Bark: Ewan, tell us about your dog Sid.
McGregor: He’s two, maybe two-and-a-half. He’s Poodle, mainly, mixed with something — we don’t know what the something is. He travels with me all the time, unless I’m working somewhere that I can’t take him. He’s great company; I generally go on my own, without my wife and my kids. With Sid, I’m not on my own anymore.
Bark: Has Sid been to the UK?
McGregor: He’s there now, in fact, because I’m working in the UK at the moment. He’s microchipped and has a passport. Before we leave, he has to be treated for fleas and ticks and I need to provide proof that was done. Britain’s ridiculous, really. Like we don’t have fleas in Britain. But if it’s been done more than 48 hours or less than 24 hours before arrival, they’ll turn the dog back. They’re really insane.
Bark: Do you takes trips with Sid just for fun?
McGregor: I like riding motorcycles, and after I got Sid, I got a sidecar. I quite like to knock about with him, but I don’t want to be limited to just traveling in cars. He has doggles and a two-point harness, so he can’t jump out. It’s the ultimate head-out-the- window experience for dogs. He’s literally outside. He’s just in heaven.
Bark: How about when you guys are at home. Does having another male in the house change the dynamic?
McGregor: Well, when I’m not there, he steps up and becomes the male of the house, and is apparently much more protective — more barking at strangers and patrolling the perimeter of the house. He’s a good lad. Mainly, his work consists of making sure the squirrel is not in the trees. We have a squirrel that lives down in the garden, and he hates the squirrel.
Mike: Zoë too. I wake up every morning to a squirrel in a tree looking in my window. He’ll make that sound — like keche-chech — and Zoë’s just [slaps hands] poof! Can’t help herself.
Bark: Did Cosmo change the way you approached the role?
McGregor: It’s the same as working with another human actor. Occasionally, it has to be manufactured — Mathilde would be behind me making him look for something, for example. But when things were happening naturally with him, and when I was speaking to him and he was looking at me, it was a really lovely feeling. And when he’s looking slightly behind your ear, because Mathilde’s there ... [laughs]
Bark: Do you talk to Sid?
McGregor: I do — I mean, I don’t question whether he understands me or not. That’s not really the point. I just talk to him because he’s there. Mike: Half the time when I’m talking to Zoë, I’m trying to speak in Czech, partly just for my wife’s benefit, so she doesn’t have to constantly listen to me rattling on. I feel like I can say whatever I need to.
Bark: Do either of you have a passion for dog rescue?
Mike: Yeah, but full disclosure: I got Zoë from a pet store in Santa Barbara. It was a weird place — they had mutts and the dogs were running around loose; they weren’t in cages. Zoë was from a farm in San Luis Obispo. My mom had just died and I went in to get some free puppy time. Zoë was on a shelf, back tucked in. I scooped her out and was just sort of overwhelmed. That was that. When I was growing up, one of my favorite family rituals was when we’d all go to the animal shelter and find a dog. There are so many dogs in really bad situations, and it’s out of their control. They’re living in our world. We have a very interconnected relationship with them — we’re their stewards, at least in the cities and suburbs. So anything I can do to help, I’m excited to do.
Bark: How about dogs in other films … who do you admire?
Mike: Well, I love dogs who don’t feel like professionals. But I loved Lassie, and he really was a canine actor, as was his son, who later played the Lassie [role]. I also admire the way Kelly Reichardt used her dog in Wendy and Lucy. It’s really just her dog cruising around with Michelle Williams. I think that’s real and honest, and I hope it feels like that in my movie; the dog’s part of the story. So many humans have relationships with animals; how can you exclude them in a movie?