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Cherry Pop

Raja Gosnell - Director 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' Raja Gosnell - Director 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua'

'The New Top Dog!'

'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' finds director Raja Gosnell back on the talking-dog beat (following his live-action Scooby-Doo and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleased), this time in an ambitious, tongue-in-cheek comedy with a fun cast of onscreen and vocal actors.

Piper Perabo plays Rachel, niece of a Beverly Hills eccentric (Jamie Lee Curtis) who spends much of her fortune pampering Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore), a spoiled Chihuahua used to pacing through this world with booties on her paws.

Chloe gets dog-napped while Rachel takes a vacation in Mexico, and finds protection from a misfit German Shepherd named Delgado (Andy Garcia), who has a painful secret in his past.

Taking it from the top and at the time of doing this film, how much was it in the back of your mind that it was simply an animated project? "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 that 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."

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

How much time did you have to spend just in the sound studios doing voice over's and such with all these incredible actors? "The original recording of the script probably didn’t take that long. I was really fortunate in that I got the actors together at the same time. So, all of Drew and Andy’s scenes are actually together so they could play off each other. And I got Drew and George together also."

"So, there really is a sense that they’re acting. 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? "My first call was to Drew and I said, “Drew, there’s this adorable white Chihuahua.” And she said, “I’m in",” he laughs. "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 performing for you? "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’s first real American film that he’s involved in? "I believe so, yeah. 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 - please tell me more about her in this role? "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, I would guess!? "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 Jamie Lee grounded her, made her real, made her charming, and believable. I mean, there really are ladies out there and people out there that dote on their dogs with that much love!"

And you managed to get some great hotel shots in and around Beverly Hills for the film "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 purse opens up and then reveals the dogs! So, we did get some fun stuff in there."

So, and finally, how does it feel to be a director on a Disney project? "It was amazing and it was a tremendous responsibility. Because I grew up watching 'Old Yeller' and 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks' I wanted 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 grand kids are watching it years from now."

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