make it look like a dog's
vision. We looked at some of the scientific literature, and dogs see in a very
restricted color palette. We thought this would be disturbing because we would
like people to connect with Enzo's character on a much more human level. For the
Enzo-cam, we ended up with a particularly simple sort of little rig, but with
some very nice refinements. We always kept his POV within the 25 to
32-millimeter range." He says that for some of the more excited scenes, the
wider 25mm lens was used to create a little distortion. The more somber scenes
used 32mm and sometimes 40mm. The camera was mounted on a handheld rig, set at
the height of Enzo's eyes. "It had a horizon stabilizer on it, so when the dog
looked around, it didn't look like a handheld camera. All these things added up
to a language we thought was appropriate for Enzo."
Production designer Brent Thomas says, "When designing a set, we usually look
at it from camera height, or a person's height. But now, we're looking at it
from a dog's height. So ceilings are a huge part of the piece. But it's not just
about looking up at the ceiling when he's talking to people, but what does it
look like down at his level? Baseboards, heat registers, under the table: all
that kind of stuff that we never see, but dogs do. That was a whole new level of
detail that we had to pay attention to." He quips, "Instead of a walk-through,
we'd do a crawl-through!"
THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN filmed in the late spring and summer of 2018 in
and around Vancouver, Canada.
The story is set in Seattle, but was filmed largely in Vancouver, some 150
miles north. The interior of Denny's home was built on stage at Vancouver Film
Studios, but most of the film shot on location. The exterior of Denny's house
was in Vancouver. The fabulous waterfront home and grounds of Eve's parents'
home was shot at two houses in West Vancouver. Various raceways and Don Kitch's
Racing School were filmed at the Mission Raceway, an hour east of Vancouver. The
film's 2nd unit also shot at Pacific Raceways outside of Seattle, and at the
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park outside of Toronto.
THE ART OF RACING
Producer Patrick Dempsey notes, "My role was bringing in the contacts and the
authenticity of racing. I feel a tremendous responsibility to make sure we
project that onto the screen in an authentic way so people who don't understand
motorsports come away with a new understanding of why Denny is sacrificing so
much for this sport." Dempsey enlisted Jeff Zwart as 2nd unit director. "Jeff is
a phenomenal man in the motorsports community as a filmmaker and photographer,"
he says. "When he signed on, I felt we had a really strong team between Simon
and Jeff and the motorsports community and IMSA (International Motor Sports
Association) and all the teams in the paddock who have been supportive."
Zwart says, "Racing's my world. I've been fortunate to race all over the
world, and you get to see that develop and play out in front of the camera. But
the soul of this picture is told through the eyes of Enzo, and the dog has such
a big perception of the whole thing.
Authenticity in the racing scenes was key. Zwart says, "You want to know that
the cars are right, the teams are right, the dialogue's right. There are so many
levels. I tried to be true to that. We immersed ourselves with IMSA, a really
strong racing series, so that naturally brought reality."
Says Curtis, "I don't know that much about cars or racing, but it is a
metaphor in this film and I'm very grateful that we've had Patrick and Jeff (2nd
unit director Jeff Zwart), two major figures in the racing world, to help guide
us through that and help us achieve the racing in the film."
The production was supported by IMSA and filmed racing scenes at the 2018
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. On-track filming took place as part of
scheduled IMSA-sanctioned races at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park outside of
Toronto in July 2018.
Author Garth Stein's former racing teacher, Don Kitch Jr., chief instructor
at ProFormance Racing School, was on set for the 2nd unit shoot at Pacific
Raceways in Kent, Washington, outside of Seattle. "In Seattle, it rains a lot,
and you have to be prepared to race on a wet track," says Stein. "And we always
used to think it was funny when people would come in from out of town for a
national race. It would be raining, and they would say, 'I'm not going to race
today.' And we'd laugh and say, 'you better get used to driving in the wet,
because it's going to rain all weekend!' In Kitch's competition class, he handed
out a pamphlet that said: The Art of Racing in the Rain. It was about how to
prepare ourselves mentally for a wet track, so we're not driving out of fear.
The idea is to drive in a way where you're mentally prepared to take on
inclement weather, or anything else."
Kitch recalls getting that fateful call from his former student Stein, years
ago. Stein wanted to use Kitch's title, The Art of Racing in the Rain, for a
book he was writing. "I've never had more fun with a book in my life," says
Kitch. "Who'd have dreamed? I just needed a handout for my classroom, and here
we are! I feel very lucky."
THE PHILOSOPHY OF RACING IN THE RAIN
Among the things Denny tells Eve are "That which you manifest is before you,"
"When I'm in a race car, I'm the creator of my own destiny" and "Create your own
conditions, and the rain is just rain."
"Racing is a metaphor," says Curtis. "Denny and Enzo want to find a way to
apply the lessons of the racetrack to help them navigate the complexities of
Author Garth Stein says he really enjoyed the idea of writing a philosopher
dog. "A lot of that came from the Mongolian concept of reincarnation. But it's
an outsider's story. It's based upon the idea that a dog, being a disinterested
character, would make judgments about the world he sees. And how maybe people
could improve their lives if they just thought a little more about the
implications of their actions."
When Stein wrote the novel, he notes, "I was racing in a class of spec cars,
so all the cars are the same. The trick with that is - we have to improve the
driver. In the paddock, we would all talk about how do we get a better mental
approach to racing, so we could be faster as a driver -- because our cars were
pretty much the same. And out of that came all these things in the book. Your
car goes where your eyes go. All these sorts of lessons we apply on the track.
And my friends and I would sit around and say - if we could apply the rules that
make you better as a race car driver to our own personal lives, we'd be really
good people. We wouldn't care about something that's already happened on a
racetrack - it's already happened, you can't change that. You can only change
what's in front of you. So you can't waste any energy thinking about it, or
feeling bad about it, or judging other people about it. It's done. It doesn't
matter how I got here. This is where I am on the racetrack. How do I improve my
position? And so the idea of Enzo transitioning that to the human condition --
that was the trick of it. Where it came from, I don't know, Enzo taught me
Stein says, "The idea of that which you manifest is before you is really
about if we can approach something with the proper preparation and the proper
mental state, essentially, we can make almost anything happen. It's about making
sacrifices and having discipline within ourselves to create something. On the
racetrack, it's very much a mental game. You're driving very fast and you're
driving in a very big, sometimes very expensive, very heavy car, that could
theoretically kill you at any moment. Therefore, you're playing a mental game.
And you need to have some kind of mental fortitude to understand that you have
the capacity to achieve things. It's all about preparation, mentally and
physically. I think the idea applies to almost everything. Sports is a terrific
metaphor for art. The luckier you are, the better you are, the luckier you get."
Bomback says the metaphor behind THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN that speaks
most to him is, "I think there's a tendency in all of us that when things are
outside of our control, to either throw up our hands or lay blame on other
factors or in some way say, 'I guess this just wasn't meant to be.' I think the
lesson that Enzo learns, that Denny has internalized but is struggling to abide
by because he's thrown so many obstacles, is that ultimately the rain is only
what you let it be. And to what extent can you apply your own will and take a
situation that is out of your control and bring it around to where you
ultimately want to go."
Curtis says it's about a "Sense of wonder and being positive. Luck happens to
people who create their own luck. Some things you can't control in life, but
it's not a bad feeling. I think the central dilemma in this film is for Enzo and
Denny to apply to complex real life the lessons they've learned on the
racetrack. Enzo has watched this Mongolian documentary and that's helpful -
because he's not that sad at the end of his life as a dog because he's so
thrilled with what's to come."
Ventimiglia says, "We never know what our life is going to look like. We can
dream and imagine, but we don't really know what it's going to be until we're in
it, right then it's happening. You can prepare, but you can't plan for these
things until they happen. The idea of rain - you know it's coming, but you don't
exactly know when. The idea that you have to be present and you have to try and
almost dream a little bit ahead so you can have a level of reaction. Denny talks
about racing in the rain, and how if he creates the circumstances that he's in,
then he can control it, because the rain is an unknown factor. If you're
fighting against it, it's going to win. But if you're using it to create your
own conditions, then you can control the outcome."
He notes, "There's a lot of Enzo's philosophy that we characters don't get
exposed to because we're not hearing the narration. But when you read the script
and the book, you see this hopeful way of looking at humanity through the eyes
of an animal that wants so badly to be human, you start to understand the power
of impact that we have as people. You can change direction and hopefully you can
be more empathetic and understanding of what someone is going through. And
hopefully, you can be more emboldened to be a better person, be compassionate,
good and loving. You have a choice. I think there's a lot to learn from Enzo's
view into the world and his desire to want to be a good person in his next life.
It's encouraging. And exciting. I feel like that is Enzo's sole desire, to
experience life with opposable thumbs and not a flat tongue. But it's also an
opportunity for Enzo to do what's right. He says he will imprint on his soul the
experiences that he has so he can carry it on to the next. And I think that's
one of the valuable things we need to understand so we can impact and make a
difference. We really can change the course of someone's day or potentially
someone's life. It's exciting to know that that sits in the heart and soul of an
Patrick Dempsey says, "There's a mindfulness in sport. It's Zen and it's like
whatever you're thinking, whether you're conscious of that or not, it will
manifest itself physically in front of you. You can kind of control your own
destiny that way. I think that's the brilliance in this novel and what Garth
really was exploring as a writer. And I think it's so true in life. Especially
in the world that we're in right now, it's really important messaging. The
metaphor for 'racing in the rain' is that there's a spirituality, a philosophy,
a religion in racing. It's not really the battle with your competitor, it's the
battle with yourself. And that hits all of us, it's a universal message."
"There's a tone in this film that the world needs right now," says director
Simon Curtis. "It's about human connection and kindness and doing the right
thing and I think in this time we live in it's all very good to hear that. "It's
a love letter to family, it's a love letter to animals and it's a love letter to
"It's a story you may know," says Milo Ventimiglia. "It's an emotion you may
feel when you look at your own pet's eyes and you see them beaming back at you.
It makes you feel good about being a human, about being a person. And hopefully,
it spreads a positive message in the world when there's a lot of negativity out
there. I'm grateful to be a part of a project that is inherently good and is
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